It was my grandma and granpa’s birthday in April and May respectively. Because of Covid, I wasn’t able to order a cake on their birthdays. On May 19th, the lockdown was lifted in Bangalore and I thought it would be a grand idea to order a cake to celebrate my their birthdays. I settled on a pineapple flavoured one because that’s what grandma likes the most. My mother and I are vegan, so we ordered a whole wheat vegan pineapple cake from one of my favourite bakers in town. I asked her to write the message “Love you, Pati and Tata!” on top of the cake. Pati means grandma and Tata means grandpa in Tamil.
I collected the cake from the baker’s and brought it home eagerly. It would be fun to have a celebration – especially after not having had much to celebrate during the lockdown! I was looking forward to devouring the scrumptious cake too. My mouth watered at the mere thought of the soft layers melting in my mouth. I was anticipating the look of pleasure on my grandparents’s face. I imagined my grandma praising my nice little gesture and my grandfather nodding along in agreement.
The moment I kept the cake on the table in the living room, my grandparents asked me what it was. I excitedly explained to them that it was a cake to celebrate their birthdays since we hadn’t been able to do it earlier. My grandmother’s reaction was exactly as I’d expected. She beamed at me saying, “that’s so sweet of you, dear child. Thank you”. She turned to my grandpa and said, “See? Ranju’s brought us a cake! She wants to celebrate our birthdays. Isn’t that nice of her?”.
My grandpa, on the other had, had a completely different reaction! He said with a rather grumpy expression, “Why did she buy it? It’s so expensive. There was no reason to bring it now”. I felt my heart breaking even as righteous indignation shot right up my body! Here I was, all excited about doing something special for them and there he was, not even recognising that I’d done something nice and ready with criticism. It was so unfair!
“Grandpa!”, I said. “I brought this cake just for you. See what’s written on top! It says I love you! Can’t you just be happy and say something nice?”, I demanded feeling both sad and angry at the same time.”
“Why are you speaking to me like that? I’m only saying that you shouldn’t have spent such a lot of money. What’s the need to spend on such things – that too for old people like us?”, he asked. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t get him at all.
“First of all”, I said, with an air of a martyr, “this wasn’t expensive. It was just a thousand rupees. Second of all, your birthday comes just once every year. If we don’t celebrate this occasion, what do we celebrate?”.
I continued in a huff, “You know what? If you don’t want it, fine. Don’t eat it. Let Pati cut the cake and the rest of us will eat it”.
My grandpa looked ready to retort when grandma smoothly stepped in saying, “You know, she only wanted to do something nice for us. Let’s not hurt the child’s feelings. Stop being so fussy and cut the cake”.
My grandpa’s face relaxed a little. His wife certainly had a way with him. “Alright”, he said. “Fine. Alright”, he said again, looking at me.
I know my grandpa enough to know that that was his way of apologising to me. I realised that he and I come from such different worlds. He had grown up in such difficult times that anything that wasn’t necessary was considered as luxury and an unnecessary expense.
I smiled at him. He was forgiven. We cut the cake.