The birthday detective. The reverse mid-life crisis. Pieces falling.

On the eve of the birthday of my 39th year, I celebrated the coming forth of another year, with a mild panic attack.

On the Richter Scale, the tremors shook out to be around 1.000000041. A fractional shake up, yes, but they were felt. Some gloom and doom prevailed and in some circles, this might have been called a mid-life crisis.

For most people, birthdays bring candles, cakes, flowers, and tons and tons of well-wishes. They do as well for me.


But yet, birthdays are a mixed bag. It is panic in this disco.

This year the birthday brought tons of gorgeous wishes, thankfully no flowers, phone calls, emojis, emoticons, many virtual hugs and a lovely date with my awesome friend of yore, R.

Thankfully R appreciated the ritual of birthdays enough to snap me out of my momentary hand-wringing. She gave me an awesome gift, a hug, and reminded me that it was not the right time to get all existential and angsty about what was a perfectly nice and sunny day.

So we went out, ate, drank in the middle of the day, made merry, had a creme brulee and talked about life.

ruki celebrates with nirupa.jpg

I came back buzzy and proceeded to get the monkeys off my back. I then gifted myself the best gift ever- an evening in bed with a well-worn book. And sleep.  

I woke up the next morning resolute.

On the second day of the fourth month of the year, I gifted myself the even bester best gift of all- the permission to be happy.

I called this the year of Happiness. All else can wait.

With happiness now in my front pocket, I thought that it was time now to get to the bottom of the kerfuffle, the birthday blues, which strike every year.

So this year I hired the birthday detective.

Sharp on a Thursday morning, the birthday detective came knocking. It was a loud, confident knock. And I shivered just a bit. I was not sure I was ready to receive.

“Knock. Knock.”

‘Who is there..’ my slight, quivering mousy voice.

“It is me, Esmeralda, the birthday detective”.

‘Is it the right time already?’

“Yes, birthday girl. Open the door. I want to be in and out of here. I charge by the hour”.

Gosh. She sounded like a pack of bees.

‘Okay. Awright. Pardon my jammies. Come….come on in’.

Esmeralda wore red wellies, a black trench-coat, a red cape, a precarious hat, and glasses that were serious- like a heart attack. She came prepared with a broom, a hammer and a nail, a notepad, and a magnifying glass. A bicycle was parked up front, with saddle bags.


Esmeralda. Call me ES-MEH. The Birthday Detective. Nirupa's Fat Finger Drawings. Iphone

Esmeralda. Call me ES-MEH. The Birthday Detective. Nirupa's Fat Finger Drawings. Iphone

She smoothed her cape, adjusted her hat and took over my couch. She looked bigger than life. I knew I was in trouble.  

She proceeded- “So what do we have here?”

‘I… I… I feel saddled’.

“Like my bags? Saddled with what?”

‘Ummm.. all these beautiful birthday wishes…’


‘I don’t know what to do with them.. they seem loaded’.

“Loaded with what??? And what is your name again. Reads like apathy..” she scribbled quickly and furiously.  

‘Loaded...with with.. expectation.....You can call me Rupes. But they bill me as Nirupa’.

I sensed annoyance. Another case of the entitlement pandemic, she must have thought. 

Her brows furrowed- “Expectation of what?”

‘That I must be doing something on my birthday! That I must be doing…. doing you know…’ my voice trailed off into a half-baked plaint.

Silence. The birthday detective must not have expected this. Even for the cushiest of the 1%. 

‘And...And what is your name again?’ I asked desperate to break the silence.

“Esmehhhh-ral-dah. You can call me Es-meh.”

‘Ok. Es-meh.’

“Ok. Rupes. Why so saddled?”

‘I just told you! Umm.. I am overwhelmed…. by all these incredible birthday wishes. They are projecting happiness on me. But I don’t feel ready.’

“Ready for what?????!!!!!”

