If Every Day Were Your Birthday…
Yesterday I celebrated my 23rd birthday New Delhi-style! This was the second time I’ve spent my birthday abroad – I turned 20 in Viña del Mar, Chile. The festivities started at midnight on Wednesday with a bouquet of flowers and a note from Charmagne, who somehow coordinated the effort with my roommate Lena (she still won’t tell me how you did it!). I went to bed with a big smile on my face and woke up to a cake, candles, and happy birthday song from Lena and a call from Lesly who is traveling with a friend visiting from France. I sat on the floor in the living room with Lena and opened presents and cards – books & school supplies, a JNU T-shirt, a butterfly-shaped kitchen scrubbie, and macaroni and cheese!
I wrote a birthday To Do List and set out to mail some letters at the post office and run some errands at the market before lunch and my 2pm French class – yes I’ve decided to take French this year! After my French class I planned to go get a haircut and have a coffee at Gloria Jean’s, my New Delhi happy place. I ran into a girl from my French class on the walk home from school and struck up a conversation because she had mentioned that she also lives in Munirka when we were practicing the use of “j’habite a…” in class. Not only are we neighbors (a few blocks away) but it turns out her mom runs a hair salon. I took this coincidence as a sign and went for a haircut. Her mom had arrived home just as we arrived so Deepali (my new French class friend) and I chatted about our shared love of languages and travel as her mom gave me a great birthday haircut. Don’t worry, Tiff, it’s still long.
After my haircut I took an auto to Priya Market for the coffee and my annual ritual of writing in my “birthday journal”. Seven years ago my aunt Paula brought me a lovely leather journal from Florence, Italy as a Christmas gift. My aunt Wanda had the idea that I write in it once a year on my birthday which I have been doing since September 1, 2004. Each year I reread the previous entries and document the joys, successes, highlights, challenges, and travails of the past year and set an intention for the year ahead. I spent a good two hours at the cafe reading through the past seven years of my life and writing about my opportunities last year for professional development, leadership, introspection, growth, and fun. The year ahead is all about ADVENTURE. Like a bird taking flight I have left my cozy Minnesota perch to check out the branches and vistas of new places!
Rotarian Shahani hosted Lena and me for a lovely dinner at his home, organized by my Indian host brother Rohan who is a stellar party planner. We had homemade hors d’ouerves and a lovely Indian meal and two cakes! We were joined also by Preeti, a PhD student at JNU and another Rotarian from the district. It was a lovely celebration. There is some video of me blowing out the candles which I will post as soon as possible. After dinner we met up with Daniel and friends from Hindi class, Rotaract, and JNU to go dancing at a club in South Delhi. It was ex-pat night so the club was full of more Westerners than I have seen since July. I had a blast! When I got home I got online and chatted with some friends in MN – I decided I wanted to take advantage of the full 34.5 hour birthday (24 + 10.5 hour time difference) and I stayed up way too late and did.
I learned an important lesson from my birthday which is that experience is all about attitude. I think my new M.O. is to pretend like every day is my birthday here in India. Birthdays are a special day to celebrate that you are alive in this world and do so in a fun way with friends and/or family (or strangers if that’s who you can find!) So I say why not use every day to celebrate being alive in this world? Celebrate yourself! Celebrate the beautiful people around you! Do it every day, you don’t need the excuse of your birthday to do so. The joy of one’s birthday is also something to be shared. I gave in and had a great time buying chicken chow mein and a Pepsi for one of the sweet and feisty little street kids who hangs out in Priya asking for money and food. He looked stunned and then overjoyed when I nodded and started walking toward a food stand, it was priceless. I tried to explain to the guy at the register that it was my birthday today so this was my gift to the little kid, but I think he thought I was a naive tourist who had somehow been led to believe today was the kid’s birthday haha. The “today is my birthday!” attitude is the perfect one to carry here in India. This way when things go awry just shrug and say “Oh well, I’m not going to let this ruin my birthday”, I’m not going to let this ruin this precious new day I get to spend on the planet. Experience = Attitude.
Thanks to everyone for the lovely birthday wishes, cards, gifts, and most of all the present of your presence (physical and virtual) in my life.
Make a wish and live every day like it’s your birthday!