Today is my birthday. Today I am one year shy of half a century. Today I am the age my father was when he died. I’ve been so focused on turning 50 next year that I failed to anticipate the significance of turning 49 this year. As my father turned 49, he was already a few weeks into his battle with an aggressive cancer that killed him in 3 ½ months. When my mother turned 49 the following year, she quit her VP position with Kaiser, sold her house and most of her belongings, and moved to Ann Arbor to begin a PhD program. Twenty-three years later, at 49, I am sitting in my living room, listening to the birds and traffic of Bengaluru. I guess 49 is an age for transitions in my family. Tomorrow I will brainstorm the ways I can make this year important – I need a sense of direction and purpose to carry me into this next phase of my life, something with heart, something that matters. Today I will continue to celebrate.
Of course my birthday celebrations are already underway, thanks to Tom who insisted that the whole weekend is about me. Yesterday morning, I went to an impromptu mehendi (henna) gathering at the home of some of Tom’s fellow teachers. They had planned a sleepover party for their adolescent daughter only to have most of the girls succumb to a nasty cold sweeping through the school. With a mehendi artist already booked to show up on Saturday morning, Nicolas sent out an open invitation, and I jumped on it. She was incredible, and I could not be happier with my newly decorated hands.
Once the mehendi had dried and flaked off with the help of a little coconut oil, Tom and I headed downtown. We’re preparing for our first Indian train trip on Thursday when we go to Mysore for a 4-day weekend. Since our timing will be tight on Thursday, we thought it would be a good idea to check out the train station and make sure we knew what we were doing. Things that are so easy to figure out at home can become overwhelming when faced with a language barrier and a sea of bustling people. We spoke with the woman at the inquiry counter, confirmed that this was the correct train station, learned that we should be 30 minutes early, and walked to the track from which our train will depart. We felt much more confident for our Thursday trip.
We then walked to the nearest Metro station and took our first Metro ride. As at every mall, hotel, or other large gathering place, we had to walk through a metal detector and have our belongings checked. We bought our tokens (22 rupees each, about 34 cents) and headed down the escalator to the track where a kind attendant told us where to wait. The Metro station is spotless, so different from the garbage-strewn street above. The train itself is clean, air-conditioned, and entirely pleasant despite being completed packed. Little screens tell you the upcoming stops and show ads about keeping things clean and safe, with great tips like “Don’t push your fellow passenger.” No one pushed me so I guess it’s working. The only problem with the Metro is that it only serves the central core of the city. There are plans to expand, but it won’t make it to Yelahanka where we live for many years yet.
Six stops later we emerged near 1 MG Road, a big fancy mall where we could explore the delights of Foodhall. Foodhall is every expat’s dream come true. When we first discovered it, we bought Bob’s Red Mill flour, our favorite raspberry jam, and a big block of Belgian butter. We’re all ready to make jammers! Yes, everything cost twice what it would at home, but it’s just so exciting to have it. Yesterday we were on a mission to buy food for my birthday dinner. From there we went to Fabindia where Tom got fancy clothes for India Night, the annual fundraising event for the OWC on October 7: a long teal kurta, cream pyjama pants, and a gold and cream stole. He’ll look great!
After some downtime (and Tom’s birthday breakfast prep time!), we went to the Royal Afghan for the perfect birthday dinner (see Birthday at The Royal Afghan).
Today I anticipate Tom’s amazing homemade masala dosas (I got to taste the filling yesterday and it was so good), a relaxing afternoon, and a fondue dinner to cap it all off.
I am a lucky woman. Forty-nine will be a very good year.