The Most Precious Birthday Gift I Have Received
I grew up in a large family. Born as the youngest of five children, I was the pampered one of the lot.
My family lived along with my uncle, aunt, grandfather, the two maids, the maid's husband and her son.
In my family itself there were 7 members. My mom, dad, three sisters, my brother and me.
In all, there were 14 people who lived in a wonderful neighborhood in South Mumbai.
Being the youngest in the entire house, I was fortunate to receive the best of everything from both sides of the family.
From my own parents and siblings as well as from my relatives who lived with us.
I dare say, I got the best from the maids as well. Even the maid's husband would give me pocket money off and on.
Whenever it was my birthday or Christmas, it was the time for me to get 12 different gifts from the 13 different people living in our home.
The only one who did not give me anything was the maid's son. I don't blame him though. He was just a few years older than me.
So, every year, on my birthday in November, I would be pampered like crazy.
There would be my favorite food prepared for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even for tea, my favorite cookies and snacks would be bought.
Then, apart from the tasty treats, I would receive lots of pocket money and many gifts too.
My dad, uncle, granddad, aunt, both maids, and the maid's husband would give me cash gifts.
Meanwhile, my mom, three sisters, and my brother would usually give me other birthday gifts.
Since we didn't have much money while growing up, my mom would ask me in advance what I wanted for my birthday.
Then, the 5 of them would start saving money to buy me all those things that I wanted.
It was a fantastic arrangement for me.
A month later, Christmas and New Year would come along. There would be another round of gifts coming my way.
I was certainly becoming an expert in extracting the maximum amount of money and gifts out of my family, relatives, and helpers.
As a result of being the youngest and the most pampered one, I always had a lot of pocket money, savings in the bank and plenty of toys, books, etc to pass my time with.
Each year, on my birthday, then once again on Christmas, the same ritual of getting gifts and cash from every single member of the house continued.
The shocking part of this gift giving tradition was that when I look back, I don't remember ever giving a gift to anyone else at home.
In other words, I was habituated to only receiving gifts but never gave even a single one back to my family or the helpers.
The years passed by, and when I was 12 years old, we moved out of that large family home.
My part of the family, that is, my parents, siblings and me moved to a tiny 2-bedroom flat in the suburbs of Mumbai.
I was devastated when this happened.
I knew that moving to a different place, away from my relatives would decrease the number of gifts and cash that I received on my birthday and Christmas.
But I was wrong...
After we moved to the suburbs, on every birthday, I would receive cash and gifts not just from my family, relatives and helpers but now there was a new group added to the mix.
My new friends that I had made in the building that I lived.
You see, in the suburbs of Mumbai, when we were kids growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was a tradition of friends chipping in and getting the birthday boy or girl something special on their birthday.
I was overjoyed to learn about this new tradition.
So, once we moved to the suburbs, I started getting more money and gifts on my birthdays and on Christmas.
Also, to my surprise, my friends would invite me over to their homes on every major Hindu, Sikh, Parsi and Muslim festival.
There weren't any gifts that I received at these festivals.
However, I was happy to get loads of tasty food and sweets to eat on each of these festival days.
Being immensely popular during my childhood and teenage years, I certainly got the best of everything from everyone that I knew.
I used my popularity to the fullest.
I would literally force my childhood friends to give me birthday gifts else I would not speak to them for weeks.
I actually did this with a couple of good friends when they didn't bother buying me a decent birthday gift.
After that, all my other friends realized that I meant business.
They made sure they bought me gifts on my birthday. In fact, a couple of my rich pals were sweet enough to buy me gifts on Diwali and Christmas too.
Shown above is a unique birthday gift I received from a friend who is a well known artist today. You can see how much time and effort was put into these gifts.
Obviously, all these gifts that I received from my friends were the ones apart from those that I got from my family, relatives, and helpers.
Things continued like this for most of my teen years.
It was common for me to receive as many as 30 gifts and thousands of rupees in cash on every single birthday of mine while growing up.
In May 1998, we moved to a new flat in another part of the suburbs.
By that time, I was an adult.
Things were slowly starting to change for me. I was starting to receive more expensive gifts since I had more friends than I could handle.
Things were looking good...
I was so blinded by all this attention that I received while I was growing up that I failed to notice that things had become very difficult for my family.
My mom had a brain stroke in 1987, after that she never fully recovered.
She would walk around with a walking stick till the day she died.
Meanwhile, in the mid-90s, my dad was diagnosed with Brain Cancer, the cost of his treatment was incredibly high.
As a result of his illness he could not work full-time anymore.
Rising expenses, inflation in the country, medical treatment costs, etc took a toll on our family.
By the late 90s, my dad was on his death bed and most of my siblings had moved abroad to earn more money to pay for the huge medical bills and make ends meet.
Despite being an adult, I failed to truly see what my family was going through till the final year of my dad's life.
It was only during his last 12 months that I started to realize how I had used my family, friends, and even the servants to get gifts and cash on birthdays, Christmases and other major celebrations.
After my dad died in December 1999, I toned down quite a bit.
But there was still a part of me that was so stubbornly addicted to manipulating my near and dear ones that my old habit of extracting the maximum cash and gifts on birthdays and other similar celebrations did not stop.
During the early part of this century, there was a new reason for me to get more gifts.
Since most of my siblings and a few good friends were abroad, I would ask them to get me expensive things from the country they were in.
With the internet coming into our lives, it was much easier to shoot an email to each of my relatives and siblings containing a list of things that I expected them to get for me when they returned back to Mumbai.
