NOTE : In case the reader is predisposed to believe that the following account is an invented piece of writing merely to amuse him, I’ll leave him to learn the lesson from his own experiences, or as Oscar Wilde said it once in his famous play (and repeated it in all subsequent plays), from his own mistakes. Much embarrassed as I am to admit it, all that is to follow did happen, and happened with that merciless cruelty with which life draws curtains from most of its plays.
———- The Story ———-
As I lay there on the sofa contemplating about the deeper issues of life, the creamy walls of my study were replaced by a vision of pink as my pretty little sister sailed in bubbling with excitement.
“See here, I bought a Cadbury for my zoology teacher,” she did not stop for me to react, “do you think it will do?”
I couldn’t see why a free bar of chocolate wouldn’t do for anybody, but experience has taught me better than to argue with girls. In this instance, however, before plunging into the usual acts of inattentive affirmation, I took a moment or two to feel puzzled. The age-old relationship between brothers and sisters is already going down the drains anyway, without the sisters buying expensive chocolates for their teachers.
“What for?”, I ejaculated, shocked at her frivolity in not spending that money to buy my protection against my future tyranny, unscheduled but inevitable.
“Ooph, it’s the birthday tomorrow.”, she said in a voice that teachers reserve for the student who has failed to grasp the obvious. In hindsight, it occurs to me that she might have thrown a contemptuous look or two as well, which, I am sad to report, were unceremoniously lost on me.
“Lucky bastard,” I thought to myself. Nobody ever gave me chocolates on my birthday. On all my birthdays after I turned twelve, I had to be away from home and my friends on one pretext or the other. I did get a chance to spend my last birthday at home, but it only served to demonstrate what idiots I had for friends. In spite of my chronic aversion to cards of any sort, many of them gifted me the same birthday card in an effort to outspend each other.
My reverie was presently broken by the return of my sister who, before I could say anything further, again said breathlessly, “I bought this one for my botany teacher, do you think he will mind?”
I never knew if the botany teacher minded it or not, but I certainly did. I mean, what sort of people give away presents to botany teachers to celebrate the birthdays of zoology teachers? And why are brothers not included in this scheme of public charity? I again asked, choked with incredulity, “What for?”
She really lost her patience this time. “What’s wrong with you? For the birthday!”
I was amazed. So far, I had encountered coincident birthdays only in probability textbooks, where you had to lock up 23 people in a single room to have it more likely than unlikely that two of them have the same birthday. I imagine that this fact, had it been known to the victims of the black hole of Calcutta, could have been a source of some solace to them. Instead for struggling for space and air which only hastened their end, they could have spent their time more amicably inquiring after each other’s birthdays. With 146 (probably more) people in one room, some two of them were bound to have the same birthday (I am too lazy to compute the exact probability). It was a remarkable probabilistic event by any standard. But alas! We are perpetually occluded to the future, both immediate and distant, that many a times robs us of the simple pleasures of finding out the birthdays of our fellow human beings.
I speak from experience. Had I known my own fate that followed, I would definitely have made sure that I slept each night with a list of birthdays under my pillow. However, at that moment, unaware of the future tidings of hatred and disgust and physical assault about to be unleashed on me, I was busy contemplating possible shift of my research interests to the theory of probability, where I could imagine spending the rest of my life peacefully dropping pins on a rug and drawing coloured balls from urns, occasionally with the pleasant task of putting them back. I’ll probably not get a chance to lock more than 23 people in the same room; but then, one can not have everything in life.
My little sister broke in at this point, asking me what I was frowning about. I broke into a smile, said it was nothing. As an afterthought, I added that it was a curious fact that both her zoology and botany teachers had the same birthday.
While I took the beating of a lifetime, I am sure that the victims of the Calcutta black hole smiled from the heaven above on my presumptive folly in advising them to find each other’s birthday.
Keep your sisters close, and a list of their birthdays closer.