Family Planning

Ok, it's not what you think. Here I expound on how any occasion that calls for miniscule levels of coordination and planning are recipes for disaster in our family.

My niece (and also my cousin by some twist of fate) had her birthday recently. Her brother wanted to organize a surprise for her. The surprise comprised of the rest of the family members lying in wait and ambushing her at the crack of midnight (when she got home) and all of us shouting out in unison ‘Happy Birthday’ or something of that nature.


While chock-full of hilarity and confusion, it’s an understatement to say that things didn’t go according to the carefully laid out plan.

First, my nephew (the brother) was asked by my niece to drop her off at friend’s place for a party around 10:30 p.m. This kind of put a spanner in the works as he had asked another friend of hers to take her out in the evening and bring her back home at midnight where we were all faithfully waiting in anticipation.

Ever ready for contingencies (not!), my nephew adjusted the strategy appropriately so her friend could pick her up from the party, go out and return her home by midnight. Unfortunately, none of us really knew where my niece was or where her friend was. Frantic SMSes did nothing to allay our confusion as we were in the dark as to whether she was:
a) at the party with her other friend
b) at the party with her other friend and the friend who was in cahoots with us
c) with the cahoots friend at some other location

This might seem like funny to some, but believe me, to the great minds of our family poring over the plans with PowerPoint presentations, simulations and attack strategies, this was quite a stressful event.

Thinking on its feet, as our family is famously known for, we decided that we would run up the stairs before she entered and shout out whatever we needed to shout out from upstairs as she walked in. As it happens with most plans of this sort, we really didn’t debrief everyone on the plans. My wife, due to late nights in the last few days, was fast asleep on the sofa curled up with a shawl. A few others were not updated on the latest plan either.

Hark! We hear a car pull up outside the house. The Planning & Execution Commission (P&EC) is immobile. The door bell rings! A mad rush ensues. My cousin’s wife, showing a never before seen nimbleness, is off the blocks and upstairs in about 1.37 seconds flat. My niece tries to open the front door. My nephew stands in her way and attempts to engage her in nonsensical conversation. She glimpses a salwar-clad lady shooting up the stairs at considerable speed. Her suspicion about my nephew’s nocturnal activities is aroused and she uses the light from her cell-phone to peer into the house. The speedy lady’s husband (my cousin) is standing behind my nephew with his held out in a big wave, a big smile and a ‘Hi’ to ensure my nephew’s plans have no possibility of success, however small. In the meantime, my cousin's friend who unfortunately happened to be part of the surprise party is unsure on his line of action. My wife is fast asleep so he closes his eyes too thinking that is the surprise. He also sees the contingent trying to rush up the stairs and is in a conundrum as to which team to follow.


With all this chaos, my nephew gets a message on his cellphone from my niece’s friend indicating that my niece will be home in a couple of minutes. Damn technology! It’s never there when you need it!

The family is not one to let a minor defeat bog us down. We have bounced back. We are already in full battle-mode planning for the next surprise birthday party. To ensure there are no loose ends, we plan to involve the surprisee from the start so we are guaranteed of success…
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