One thing I most certainly have learnt during my time in Jodhpur is that there is never a better time to celebrate than the current moment. Would you, for example, celebrate your child’s first haircut? The event of giving out your wedding invitations? Have a function every single day starting from giving out your wedding invitations the week before to the day itself? And when you did so, would you invite in excess of one thousand or two thousand people if the occasion demands it? I think probably not. But here everyone wants to share everything and celebrate everyone. Not a bad idea if you ask me!
Recently Will and I have been lucky to witness lots of celebrations. Diwali (of course) was one of the largest, quickly followed by another festival immediately after, but we were also invited to a dinner to celebrate the giving of invitations to our Beauty-Parlour’s-owner’s-daughter’s-cousin’s-sister’s wedding, along with an invite to the big event itself taking place on the twenty-fourth. We also found out that both Ramsingh’s and Manju’s birthdays fall within a day of one another. The invitation dinner was truly a treat, with lots of beautiful adolescent girls giggling all over Will and trying to make him dance, along with a plethora of welcome ceremonies (free money!) and a BIG thali of some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. Like many of the parties I’ve been to here it seemed less about the person celebrating (the bride in this case) than about spoiling the guests with lots of food, drumming and dancing. Something I’m not sure how I would feel about as the host, but as the guest I’m not complaining.
Then again, for a country that loves to celebrate, you’d be surprised how little people in Jodhpur seem to care about the specifics. I’ve quickly found out its not really that unusual for people to not know how old they are, often roughly they will have an idea, but birthdays seem to be more about the actual celebration of a date than a number. Imagine finding out you are two or three years younger or older than you thought! Ramsingh didn’t even know when his birthday was… making it so much easier yesterday for Manju, Will and I to plan a surprise party! In a cruel-to-be-kind fashion, we informed Ramsingh it was our friend Amit’s birthday we were preparing for yesterday evening and he ran around cleaning and decorating the house in preparation for the birthday guest, much to Manju’s delight! When Ramsingh came up the stairs to find us singing happy birthday to him instead, along with a cake with his name on it, his face was a picture! To top it all off, we invested in some relighting candles, just to keep the joke going a bit further. 😉
Manju really pulled out all the stops too, buying lots of samosas for us all, decorating the place with balloons whilst Will and I invested in a lovely pineapple cake (eggless of course) to compliment Manju’s vegetable rice (recipe on its way!). We then happily stuffed our faces, rubbed cake cream on one another’s faces and had a right old laugh. It really was great fun! Plus I managed to create an exquisite cream cake moustache…. 🙂
Then today, as if we didn’t cake ourselves out yesterday, is Manju’s birthday. With both birthdays being so close, we thought we must do something different. Because Manju is forever in the kitchen, and quite frankly, always cooking for everyone else but herself, Will and I decided on Pizza as a birthday treat (with cake and candles of course too!). Manju was, as always, very reluctant to let either of us spend any money “WHY MONEY WASTE WILL, WHY?!” yet we finally won out. Hurrah! Although she did take so long to get over her reluctance that the icing message ‘Happy Birthday Manju’ had well and truly melted all over her cake. Admittedly, there may have been some selfish motives involved – yay for Pizza- but the best part was Bhanu running around shouting ‘Will has gone to get Pizza!’ informing Ramsingh, and anybody else that would listen, that nobody could make any chai because we were getting ‘PIZZA!’. This in itself made it all worth it despite Manju’s protests. Neetha joined us too along with a random member of the family that no one actually seemed to know. Manju, Neetha, Will and I all exchanged confused looks for at least half an hour over the random man who refused to go away. Turns out, he was Ramsingh’s relative. Although to be quite honest, Ramsingh didn’t even look too sure.
So here I am feeling positively stuffed, but in a good way. Lots of people in Jodhpur I’ve met don’t actually have a great deal of cash to spare, but they never skimp on festivities, whatever you want to make of it. Of course, like Manju, you could worry that this is a ‘waste’, and in some situations it really can seem to be *Naomi Campbell’s extravaganzas cough cough*, but why not make a fuss of someone or something now and again? It doesn’t have to be expensive and it’s hard to party once you’re dead after all. Add to this the fact it is difficult to eat pizza if you’re busy running around after everybody else 364 days of the year and you had better remember your birthday, even if I encourage you all to freely to forget your age.