Birthdays are a big deal here. They’re always a bit awkward for me no matter where I am, but the office and my friends were sure to “Welcome me to India” just one more time with some traditional festivities. It’s a running joke between all of the interns and fellows to say “Welcome to India!” every time we experience something bizarre, inefficient, or corny – all characteristic of this place. 😉 Even the nationals say it. But my birthday was none of those. To begin, my sweet friend, and partner in crime in Aftercare, Alex, decorated my desk with styrofoam balls, a birthday hat, and streamers. Oh.. and a sweet note too.
At group devotion the entire office sings to you but it’s not the typical birthday song; there’s a twist to it. After the usual “happy birthday to you” is another verse: “We are glad God make you (all fingers pointing). We are glad God made you (all eyes on you again). We are sooooooo (dragged out until people run out of breath!) glad God made you. Happy birthday to you.” I survived the queasy, but loving moment. After devotion some ladies came over and started pulling back my hair so they could tie garland (jasmine flowers) in my ponytail.
Anytime you have an achievement, celebration, or something of the like, you bring a treat for the entire office. So, to follow tradition I handed out biscuits (cookies) as my happy birthday treat and chatted with staff for a significant part of the morning. The acting office director and I share a birthday so we cut a cake in the afternoon in a wedding-like fashion—I made her put her hand on mine and then we fed each other, but I definitely smashed some cake on her face after my boss signaled to me from behind her.
That evening all of the interns went to Tuscana for dinner where I had pizza (ahh – how I miss italian and mediterranean food so badly!). I unashamedly ate half a pizza on my own, but it was a thin pizza, okay? Don’t judge me. 😉 It’s also Indian tradition to treat everyone on your birthday. Earlier in the day a legal fellow, Kyle, said, “Hey Neesha, are you gonna treat all of us tonight? Eh?” To his disappointment I only treated my Indian friends and none of the expats. Haha! Only those who abide by the culture will be treated, my friend.
We went back to mine and Sharon’s place in Anna Nagar and had cake. Boy did we have cake. I was instructed to cut the cake and feed every person in the room by hand. And then they fed me. End of story. Use your imagination for the rest.
It was a special day. From the texts and phone calls I received right at midnight to the smashing of cake in my face that evening, I certainly felt loved and celebrated without missing home at all – thanks to all of those who made it so memorable. Maybe I’ll have another birthday in India one day.