It's the age of designer birthday parties for today's toddlers.

Lately I notice that banks are no longer advertising with the standard clichés on why families should start saving early. This one caught my eye and made sense:“Before you know it, the years would have flown. And it will be your child's second birthday. Will you be prepared for her birthday party? Or higher education bills when your precious one graduates from Cuddly Crawlers to Toddler's Land? Start now! Save for her essentials in life, right from the day you forget where you kept your birth control pills”.

Special invite

Certainly true of my pal Monisha who sent me a special invitation to her Baby Bri's second birthday party. I was very excited. Three clowns jumped out of a colourful van outside my house and ‘sang' the invitation. “Keep the fourth of January free. Come and party with Baby Bri,” they sang as my entire building came out to watch.

The clowns did a terrific three-part harmony for the ending: “Bay-bee Bri!” (Since the child's name, Brindakshini, was nearly the length of the child itself, they had shortened it to “Bri”. But the parents were going to great lengths for everything else.)

Before they left, the clowns gave each one in my family a celebrity mask to wear at the party. What a clever idea! Apparently the birthday child was amazing at recognising Bollywood film stars from a very young age. I immediately grabbed Shah Rukh for myself. Especially since there was a prize for whichever star Bri recognised first.

Over the next few days, we went through a mixture of high excitement and stress: should we shop for new clothes? Was there a consultancy service to help us pick the perfect gift for Bri? There was party-propaganda.com. They had a special folder of superb suggestions for today's two year olds and since the parents had created a website and birthday gifts registry with this company, it made it all so easy for us. Except that Baby's First Laptop - which taught toddlers elementary algebra and physics and had 12 cool games including “Snappy Nappy”, a fun way to design your own nappy - was already taken by Mrs. Kapoor and family. So we settled for “Globe Toddler”, a cool smart globe that spoke each country's capital as soon as a baby index finger touched it.

Baby Bollywood

Then on January 4, we set off happily to the party. Uniformed valets efficiently took away our cars so that we wasted no time in joining the long queue to get in. No boredom here… TV monitors showed us an interesting film of Bri's life: from birth to her growing years. And suddenly we were inside what looked like a mini film-star planet. What imagination! And what an effort to get everything right for the evening's theme: “Baby Bollywood”.

We walked around, exclaiming in wonder like other guests. Giant posters of our most-loved stars when they were babies were up on a wall. Look! Isn't that Baby Kajol! And Baby Bipasha! And that surely is Baby Ranbir. And Baby Govinda was the cutest with his smiling chubby face.

Meanwhile the kids were having a riot. There was the bouncing castle of course, but it didn't have too many takers; every kid had been there, bounced that at so many other parties.

There was a near stampede at the “Dance Baby Dance” stall as pretty five year old Abhishekini was doing a superb rendition of Kajra re. Several parents were trying to put their kids too on the crowded stage, saying “you also do kajra rebeta…don't forget the hand movement, like this, like this…” But three young idiot boys were trying to corner all the attention screaming “Aal is vell!” as they danced. We ran to watch and cheer and then Franki (surely a disciple of Shiamak Davar) got a troop of seven seven-year-olds to do a perfectly choreographed “Where's The Party Tonite”. Apparently rehearsals had been going on for a whole month.

Birthday girl

A bit dizzy with all the joy around, we went off to meet and greet the birthday girl. But she was screaming in rage trying to tear off her big bouffant wig, made specially to look very retro-chic like Deepika in “Om Shanti Om”. Still, she looked outstanding in her bright pink mini sari-costume sparkling with Swarovski diamonds. The party organisers caught the pearl-studded designer wig just as Baby Bri flung it angrily towards the cake…and as Bri's parents fussed and calmed her down, we gathered around, wearing the film star masks, as we had been clearly briefed earlier.

Seeing herself surrounded by so many big stars, Bri began to smile again. “Shah Rukh!” she gurgled looking towards me. There was a huge cheer! And Baby Bri even came willingly to me, when I held out my arms… and I got the special prize: a collection of super-hit DVDs to take home.

And so we returned home, a bit out of breath with all the excitement. And we too are saving up for little Saurav's birthday party, coming up in a couple of months. His dad has many connections with the IPL, we hear, and we can't be sure but there's a rumour that someone very big may be coming to dance at the function: Shah Rukh Khan's son.

Indu Balachandran is a travel and humour writer. E-mail:indubee8@yahoo.co.in