My mother has turned 60 years old ( gasp!) and is now officially an old lady. We gave her a (yawn) surprise party yesterday. But this time, there was a twist, which my sister came up with. We wanted to do something big for her this time round, and so we three siblings (and the husband Vijay and the sister in law Vandna) are all chipping in to send her off to (ta da!) EGYPT!
Initially, Gitanjali was a bit confused about whether we should get her to do South Africa or Egypt. But we eventually decided on Egypt based on the fact that there were more quips and jokes around Egypt and so a theme party around Egypt would be more fun. We’re decisive like that. Happily, our Gouri Masi agreed to accompany her on this journey and so it all worked out well.
For the party, we also decided to print up a gift voucher for her and have a little treasure hunt with clues placed all around the drawing room, which Mother dear would have to crack in order to get to her prize. The clues were very bad ones such as:
Clue 1 : The Secret Lies in the Chamber of Horrors. (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the bookshelf)
Clue 2: Oh All Powerful One! Don't blow this opportunity and burst your dream bubble (Balloon) Clue 3: Like Re, Isis & Horus in Indian garb (Idols of Ram, Sita and Laxman)
Clue 4: Most ancient artefact, one may not hear (Papa, our 95 yr old grandpa who doesn’t hear very well)
Clue 5: Keep going, we promise, this is one smokin' prize (Ashtray)
Clue 6: You're getting closer. But alas and Arak, there is one more clue after this one. Stop whining and look on...( bottle of Wine)
Clue 7: A match made in heaven; still the best looking in the room (Mom, Dad wedding photo)
So, after the champagne that we struggled to open for about five minutes and which finally meekly popped open with a tiny ‘bup’ – a major anticlimax - Mother dear proceeded to crack the clues, watched by a roomful of people who were trying to ‘help’ her by basically confusing her. My favorite clue was Papa – it was so easy to slip the clue chit into his pocket as I hugged him to say hello. He sat there right next to my mother, beaming at her and the rest of us while she tried to figure out what ‘ancient artefact’ we were talking about. Yes, we’re a bit rude but it’s alright, we love him. The Egyptian mood was enhanced by everybody wearing very Arab-type of chunnis on their heads; the ‘Egyptian music’ that Vijay had downloaded ( one Arabic-sounding track that he looped over and over plus a strange remix of ‘Walk like an Egyptian).
Behind the final clue, the wedding photo, was the gift voucher for a Trip to Egypt that Gitanjali got designed and printed up through a friend of hers. It was quite cool and authentic and all papyrus-type, and had the following silly ‘terms and conditions’:
* The bearer of this voucher is entitled to an all expense paid trip with companion of choice (hint: your eldest sister) to Egypt.
* "All expense" does not include shopping, liquor or guarantee of watching all audio-visual documentation of trip upon return
* This voucher cannot be redeemed for cash or transferred to any being other than one of the bearer's offspring (pick the one that you love the most)
* Bearer must agree to carry shopping lists (minimum 3) as given by issuers of voucher and dutifully bring back their desired goodies
* The Government of Egypt requires that all visitors to their country be below a maximum weight of 65 kgs in order to avoid giving the camels a backache
*Government of Egypt also has said only Indians who can roll their R's are allowed in, so please demonstrate this ability upon receipt of voucher' ( ...as you may have guessed, she can't)
* Relation of ‘amusing’ anecdotes from the trip require prior rehearsal or reading from a previously prepared script (...you have to have a couple of decades experience listening to my Mom trying to tell a joke to understand why this is important)
* While some of the ancient artefacts may not be upto high standards of hygiene it is advisable to steer clear of saying 'tut, tut' to King Tut
* Bearer may be asked to walk like an Egyptian upon return to New Delhi
* Terms & conditions are subject to arbitrary changes at any point of time... so be nice!!
Mother read out the terms and conditions to the roomful of people and giggled at all the wrong places. Then my sister brought out a huge, HUGE pyramid-shaped cake from Maxims (they are really awesome) and we proceeded to do the Happy Birthday thingy. It was good fun.
Dinner was some Lebanese food and some yummy Biryani (look, we had to make DO with whatever was available –YOU tell me where to get Egyptian food in Delhi). I was so tired that I almost dropped to the floor and eventually at about 11 p.m., me, Vijay, the K, Rinki and our three children headed home.
It had been fun. Especially the part when , just before leaving, I had asked my Mom when she was planning to take the trip and she looked at me and said ‘What? I thought you were joking.’