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Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Big 21st Birthday, Indian Style :)

I’m not gonna lie; I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate my 21st birthday with my friends, probably in a bar somewhere where I would be able to buy my first drink. But at the same time, I knew spending my birthday in India would be memorable enough. I couldn’t be any more right :)

In the morning, Rachna and I went to the internet/cyber café in the next town over via our personal auto rickshaw driver, who told us his name was “John F. Kennedy.” He’s great :) We go to the internet café a few times a week since the internet in the village works archaically slow.  We'll mass respond to emails, upload any important documents from Nest, send Nest reports/documents, update our blogs with pictures- basically, anything we are unable to do in the village, we do it all at once. 

Afterwards, Rachna and I went back to the village to make our last minute preparations to the business lesson that we would be teaching in the afternoon with the translator. That day, we were finishing up our lesson on “Professionalism,” which I thought was especially important for this group of women. We helped the cooperative write up a mission statement, a set of rules, and a schedule for which they will use for the Yala order. Everything in Chidiya is done very informally, and there were no rules written up previously. Because of this, members did not know exactly what was expected of them, causing conflicts. We hope that setting up formal management procedures will help Chidiya spend less time arguing and more time focusing on their future as a successful business. 

I thought the lesson went extremely well, especially because I had seen the women get started on the upcoming Yala order. I really appreciated all their happy birthday wishes as they left at the end of the lesson to their own homes to prepare dinner for their families. Rachna and I ate our dinner soon thereafter, as usual, and retired to our room where we spend our nights reading books that we downloaded online. On the night of my birthday, I was in the middle of reading Stieg Larsson’s last book in his popular trilogy, “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” And then, out of the blue, Mahendran and Seetha (our host parents and the founders of NEWS) came into our room with a cake and a huge crowd of people behind them! I was genuinely surprised since I did not expect anything of the sort. I felt very happy and special :) Some of the Chidiya members even came out to celebrate my birthday with me, along with the hostel children of course! It was a very large group, and they all came to sing happy birthday to me. It was so wonderful. They put a bindi on my forehead, and a jewel head ornament on top of my head, along with a red shawl, all for my birthday!They dressed me up, Indian style, and fed me cake, also another Indian tradition. I was full of cake by the 5th or 6th person that wanted to feed me cake.

After cake, we went outside to where the hostel is, right next to our house. Mahendran had set up speakers and started playing music. Mahendran announced that this dance show would be on behalf of my birthday over the microphone, and a trio of girls was the first to perform. They were wonderful! And to think that these girls had never received dance lessons. After 10 minutes though, all of the children got up from their seats to dance themselves! A huge dance party commenced. I did not really know how to dance “Indian style,” so I had the children teach me. It was SO fun! The children all wished me happy birthday and told me I looked beautiful; they are the sweetest kids ever.

This was definitely a birthday to remember. I didn’t spend it like all of my other friends at a nice dinner or anything, but I think that spending it with this community of Indian gypsies made my birthday infinitely special. I mean, who can say that they celebrated their 21st with gypsies? :)

I’m so thankful for these people. They are truly wonderful, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. They were willing to give, even though they have so little themselves, to make me feel special on my birthday. That was the best part; it was the epitome of the perfect birthday present.

This sweet little girl, one of the older hostel kids, who sometimes COOKS for us (isn't that amazing?!) got me a birthday present (shown below) 

I love it :)

This is one of the Chidiya member's younger sisters. It was her birthday only 3 days after mine! She's a year younger than me though :)

Birthday cake! That got fed to me 

The crazy, cute hostel children

My roomie and partner in crime throughout this whole experience. 

Angella, she shares my name! She is also in Chidiya and helps take care of us

Tougher than Tough Kanama :) She's the sweetest, so lovable

With Angella's family

With Kanavati, another Chidiya member, and her daughter

With Nithya and her adorable children :)


  1. Dang, that's way cooler than drinking at a bar! We'll celebrate American style later, but right now I'm so jealous of you! Miss you immensely!

  2. much, much better than MY 21st birthday...

  3. THIS IS SO AMAZING!!!!!!!!
    aw, im so happy that u had such a wonderful 21st bday. :D
    i miss u angela babe!

  4. i love all the jewels! (:
    and can't believe you'll be back in two weeks!

  5. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

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