For a few years (from 1999 to 2003), things were great again...
I was getting fancy clothes, expensive leather and sports shoes, branded deodorants, loads of music on CD, movies on CD, electronic items like the latest gadgets available abroad, and lots of other stuff.
Shown above is another birthday gift I received. A free portfolio (worth Rs.15000) shot by a good friend who is a famous fashion photographer in Mumbai.
But don't think I am a really cheap, pampered and manipulative guy.
Even though I was.
I did go to the Airport to pick up my siblings and best friends every single time they were returning to Mumbai.
Whenever they would come back with more baggage on them, I was the one who was the happiest.
Because I knew that most of what was in those bags were bought for me.
So, I had absolutely no problem lifting up two large suitcases in both my hands.
I would even pay for the cab fare back home.
Wasn't I a nice guy...
It was around my birthday in the year 2003 that things changed for me forever.
My eldest sister was coming down from somewhere in the Middle East.
I had already sent her an email containing a list of 101 things that I wanted her to get for me.
I was really excited when I went to pick her up at the Airport.
I saw just 1 suitcase with her and thought that maybe her luggage was lost or delayed by the airlines.
But when I asked her she said "NO".
She told me that she had just come with the one suitcase this time.
It was a rather silent cab trip back to our home from the Airport that night.
The next day was my birthday.
There were loads of things planned. I met up with my old college friends for a late breakfast. Where they would each give me a nice birthday gift.
Then I had lunch with my two best friends. Both of them gave me a pair of jeans and a few music CDs.
For tea, I caught up with my girlfriend. She bought me a pair of shirts, two ties and a pair of trousers.
Then in the evening, I met up with my childhood friends, who treated me to dinner and drinks at a fancy place, then gifted me more clothes, perfume and even a new pair of shoes.
Finally, I came back home late at night. It was nearly 11pm when I entered the front door.
My mom and eldest sister were waiting to surprise me with a late birthday party. My aunt and uncle were also there.
Since I was already full, I hastily cut my 5th birthday cake on that day.
Then I excused myself and went to my bedroom to lie down for a while.
After half an hour, I suddenly remembered that I had not yet received a single gift from my mom and sister that day.
I got up from my bed, went out into the living room and asked both of them to get me my birthday gifts in my room.
Saying that, I walked back to my bedroom, switched on the light and waited for my sister to give me my list of things that I had demanded from her...
A few minutes later, my sister entered my room and gave me a small neatly wrapped gift item.
I figured that maybe she got me a credit card to go and buy whatever I wanted.
Or maybe it was a key to her suitcase that she had brought back home.
I figured whatever that little gift was it was more precious in value than all the things on the list that I asked her to get for me.
I wasn't wrong...
The destiny moment had arrived, I tore open the gift wrap with just 2 tears.
Then I looked inside to see what my precious gift was.
I got a shock of my life when I saw it.
I thought maybe it was a mistake...
I asked my sister if she was playing a prank on me.
I told her that she could go out of my room and return with all the 101 things that I had asked her to get for me on my birthday.
She said it wasn't a prank.
She added that the gift that I got was the only birthday gift I was getting that year.
I was shocked...
I did not know how to react.
I got so angry in that moment that I flung that gift on the door as my sister left the room.
Till today, that birthday gift has the dent on it to show that I had thrown it on the door.
The little gift that my sister gave me that birthday was a little placard covered with glass that read..
A little progress each day adds up to big results.
On that placard was a cartoon of my favorite cartoon character 'Dennis The Menace'.
It showed him watering a little plant in the garden and then in the next two pictures it showed that the plant had turned into a tree.
And that tree had turned into a massive tree which was literally touching the clouds in the sky.
Over the years, this little gift made me realize how mean, nasty and manipulative I had been with my family, friends, helpers and nearly everyone else who was close to me.
It was the last time that I ever asked my family and friends for a gift on my birthday or on Christmas.
For some reason, that little gift transformed me completely.
I started becoming a giver rather than a receiver. I was trying to make up for all the wrongs I had done.
That little placard of 'Dennis The Menace' became and is the most precious gift that I ever received.
Not just because I was taught a major life lesson by my eldest sister that day.
But because the message on the gift itself guided me in my life, my career, and in almost every single thing that I did.
That gift became the foundation for the Kyoto Bamboo Principle that I created a year after I received that gift.
Till today, I carry that gift with me everywhere I go.
I would keep it in my office during the day time, in my bedroom on top of my computer when I returned.
I could not find that gift anywhere so I removed a printout of that gift and stuck it in my office so that I did not have to carry it with me every single day.
The funny thing is that even when I went abroad on a holiday I would take that placard gift with me.
I kid you not...
Whenever I was going through tough times in my life or started off on a new business idea, my sister's birthday gift would inspire me and help me find a way forward in my life.
The Kyoto Bamboo Principle is founded entirely on that placard gift.
Though the story that I created to highlight the principle is entirely my own.
Till date, it is my most popular short story.
With hundreds and thousands of students, clients, and readers receiving a copy of my audio book or listening to it in my classes and seminars.
It will remain my most precious birthday gift for a long time to come...
Thanks to my sister for teaching me two priceless lessons on the same day.
I will never forget the incredible value of both these lessons her gift taught me.
The Kyoto Bamboo Principle is available in MP3 format on the homepage of Gobog
along with two other powerful principles. The title of the audio book is "Three Diamonds". It was released on 21st September, 2017.
Audio Book Creator. Life Coach. Soft Skills Trainer. Counselor.
Meditation Practitioner. Food Technologist. Frugal Marketer.
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