Irritated voice - “Offo! Yeh India kab jaayega??”
Okay, so who says this about one of their closest friends?
We do. Especially when we’re waiting for said friend to go to India so we can plan his surprise birthday party in peace.
Shub and I had been discussing a F.R.I.E.N.D.S-themed birthday party for Pizzadude for the longest time. If there’s anyone I knew who was a bigger F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan than me, it’s him. Of course, I was yet to meet Urv (yet to meet him still) back then. But we’d always referred to Pizzadude as Joey, mainly because of his love for food, especially pizzas. We even christened his flatmates Shub and Sumanth as Monica and Chandler, while Viv and I were Mike and Phoebe respectively.
Yeah, so plans had been on for months. We had created a shared google spreadsheet where we kept jotting down ideas as and when they struck us. Most of them originated, of course, from Shub and me. Viv and Sumanth were also in the threads, but beyond earning the title of ‘useless lazybums’, they did not do much. Till the last minute. Of course.
So finally Pizzadude went to India for a vacation, and we met up one evening at our place, sat at the dining table complete with notepad (No, I wasn’t sitting atop a tree) and pens, finalising the plans and division of work. The plan was to do a ‘fake birthday celebration’, i.e. have dinner with him on his birthday and leave early, and then break into his house before he got back and do the whole surprise hoo-haa aka ‘the real birthday party’. The programme included setting up his place like ‘Central Perk’, a flatmate quiz, and a F.R.I.E.N.D.S-themed treasure hunt. Urv was the absent party to all of this planning and I kept him constantly updated and constantly jealous.
I had prepared the questions for the flatmate quiz and sent them on to Shub and Sumanth to get the answers. Shub had scouted places to get a whole cheesecake and sorted through hazaar photos to put a video together. Both of us were furiously looking for an ugly gold bracelet. Those who are F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans will know why.
Sumanth and Viv, on the other hand, were extremely busy sitting on their asses. Even though they were in charge of the treasure hunt, Shub and I did not hear a chirp from them.
Closer to the date, email discussions were in full force. One of the threads was amongst the planners, while one was on with the plannee to decide on the time and venue for dinner, etc. The email thread between the planners was peppered with conversations such as these:
Sash - Lazybum guys, how's the treasure hunt going? :P
Sumanth - we have made quite a bit of progress on this.. we want it to be a surprise for everyone, so no details will be divulged until the event takes place… that way everyone will be genuinely surprised & not acting surprised :)
Shub - captain subtext : "OH SHIT WE TOTALLY FORGOT!! WE BETTER GET CRACKING RIGHTAWAY! You reply to the email and act casual while I start working on the clues!" :P
Sash - Totally with Shub here!!!!
Viv - I agree with my buddy... It's all about the surprise. In fact, if you see our faces on the day, you'd think even we didn't know what was coming up...!
Shub - I'm paranoid one of these emails will somehow end up being sent to Pizzadude as well! I keep double checking the list! :-/
Sash - Me tooooo!! I check and then count! :P
I had got one of my designer ex-colleagues to pass me the F.R.I.E.N.D.S font which I installed and used to prepare small labels with the letters in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The plan was to pin it on our shirts, and sit in that order on the couch when he first entered the house and saw us. I had also done up the ‘Central Perk’ poster to be stuck on the wall, and finally, after much hunting in Bugis, found the ugliest gold bracelet on the planet.
Shub and Sumanth had also got their fake gift ready, an awesomely funny apron that said, "I'm even better in bed." They were also busy subtly convincing Pizzadude to pick a restaurant close to our homes for dinner. Viv was to pretend that he had a conference call to take from home, so needed to go back early after a quick dinner.
Initially, Shub and I also wanted to do a parody to the song ‘Smelly cat’ (I’m Phoebe, but she’s the guitarist in the group). We came up with a few drafts, but because this is a family bar (okay that sounds like a soap!), I will only post the uncensored stanza here.
Pizza dude Pizza dude
Why are you obsessed with food?
Pizza dude Pizza dude
It’s not your fault!
So the night before the party, Shub was to pick up the cheesecake and drop it off at our place so Pizzadude didn’t stumble onto it when he opened the fridge. She was also to pick up our gift for him (all gifts were to be presented to him together at the end of the treasure hunt), a bottle of Jim Beam to spike his coke, the Central Perk poster and the F.R.I.E.N.D.S labels. However, she got a shock to see that the cheesecake place had closed down. No other place could do a whole cheesecake at one day’s notice.
Frantic phonecalls and sms messages later, Viv managed to buy one near his office. We decided that instead of Shub coming over, Viv would go over with the stuff the next morning after Pizzadude had left for work.
So on the evening of his birthday, we were all at the Thai restaurant Lemongrass after work. V, Pizzadude’s ex-flatmate, and also Shub’s colleague (he was the guy who had helped us plant the inappropriate card in Shub’s office for her surprise party) was there with his mom. And he had brought along this guy (henceforth referred to as the ‘rebound flatmate Eddie’) who is replacing Pizzadude in his old place. I was pretty certain V had got him along to show off to Pizzadude, “So what if you left us? Hmmmph! We found someone new. Look look!”