‘Ummm. Ready to be happy. To be happy by doing…. I want to bring back the happy. By doing nothing. I am actually doing nothing for my birthday.’

“Ok. Why don’t you just tell people that you are doing nothing.”

‘Umm. Because that is SOOOOO yesterday. I have been saying that all of last year. That I do nothing. They must be sick and tired of hearing the same answer.’   

‘NOTHING. is so not interesting Es-meh.’ A half high-pitched squeal. I was sounding desperate.   

I was positively wailing at this point. And the hand-wringing was giving me some mild cramps.

Esme looked over. She perched her glasses on top of her awesome hat. And she said--

“NOW Look at me.”

Bahhhhhh. I made some shifty eye-contact.

“NOW HEAR me when I say this.”

Her eyes-scalpels and her brows-scissors, “Tell them….you have graduated.”

‘What do you mean- graduated?’

“You were on Level 1 last year. You are graduating to Level 2.”

“Level 2 of Doing Nothing. You are moving to Intermediate. And Intermediate is difficult. You might be in Intermediate today. Tomorrow and maybe the whole year.”

“But, here is the question. Why are you doing nothing?”

‘Because nothing makes me happy, doing nothing that is, I stuttered. I do nothing so I can put the pieces of me .....myself back together.’

“You know what you want then”.

I said- ‘Yes perhaps’.

She looked at me long and hard. A minute felt like an hour.

She said- “Remove the perhaps”.

Just say- “You know what you want”.

And repeat after me- “I am now on the Intermediate Level. Of DOING NOTHING.”

The mantra was repeated with half-conviction. The delivery needed some vehemence.

A silent audience in the peanut gallery clapped. The leaves outside rustled. All was quiet in the room again.

Esme looked around the room- “So here, let me clear all this other junk.”

“Old business cards, badges, suits, high-heeled shoes, 20 black pants, handbags gathering dust.”

A half screaming NO was just getting ready to leave my mouth. It was intercepted.

She took one look at the messy pile. It was marked “Somethings/OLD THINGS- THROW AWAY.”

Scoop. Pick up. Sweep. In one fell swoop, the pile of somethings-old things clutter was gone.

She said, “All of these Somethings- these are SOOOOOOO 80s..get on with the program, the new program. Of putting yourself back together, the back to school program. The back to school program of Doing Nothing”

She corrected her stern looking bat-woman glasses as she stuffed the saddle bags.

“Are we finished?’

‘But.. but.. Esme. ‘Nothing. Now even my kind father asks me, if I am not bored. And he is mostly cool with me doing nothing.’

“And are you?”

‘NO. I am having the time of my life.’

I felt positively sheepish now.

“THEN quit complaining. And get on with your business…. of doing Nothing.”


Silence like fruit flies…

“Ok… my time is up. Thank you for allowing me to visit.

Any last thoughts you would like to share with me. Any questions? And don’t forget to leave a good review on Yelp." 

"I go by Esme All You Got.”

‘Esme. What is that hammer and nail for?’

“Oh. I use that on some of my clients. Some need more than a talking-to.”

I was relieved that I did not have to be attended thus.

‘But but.. Esme. One last question.’

I could see that her patience was up. But I pressed.

‘What is that I am exactly suffering from?’

She paused. Softness prevailed.

“RSI”, she said gently.


“Repetitive Stress Injury.”

‘From what Esme?’

From answering too many, “What do you do? What are you doing-- questions…”

Relief.. I was staring at my feet.

“Now remember, Ruh, can I call you Ruh?”

She handed me a clear plastic bag.

“Next time, I visit, have this ready, with all the little pieces… of you. THE OLD YOU. You know what I am talking about right.”

I nodded silently.

She stood by the door.

Like wind-chimes her departing voice called out-

“You are OKAY. You are actually where you should be right now. You are going through a mid-life crisis, a reverse mid-life crisis.

Where I come from, they call it Metamorphosis.”

And like that she was gone. Clear, white bag rustling. And then Silence.