Celebrating my birthday in Rishikesh, India

Celebrating my birthday in Rishikesh, India

For as many years as I can remember, I’ve had huge birthday parties and let everyone know that the best present I could ever receive is to help people in our community who are in need. In lieu of material gifts, everyone has been happy to clean out their pantries and linen closets of unneeded items and bring them to me as ‘presents’. I am tickled to take care of donating the items to people in need in the community of food and clothing. It has become quite a tradition that I always looked forward to every year.

This year, I celebrated my birthday with many of you over the Internet and with Alain Senécal and Christine Marlow in India.

Tamila & Alain above the Ganges River. Rishikesh, India.

Alain and I celebrating my birthday above the Ganges River. Rishikesh, India.

Here in Rishikesh, I am surrounded by those in need of food, clothing and shelter. It’s in your face. Women with children in their arms will grab you and beg for food to eat. You want to help everyone but can only help some.

Although I was happy to be in such good company, something was missing from my day and I had trouble pin-pointing it. Probably seems a bit obvious to you where I’m going with this.

The kichiri meal that I had wrapped up for the family

The kichiri that I had wrapped up for the family

Although I was starving earlier, I suddenly lost my appetite at lunch after my plate arrived. This was such an unusual experience to happen to me. I even made the comment out loud that your parents always made to you growing up. ‘Do you know how many starving kids there are out there that would love your food?’. Thats when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed my tradition to make it really FEEL like my birthday. I asked them to wrap up my meal because I had something to do.

In the pouring rain and with warm food in hand, I walked across the street to ‘the house’, the one that keeps whispering to me.

Laundry day at 'the house' in Rishikesh, India

Laundry day at ‘the house’ in Rishikesh, India

I should tell you that this particular house catches my eye everyday as I walk past. I usually see a hard-working mom outside cooking on a modified barrel stove and a playful young boy hanging out near the door of their lean-to home. What strikes me is how happy this young boy is every single day and that she never asks for help from those strolling past. Their tiny sheet metal home has bricks and stones on the roof to weigh it down and the house looks ready to fall over during the next wind storm. You can see from the photo that it’s in rough shape.

The home is surrounded by 3-story hotels with restaurants, one of which is a 4-star luxury hotel just across the street. This is where I eat lunches prepared for my Ayurveda treatments everyday and stare out the window at this home, because it too is hard to ignore.

The birthday house in Rishkesh, India

The birthday house in Rishkesh, India

As I approached the door, I saw 3 little pairs of bare feet lined up in a row on a small bed. I knocked and said ‘hello’ as Alain watched on. I knocked again. This time, the smallest set of feet jumped up, looked at me, saw the food and the biggest smile came across his 4-year old face. To my surprise, the young boy I always see was joined by his slightly older 5 & 6 year-old brothers. I had 3 beautiful young souls smiling back at me as I handed them a warm bowl of food. Their mother was not around, perhaps out working. I have yet to see a father figure there. I can do the math and there are at least 4 people living in this little home, maybe 5 if a father is present.

Bathing outdoors in Rishikesh, India

Bathing outdoors in Rishikesh, India

Interesting to note that I was starving earlier in the day because I am not to eat before the treatments but lost my appetite at lunch and didn’t feel like eating. I later understood from my guides that they needed it way more than I did. As I walked away with a warmed heart from their smiling faces, it finally felt like my birthday and I can’t wait to see those smiling faces again soon.

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