Anyway, before Pizzadude got to the restaurant, I had explained to V his lines.
“So when he opens the door, we’ll all be on the couch and yell, 'HOW YOU DOIN’?' Okay?”
“Okay, done!” said V, very enthusiastically.
Barely a minute later, he asks, “Hey, what are we supposed to say when he opens the door?”
*thunk thunk thunk head on wall*
“HOW YOU DOIN’?” I repeated.
Anyway, while Pizzadude cut his ‘fake birthday cake’ (a lovely blackforest cake that V had got), we indulged in some undertable activities to get the house keys from Shub.
Viv and I left at about 8.50 “as Viv’s conference call with the US office was at 9 pm.” We gave him the fake gift and I said, "You can't open it now, okay? Go home and open it!" and Viv even did a most sincere 'good boy' rendition of "Bye, Aunty!" to V's mom, even though he was going to see her again in half an hour.
So Viv and I quickly got a cab and rushed to their house. We hid our shoes and set up the camera, etc. Initially, we were supposed to pin the F.R.I.E.N.D.S labels on our shirts, but we figured Shub and Sumanth may not have the time to do that as they were coming together with Pizzadude. So we replaced the coloured sheets of paper that Viv and Sumanth had placed as clues at different locations in the house with the F.R.I.E.N.D.S labels. So now, the clues would have to be given out in the order F-R-I-E-N-D-S.
Soon, V, his mom and B had also reached. We switched off the lights and took our positions. V whispered, “Hey, so what are we supposed to say when he walks in?” I resisted the desire to strangle him.
Apparently, Pizzadude had gone to buy a phonecard so Shub and Sumanth actually reached before him.
Soon, we were all in position and the house was dark.
Pizzadude walked in, and we yelled “HOW YOU DOIN’?” just as he switched on the light.
He was surprised all right. The chap couldn’t stop grinning. Then he saw the Central Perk poster on the wall and burst out laughing. When we told him it was only the beginning, he was very excited.
So we started with the flatmate quiz. Shub had prepared a very special drink for him (let’s just say only 10% of it was Coke), in a very special F.R.I.E.N.D.S-style giant coffee cup, and he had to take a huge gulp with each question he was asked.
Next up was the treasure hunt. Somehow, the two guys had managed to put the clues together. Pizzadude was to find the clues one by one, and carry out the task given with each.
Q: What did Joey and Chandler decide never to switch off?
Pizzadude's task: Talk to two nodding dolls in the living room as if they were the duck and the chick.
Q: Where would you hide ‘The shining’?
Notice the green book under the tub of ice-cream? Months ahead of the birthday, Shub had picked up a copy of the Velveteen Rabbit!
Pizzadude's task: ‘Smell the fart’ acting
Q: If you were to eat yesterday’s pizza, where would you put it first?
Pizzadude's task: Show us how Joey reacted when he first found out about Monica and Chandler.
Q: What did Joey raid when Chandler wouldn’t return his underwear?
Pizzadude's task: Wear all of Chandler’s clothes (underwear on, please!) and do the lunges.
Q: What would you associate with Joey's five second rule?
Pizzadude's task: Say ‘How you doin’? in five languages, including one as Dr. Rajkumar wooing someone called "Paaaaarvathy", and Rajnikanth (we forced him to enact that using swimming goggles. It was UBER-HILARIOUS!). Of course, videos were taken, but unfortunately, cannot be posted.
Q: Where did Monica meet Joey’s dad?
Pizzadude's task: Wear the ugly gold bracelet and show Joey’s reaction when he wore it.
Q: What is the first thing you associate with Phoebe?
The treasure hunt ended with him getting all his real gifts. Shub and Sumanth had got him an iPod-shuffle (he was thrilled as it was his first iPod), while Viv and I got him a DIY Spanish learning course (he’d been talking about learning Spanish for the longest time).
Rebound flatmate Eddie kept saying, “This is so cool! Why are my birthdays so boring???” Yeahahahaha! :D
Next, we played the video, which was so hilarious we watched it twice! It started off with Pizzadude showing off his muscles in a photo and the background song went, “Hai muscular! Hai popular! Spectacular, yeh hai bachelor!” and then went on to show him looking very distraught when the song went, “But Pappu can’t dance sala!”
The second half of the video had the song “I’ll be there for you” and featured some random photos with all of us. Fantastic job, Shub and Sumanth! Rocking video!
Soon, everyone else left and it was just us, the planners and the planee, sitting back, exhausted, digging into the cheesecake and generally smiling a lot. The planners were smiling because the plan had been successful, and the planee was smiling because...
And then Viv said something that caused a moment of SSS (Serious Senti Silence) in the room.
“Imagine… if not for blogs, all of us would have never met.”