ISLAMABAD: There was a time when birthdays were all about musical chairs, memorable photographs and chocolate cakes. Not anymore.
Birthdays are much more elaborate now - depending on how deep your pockets are. “My three-year-old daughter does not want to settle for just the ordinary,” Azmat Aurangzeb, a mother of two, told The Express Tribune. “She threw a fit when I booked only one jumping castle instead of three for her birthday.”
Over the last few years, spending on these new elaborate birthdays has skyrocketed, with bakeries, event planners, suppliers and fast food chains all cashing in. Shahida Ahmed, the owner of Tiramisu, has been in the catering business for the past 20 years. To make birthdays extra special, she bakes exquisite cakes along with matching cupcakes and cookies.
The minimum that Ahmed charges for a birthday cake is Rs3,000. There is no upper limit. “Recently, I baked a four-tier birthday cake [which was sold] for Rs65,000,” she said. Azmat Aurangzeb paid Rs35,000 for a small birthday party she organised at McDonald’s recently. Food is just one part of the equation. Birthdays need to be fun and, these days, fun comes at a steep price.
Shahida Ahmed told The Express Tribune that themed birthday parties have taken on a whole new dimension. She supplies accessories such as goodie bags for which she can charge up to Rs500 per bag. Mohammad Shahbaz Gilani started off as a balloon vendor in Islamabad almost 21 years ago.
He now owns a profitable business called Active Balloon Decorative - services include imported balloon decorations, trampolines, face painting, magic shows, juggling acts, jumping castles, merry-gorounds, candy floss machines and so on. “I used to have a cycle and now I have a house, car and servants of my own,” he told The Express Tribune. There was a time when he charged Rs3000 per hour for all activities. Now, he offers various packages for which he sometimes earns up to Rs175,000 at a single birthday.
“The demand has increased so much in the capital … last week, I did six birthdays in one day,” Gilani said. Ten-year-old Malaika recently attended a Hannah Montana themed birthday and wants hers to be just like that one. “Themes are cool - I would not want to celebrate my birthday without one,” she said decisively.