Ah, school days. No, not the angst filled adolescence everyone’s had, but before that. Think back to when you were six or seven, when the world revolved around what you had to eat in your tiffin box and whether you had been made class monitor. When everything was okay on the weekends, and certainly when the phone rang, it was rarely, if ever for you.
The best part about those years? Indubitably, your birthday. That was the one
day it was all about you. You were special. You had presents, you invited your
entire class (not just the popular people or the people you liked the most, you
had to even invite the little boy who said nothing but picked his nose all day,
or the little girl who had temper tantrums when the teacher corrected her) and
they got you presents too! One of the schools I went to let you wear "home
clothes" instead of an uniform on your birthday. Then you raised your hand,
the teacher let you get up and you walked up and down the aisles of students
distributing sweets. You felt like a queen.
At the boarding school I went to, there was an in-house bakery. If it was your birthday, you went to the housemistress a couple of days before, and she gave you a special order slip to take to the bakery indicating how big a cake you wanted and what you wanted written on it. The cake was always the same, chocolate with hard chocolate icing and you always cut it right after baths, instead of going to tea. A birthday cake was much better than the bread and butter they served anyway. Everyone from your class came rushing for it, sometimes you called some of your special friends from the other classes too and you cut it and people sang to you and you always carried a piece to your housemistress and the matrons. The morning of your birthday you would already have been sung to by everyone at breakfast, but this distributing of the largesse only happened in the evenings.
Birthdays in school are fun, though, no doubt about it. Whether it was yours or someone else’s, there was always food involved. You were treated to orange ice candy bars in the canteen. Or someone’s mother sent with them the idlis she made so well. Birthdays were an occasion of indulgence in those innocent times.
Maybe that’s the problem. These aren’t innocent times anymore, even if you’re six or ten. This story caught my eye recently. Since the ministry of New Zealand is on this health food kick, teachers at Oteha Valley Primary School near Aukland have told parents not to send cakes through their children for their birthdays. Talk about a buzz kill. Although the health ministry did clarify that they only meant food sold on the premises and not outside, the message still went out in a circular. Imagine telling your kid, "Sorry, sweetie, no cake for you because you might get obese, how about some carrot sticks for you and your friends instead?" I think that’s taking it a little too far.
We are an aware age, only too aware in some cases about the dangers of this world. Why have kids at all, I ask, when you’re clearly preventing them from living just as much as, say, obesity, would?
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine