My dear wife Deepa always goes out of her way to make birthdays special. Flowers of all hues are dotted across the house. The birds of paradise looks particularly attractive. Carnations and lady’s lace in my grandparent’s vase add to the mood and reminded me of all the love I have been blessed with. Over the years she has tried all kinds of surprises to make my day special. In the end it’s the little things that matter. The shirt that has leaves on it because I love trees. The book that so fits my mood. The other one that pushes me to go to places I normally would not venture to.
My son made me a video from long forgotten photographs he found hidden away in an old album. A wonderful trip down memory lane. From a toddler, to boarding school to college and into the wide world, I was transported back in time. Old friends and happy places were revisited in a few seconds. The last 49 years flashed by. It’s been a good ride. I am blessed (as my wife always reminds me) with many wonderful friends who keep in touch, in spite of the fact that I do not. I normally get grumpy around my birthday. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t want to engage too much, I like my alone time with family and a few friends.
This birthday was different though. I had the best of both worlds. Alone time with my family and a virtual get together with friends from all over. I felt connected to the wider world and in my cocoon at the same time. I normally struggle to reply to every message on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and a host of other platforms. I also used to get irritated about having the barrage of birthday calls to dutifully get through. This time I enjoyed every call. I smiled through the message replies. I remembered happy moments shared with each good wisher. I am not sure if it’s the lockdown or just the heightened awareness of how lucky I am to be alive and celebrating a birthday with so many friends and well-wishers surrounding me. I am just happy, on my ‘happy birthday’.
My mom made a sketch of Cookie and me and sent it across as a birthday present. It captures a moment of pure, unadulterated joy. As I sit here writing my weekly post with cookie curled up at my feet, I can only say thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you who has reached out and touched my life. I feel blessed.
Last year this time we were in Kashmir with my parents. It was a wonderful trip. We made it in and out a week before the lockdown happened. We made memories that will last a life time. Who knew a year later the world would be in a new kind of lockdown. What remains the same, is our ability to reach out across oceans and mountains and share a smile, connecting the world. From different chapters of my life, so many of you reached out and ‘made a wish’ and made my birthday special. I wish we get to meet each other soon. To hug each other. To share a meal. To share a special moment together. Till we can do that in person… what we have is, the 30 seconds to type a wish. The minute to make a call. So here is me reminding myself to wish more people on their birthdays and other happy occasions. Make a wish people.
Connecting this very personal experience to the world of communication, makes me realise a few things. 1) The personal touch matters and a picture is still worth a thousand words 2) knowing my audience is a never ending journey, not a one-time audit and 3) Finding the right balance between digital and real world engagement is going to be key. Possibly the most important reminder for me is that effective communication is a two way street. Creating and maintain an ongoing dialogue is the purpose of good Public Relations. The reply to the wish is as important as the wish itself, to keep the channels of communication in good shape. Which is my cue to go and do just that, as my wife just reminded me, there are a whole lot of folks who have wished me on her timeline that I have missed responding to completely.
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