Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

It’s hard to face a birthday in a foreign country where you have few friends and most of your loved ones are thousands of miles (and many hours time difference) away from you.

It’s even harder when you wake up with a severe cold.

I’ve been really lucky since I’ve been here. Other than one night of feeling a bit off, I have not been ‘India’ sick at all (aka food poisoning). All the horror stories of inevitable sickness in the first few weeks had scared me into being very careful – and so far (knock on wood) it’s paid off.

But the monsoon also attracts another, more basic, illness: the common cold. It’s been going around like wildfire here. Friends have had it. Nisha had it. Then Daniel had it. I was doomed to get it. No amount of safe drinking water and properly cooked food could help me avoid the sickness lingering in the air.

I just really didn’t want it on this day.

I’m usually pretty into birthdays (anyone who knows me is laughing at this point, since this is an understatement). I love anyone’s birthday – who can say no to celebrations, cake and giving/receiving fun gifts and cards? But I’d been thinking that this year I would avoid my birthday a bit – how could I celebrate when most of the people I love are far away? I guess my low-key birthday plan had evolved, unbeknownst to me, to include the extra joy of a fever and cold.

When I woke up, it was still the previous day in the US – so no messages were waiting and I couldn’t expect any phone calls for a few hours. Instead I took my temperature – 99.8. I took some Tylenol Cold to try and get back to normal and then I opened some birthday cards my parents and a friend had sent. I figured that would make me feel better, and it did for a moment (they were hilarious). But when I picked up the phone to call and thank everyone, I realized I couldn’t. It was too late on the east coast.

I groggily sat up with my headache pounding. So this was it, huh? Daniel was at work (to be fair, he had arranged for me to get a massage in the afternoon and had planned a great dinner, so Daniel gets bonus birthday points) so I was just in my house alone with a minor fever, a major cough and some birthday cards from people too far away to share the joy with. I must have looked pretty pathetic.

And it figured – the previous day Nisha had explained that my birthday was cursed anyway. To Mumbaikers, July 26 is a very bad day. On July 26 2005 Mumbai saw some if it’s heaviest flooding ever – over a thousand people died, countless lost homes and many people were without power and transportation for days or even weeks.

Nisha explained, “When you say ’26 July’ to someone, it is understood you’re talking about that very bad day. I personally couldn’t get home for 3 days. When I finally made it back, my whole house was flooded and all our gas cylinders were burst”

So who was I to complain about anything mildly bad that happened to me on the 26th of July?

I was determined to turn my day around – a cold was no reason to let the day get ruined. And then, as if right on cue, Nisha came in the door with a huge bag.

Birthday flowers in a bundle!

“What is that?” I asked.
“Birthday present!” she said, pulling out a dozen pink roses. But then there were more. Like multi-colored performers jumping out of a clown car, she pulled one bouquet after another out of the bag until the whole counter was covered.

“You didn’t have to do this!” I said, shocked at the amount of flowers taking over my apartment. I had never received so many flowers in one moment in all my life.

“Oh, I got a good deal,” she shrugged, “And my sons told me I wasn’t buying enough! I figured this would work though.”

I smiled. It definitely would work. It brightened my whole morning. It shook me out of my silly funk and reminded me that I was here, in India. I had chosen to come here; I had known I would be far away. And I was trading the comforts of home for one year so that I could have new experiences and meet new people.

flowers in vases

And I was reminded of that again as Daniel and I were coming back from dinner – I had spent most of the day trying to ignore my sickness, enjoy my flowers and enjoy a day of relaxing. I’d dressed up to go out to dinner so that even if I felt gross on the inside I could fake it ’till I made it on the outside. However, I was tired, and the day had been my first real cold reminder of how far away I was from my regular life.

My amaaazing birthday cake

But, as that thought was sinking in, I got a phone call – two of my new friends here had baked me a cake and wanted to know if I was well enough for them to bring it over. I said of course (sickness never trumps cake).

I soon answered the door and was handed an incredible vanilla cake with a pear/mango/deliciousness filling. I made some lemongrass tea and we sat around and talked for a few hours. I didn’t feel sick and I certainly didn’t feel alone.

I’d made it past my first real day of feeling actual-sick and homesick, and I’d made it past pretty well. This July 26th wasn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think it’ll be a very good year.

P.S. If that cake looks good to you (and it should, because it was awesome) the recipe for it will be posted tomorrow on http://bobosbakery.wordpress.com. Not only do I have a new friend who bakes, she also shares her recipes. How great is that?

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