When simple ‘celebration’ become gala ‘event’

Similar thoughts run through my mind every time I see an extravaganza b’day party thrown for little kids…Rukhmini Punoose has put it all in a post so wonderfully, a must read!

Re-posting the article that appeared in Sunday DNA  on the 7th of October.

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Rukhmini Punoose

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was looking at a laptop presentation of a seven year-old-boy dressed like Akshay Kumar flying through a fake wall of bricks on a stage. So, just to reiterate: fake Akshay Kumar, riding on a fake bike, flying through a fake wall. No, this wasn’t a nightmare, I wish it was. I was looking at a birthday party planner’s presentation of the kind of birthdays she had organised. This particular seven-year-old’s party had a Bollywood theme. Wait, it gets worse…the over-zealous parents had hired duplicates of Hrithik, Salman and Shah Rukh and had placed about 70 life-size cut-outs of movie stars all around the venue.

Just a question. Remember when birthdays were about playing musical chairs and passing the parcel? When harried mothers brought out plates teeming with ribbon sandwiches, wafers and samosas and an aeroplane or doll-shaped birthday cake sent a general flutter of excitement over all the kids? What happened to that world? Those parties were as much of a blast because we could feel the palpable excitement in the air as our mothers were busy cooking in the kitchen and our fathers were putting up balloons and streamers in the living room. 
Now, there are birthday parties where Disney characters are flown down from Disneyland in Hong Kong and helicopters are hired to circle the lawn showering rose petals (Yes a la Chandini-style) on the birthday boy as he cuts his cake. Menus are customized and catered by expert chefs who can dish up food from any part of the globe— enchiladas, fruit mojitos, tofu quiches, gnocchi and even Jain sushi—served buffet style or as amuse bouches. 
The child’s birthday party has become an event, a circus, heck even a tamasha, akin to a wedding function (with similar budgets to boot). Throwing a grandiose birthday celebration, for many upper-middle class Indians is a little about flashing your financial status. The young and upwardly mobile here don’t seem to bat an eyelid about dropping a cool lakh or two on it.
And this is just the sneeze-worthy stuff. Nitin Gupta, a Delhi party planner has even done parties where the budget is Rs 7-8 lakhs. So what do you get when you spend Rs 7 lakhs? The works, apparently— full-tenting, lights, shamianas, fairyland themes, invitation cards, elaborate decor, return presents, live singing and dance performances.
However, my favorite story is one about this filmmaker couple that need to be lauded for resisting the pressure to throw one of these extravagant parties. Determined to do away with the whole balloons, streamers route and yet do something meaningful and memorable, they planned an eco-friendly party for their daughter’s seventh birthday. They took her friends on a nature trail to Shantivan in Malabar Hill. They didn’t use any thermocol or Styrofoam plates and glasses, thereby generating no garbage. Children were given pots to paint on, chose saplings they wanted to plant in them and then got to take the pot home as their return present. The parents wanted the children to get a chance to bond with nature and were horrified to find one of the children at the party started crying because she had to touch mud. That’s how unexposed Mumbai children can be to the natural world. 
We’ve really forgotten the pleasure of simpler things. Of a simpler time. Kids will have a great time no matter what, as long as they can run around and play together. It really isn’t about the amount of money you can spend but about what your child sees as the effort you’ve put in to make the party special and original. In a consumerist society, there is a lot of peer pressure to conform to the norm. Kids only know what they are exposed to and don’t have the tools to fight the stereotype. The onus is on us, the parents, to broaden the child’s horizons by showing them that fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Above all, it’s up to us, to teach them they can have a blast even without helicopters showering rose petals on them.

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16 thoughts on “When simple ‘celebration’ become gala ‘event’

  1. I agree Scribby. Recently I went to a birthday party where everything that could entertain an adult was there but nothing simple for the children.

    1. Don’t be sorry da! In fact I’m sorry, I’m yet to reply to your last mail 😦 tied up too 😦 😦 😦 life!!!! Checked your blog quiet sometime…you’ve not been writing,why?

  2. Its so true scribby, nowadays its become a status taboo to get a event planner for a bday party.. i wonder whether those kids do enjoy all this..

  3. loved the article, Scribby….yes, its become a status symbol now to flash the money in such obscene way. Kids have every luxury today and literally have become snobs in some ways.

    They say we want this and that and this is not enough or that’s tacky. Many just look at the worth and determine its good enough or not. (I am talking about parents).

    I think its up to parents to keep their child’s lives simple, teach them the importance of every small thing and most importantly money. Even simple things are equally enjoyable and in fact makes us feel more connected to the surroundings. Honestly, I donno if the kid really enjoys the pleasure of showering of rose petals on him as akin to playing cricket match with his group friends. Heck, they don’t even care about those things.

  4. “When harried mothers brought out plates teeming with ribbon sandwiches, wafers and samosas and an aeroplane or doll-shaped birthday cake sent a general flutter of excitement over all the kids?”…. Well, I am happy to say that we still host such parties and my daughter still gets to attend such parties… so this old world charm is still very much alive 🙂
    Extravagant b’day parties? It is all about money, my dear … people have it, they flaunt it!! It doesn’t matter to them, I guess, what example they are setting for their kids 😦
    And let me tell you outsourcing parties is much more easier option than organizing one at your home all by yourself. In these times when people are short on time and loaded with money it is a often a convenient option for them.
    Loved that idea of eco friendly B’day party. The kids learn as well as enjoy…

  5. very true dear.. it was sad the the kids cried for touching the mud.. :(.. its not the we kids, we parents should grow up.. only then we can teach them there is so much fun in simplicity.

  6. can’t agree more.. shouldn’t the kid and its age be of the main focus for the theme? people mistakenly take these kind of parties as the show off of their status quo.. isn’t it the happiness of the kid that matters end of day? Sighhh

  7. Yes indeed read couple of times about such parties. My view – What a mega spoiler for a kid’s bday. Such parties are not kiddy bday parties. These are just showoffs. Kids still pick up simpler things to enjoy even in such parties. They would dance or play with balloons or just run around. Thats FUN for them. Not those falling petals or those huge tents or those SRK cutouts. And about return gifts also its parents who make more fuss about price/quality/quantity. Kids are happy getting a new pencil or anything small. Dunno where we are all heading too. Next we will hear kid’s party being thrown in Vegas.
    (Sorry for venting here)

  8. I’m just laughing at the image of a helicopter showering rose petals over the boy!! If it had been one of my sons, I would never have heard the end of it!! Luckily, we don’t even have the money to think of such stuff!! Our poor kids have to make do with home baked cake and home cooked food at their party!! 😀

  9. The simple pleasures and happiness are lost to a moneyed world. Its sad that kids are brought up to live in fairy tale environments and the shock when they’ll discover the reality of life !!!

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