Narratiive Tags - Khaleej Times Desktop
Opinion and Editorial

Birthday parties of the 90s had a charm Filed on September 2, 2020

Keep singing the birthday song, albeit out of tune, as you wash your hands or attend a virtual party

During my growing up years, birthday parties were templated, more or less. Mum would make some deep-fried bread (puri) with a chickpeas curry for my friends. A birthday cake would either be ordered from a no-frill bakery in the neighbourhood or baked at home. The choices of flavours were limited to pineapple, chocolate or vanilla. If a black forest cake made an appearance at a party, it would become the talk of the classroom and neighbourhood. But more or less, cakes looked similar at my party and those at my friends' - with the same cherries on the top. And sometimes, dried candied fruit (pieces) that we called tutti frutti were used for garnishing. Dad's role was fixed too. He'd fetch some streamers, create patterns and put them on the wall. Together, we would blow a few balloons and stick them too. 

Some of you may have already labelled this party as tacky, especially since we're living in the times of customised cakes and invites, theme parties, and personalised favours, and more. However, these parties of the 80s and 90s were charming - simple, heartfelt, and homemade, with a selected few in attendance. How would I invite my friends over? I'd just stand in the balcony and shout out to them to drop by in the evening. They'd shout back and the guest list was sorted. Mum would ask us to choose a nice dress from the wardrobe, which held clothes that we wore when someone came over, or when we visited someone, or on festivals. They were never to be worn on a regular day. And the party would start. With music playing on our stereo system, we'd play Passing the Parcel, and if space allowed it would be a game of Musical Chairs. Mum would give out the gifts to the winners, and as a rule, she'd say the one whose birthday it was, was not qualified to receive the prize. 

Why am I remembering these parties in 2020? Well, because whilst in 2020 I've wished happy birthdays so many times, I have not attended a party. And by party, I mean, the real party where we all gather around the table, sing the birthday song in pitches high and low and clap our hands as if we were kids, and then the birthday girl or boy (man or woman), blows the candle on the cake and we all get to eat our share of it. These parties may not return anytime soon - I can't imagine eating a cake after birthday girl or boy blows candles put on it! Should we hand over a mask to the birthday girl or boy and ask them to blow the candles and keep this ritual alive? It doesn't sound like a wise idea. It's not a surprise that cakes too are being baked at home now, perhaps the fear of ordering a cake from even a well-sanitised bakery has set in. Standing around the table has given way to appearing in squares on a Zoom birthday call. 

How do these parties look like? Adorable, I must say. A huge duration of the birthday party goes in people trying to connect to the call, followed by an exchange of many WhatsApp messages for troubleshooting. Another part of the party is spent in asking and answering questions like: Am I visible? Or am I audible? And in between all of this, we sing the birthday song, from our homes, staring into the screens. As for the party clothes, they stay stacked in shelves - Why ruin the ironing when we are all going to be mere pixels on the screen?

The excited guests end up making video collages for the birthday boy or girl, and then someone clips the solo bytes together via. a free editing software, which is then shared with all via screen sharing on the Zoom call. And just like that, birthday memories are formed. 

I am not against these parties, quite the opposite, in fact. It feels good to see that in the midst of the pandemic we are managing to take out the time to acknowledge the little joys of life. It's always a great idea to feel grateful for what we have. How you choose to celebrate your joy is up to you, bespoke or not, but these birthday parties too would be remembered, for a long time just like the ones in the 1990s. And we may just end up bringing back some of the simpler moments of the times gone by. Until then, keep singing the birthday song, albeit out of tune, as you wash your hands or attend a virtual party.



Purva Grover

Purva Grover is a journalist, poetess, playwright, and stage director. She made her debut as an author, with The Trees Told Me So, a collection of short stories. She is the editor of Young Times, a magazine that empowers the youth in the UAE. She conducts fortnightly writing workshops, author interaction events, open mic sessions, etc. for the writing fraternity in UAE. Her stage productions have been recognised for their boldness, honesty, and unique voice. She is backed with a post-graduate degree in mass communication and literature. Born & brought up in colourful-chaotic India, she writes in English and currently resides in Dubai, UAE. You can stalk her on Instagram @purvagr and say hello to her at

ERROR: Macro /ads/dfp-ad-article-new is missing!
MORE FROM Khaleej Times
CurrentRequestUnmodified: /editorials-columns/britains-tragic-tale-of-dither-delay-dearth-and-deaths macro_action: article, macro_profile: , macro_adspot:
KT App Download
khaleejtimes app

All new KT app
is available
for download:

khaleejtimes - android khaleejtimes - ios khaleejtimes - HUAWEI AppGallery