Not everyone can say they are able to celebrate a birthday abroad. Even though I was away from family, I knew the trip as a whole was far more important than another birthday. Especially considering there’s nothing to look forward to after you turn 21… right? (except for renting cars…).
This morning’s wake up rounds were a little different compared to the first – thanks to the birthday wishes I was getting (special thanks to Meg and Amy for the candies!). Twenty-two years ago today, I entered this world (well if you’re in the United States, it was 9.5 hours after I woke up in India…). Crazy how time flies. Birthday aside, I wanted to make sure that my main focus today remained on production and experiencing as much as I could.
Today, Profugo was celebrating the inauguration of a new children’s program. The whole community assembled at the Profugo house for a day of commemoration for how much the community has grown, and the promise of its future in this program and many others. There were a few songs and dances from the children as well.
As the inauguration was coming to a close, I heard Tyler, one of the field fellows, mention over the loud speaker that they were not only celebrating this new program, but also a birthday. I was called up to the front, where I as told to cut a piece of a small cake and it was fed to me. I was also given a small flower that was pinned to my shirt. This paired with the fact that I was wearing a lungi (a white cloth worn by men during more formal occasions) made me feel far more connected with the culture and the people! I would have never thought I’d be able to celebrate a birthday in a foreign country, let alone India. Many members of the community came up to me to wish my a happy birthday (in the little English they knew) and would say “I wish you many more.” There’s no way I could forget this birthday! The culture usually expects the person who’s birthday it is to give gifts, so thankfully we had some candy for me to hand out!
After the Inauguration, we were separated up into groups with the kids of Prashanthagiri. Marissa and I were paired with three girls, who walked us towards Valad, the small town near Prashanthagiri. Only one of the girls spoke any English, so it was a bit of a struggle to get much of any conversation going over the three girls giggling back at us. They ended up taking us up a hill to where tea was farmed to get a better view of the village – right as a storm rolled in. It started to downpour and one of the girls immediately grabbed her umbrella and yelled to me “cheta” which means “big brother” or “sir.” So there I was, in this white cloth, wearing sandles, in the mud and pouring rain, and some eleven year old girl that I had met only a half hour before was graciously holding an umbrella over my head. To be honest, I felt pretty useless, but if anything it reaffirmed many things for me about this community and the hope for the better that the children convey.
Before leaving Prashanthagiri for the day, we interviewed one of the field fellows, Isel. She is a native of Puerto Rico who went to Bryn Mawr college (just down the road from Villanova). She has been working with Profugo in India for almost two years now and her passion for her work is reflected in her very positive character.
Field Fellow, Isel
For dinner, we went to another ‘resort’ that I guess we were initially supposed to stay at. The resort served us a buffet style meal, with different options compared to the Grand Century hotel’s restaurant. After dinner, we even got to try the local beer… Kingfisher – can’t say I’d try to have it imported back to the US. They made us move into a separate room apart from the dining area to drink the beer, another different experience when you compare how people in the US consume alcoholic beverages.
Today sparked a lot of emotion and reflection. And all of this emotion can tie back to privilege and a true simplicity of life. It all started with the Inauguration. The entire community met under some rickety tarps set up against the Profugo house to celebrate a new initiative. A new initiative that the whole community is contributing towards because they all know it will help better each and every one of their lives – even if it’s not directly. This new Children’s Program will help for a better future in the village by educating all of the children and providing healthy outlets for growing minds.
At dinner, I was sitting next to Aneesh. Aneesh has been an amazing help to our group and is consistently smiling with a positive attitude. Even after he comes to help us early in the morning, having been kept awake by his seven month old child, he selflessly lends himself to our group. His genuine positivity is something that you don’t see in many people, especially in the United States. To have met someone, and to honestly call them “brother” after hardly knowing them is truly unique. Aneesh is someone that embodies potentially thousands of quotes that famous people have said, but when it all comes down to it, he’s there for the sake of everyone in his life. He always talks about how everything that he does simply boils down to love. Loving those around him, loving what he is doing in his life, and loving the place he lives. If I am able to leave this country with just a small piece of Aneesh’s mentality, I would be forever indebted to him.Tags: birthday, india