Once is intentional. Two times is a coincidence. Three times is tradition. It has become a tradition from the dawn of my collegiate career to watch the sun rise on my birthday. I never really intended for it to happen; in fact I would prefer it didn’t. I’m not a morning person. And yet it has. Today I watched the sun rise on my twenty-first birthday. I watched it reflect on the Ganga from the prow of a boat as we lazily drifted with the current; I’m spoiled. No, that’s not it.
I am lucky.
I am so very lucky to have wonderful people in my life who tried to make this the best birthday they could even though I was not the most cooperative of patrons. Yesterday my professor asked me if my birthday made me miss my family and it took all my willpower not soak her sari in tears. Yes. Yes it did.
I missed home like a sailor out at sea misses land. Every little wave threatened to capsize my boat; I was tossed about the deck as the waves grew bigger, compounding upon each other until I was caught in the middle of a raging storm. I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore. I thought I was going to drown. I held onto the mast for dear life, arms aching as they strained against the wind as it tugged my body; icy claws tearing into my skin until I was left raw and exposed, until I was just bones. But still my bony fingers did not unclench as I waited through the storm.
This morning I awoke to find the my inner storm clouds receding; little by little they faded away throughout the day. My little boat was no longer in danger of sinking. I was no longer in danger of drowning in my homesickness. It still lingered, like a jagged wound slow to heal, but it did not bleed. And so I’ll let it be; I won’t pick at it or let it ooze as long as it does not inhibit my ability to sail. A ship like this belongs out at sea.
Extended metaphor aside, I really was horribly homesick for the last couple of days. Every little bump became a barrier in my way. The world felt impossible. It’s a good thing that the people on my program with me don’t take my moodiness to heart. If they had I don’t think today would have felt so incredible. And it was; it was truly incredible. Aside from watching the sun rise on the Ganga from the water, my program also surprised me with a cake. That was bliss.
I know a cake might sound mundane to most but I haven’t eaten real sweets in month. My diet here has been very restricted; all veg, all the time. Sugar only belongs on my porridge and in my tea. I’ve had some Indian sweets but they aren’t chocolate cake. They do not have the melt in your mouth delicacy of a chocolate layer cake with ganache drizzled over the top. I would like to say that I did not spend five minutes licking my plate clean because dear lord did I miss real, proper chocolate cake. But that would be a lie. That’s the level I’m on right now. I’m that kid in the restaurant that the waitress makes fun of. I’ve become my brother. I cringe writing that… maybe I should just go throw myself in the Ganges and let the holy water have me. Oh wait…
I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by swimming in the Ganga. It was warm, it was slimy, and I don’t want to do it again. There is a high possibility I will end up celebrating the rest of my 21st like most do- throwing up- but for very different reasons as I actually did swim in the water. Go big or go home. On that note, I still don’t feel clean having exited the river several hours ago. Who else in the West can say that the universe aligned just right for them to have swum in the Ganges for their 21st birthday? Not many people. It’s a pretty incredible thing.
I am twenty-one years old today and I swam in the Ganges.
That sounds pretty freaking amazing to me. Alas, that is not the end of the Leni birthday extravaganza. My host family is taking us girls out to a South Indian restaurant for dinner to celebrate so we’ll see how that goes. I’m both excited and terrified as I have no idea what anything I have been eating is called nor what is in it. I am 95% certain that I am allergic to something though so I get to play a nice mystery roulette of “will I get hives tonight.” We shall see. I live a simple life of ignorance and I like it.
All and all, I would say this was a damn good 21st birthday.