Here's a little background information on my neighbor friend, Saaj. Saaj lives next door to us and he's always wanting to hang out and play cricket, frisbee or go swimming with us. Jason's usually busy studying and I don't have the heart to tell him no, so most evenings are spent outside teaching him to throw a frisbee or how to do a handstand in the shallow end of the pool. Because I'm always polite and kind hearted to him, he refers to me as his best friend. It's true...he tells everyone that I am his best friend. One day he was outside playing with some friends when I got home from the grocery store and he ran over to the car. He wanted to help me carry my groceries to the door. His friend kind of curled his nose and made a comment about him helping out and Saaj politely said, "Friends help each other and she's my friend so I'm helping". Get this...sometimes and he'll be sitting on our back deck area, singing one of songs (in Hindi) trying to calm the dogs down. The dogs flip out when they see anyone staring in the back sliding door, so you can imagine how thrilled they were to hear Saaj's special song. He thinks he's just trying to help. Ok so enough of all that.
Back to the birthday festivities....we spent a while walking up and down the aisles trying to find the perfect present. His dad requested no violent toys so we finally decided on a microscope. He could make his own slides, view them and learn all the science possible for a 10 year old. I wrapped the gift just perfect and had Jason carry it on our way across the complex to the residents lounge for the party. We knew we had arrived when we heard the traditional Indian music blaring from the speakers...very uptempo and perfect for a party!
We didn't know what to expect because we've never been to a birthday party for someone of a different culture. We are both extremely curious and interested in other cultures so this party was the perfect opportunity for us to learn more! Saaj and his family had special clothes made for their special day...it was so nice to see them in their traditional wear.
Shortly after we arrived, the cake cutting ceremony was performed. Sonali, Saaj's mom, helped him cut the cake while everyone sang Happy Birthday in Hindi and then in English. After the cake was cut, they pulled the piece of cake out, put it back in and then each of the family members sampled the piece of cake that was cut. Very cute! After the birthday family sampled the cake, everyone that wanted to get involved got to wipe icing on Saaj's face. By the end, he was covered in birthday icing!In between the cake and the rest of the party, the kids enjoyed the pool. It was so nice to sit under the umbrella and just enjoy the moment. About half way through the party, nothing too exciting was happening so we thought we would head home. We got up to go and thank them for inviting us and Abhay, Saaj's dad, said, "Oh, NO! You guys have to come back around 4:00 for the dinner and dancing". Jason needed to get in a little studying, so we agreed to come back after he read a little in his books.
I'm so glad we decided to go back to the party because we would have missed all the 'good stuff'! The food was very different, but very good. Everything had a spicy curry sauce that you dipped up with a homemade tortilla. Saaj made sure to come and sit by us during dinner because he wanted to make sure we knew how to 'properly' eat. It was pretty comical...we kept wanting to use our forks more than the tortillas.After dinner was the dancing...everyone wanted to get up and dance. Some people had some good moves and others should have probably stayed seated but they didn't care. They wanted to get up and have a good time....and a good time they had!They even managed to get me up and teach me some of their moves. I was a little nervous at first but it didn't take long to get it figured out. Sonali told me a secret when dancing, "when in doubt, unscrew the two lightbulbs from above your head" and that's exactly what I did. I unscrewed a lot of lightbulbs that night! I'm so glad that we were invited to help Saaj celebrate his birthday! He's such a good neighbor and 'best friend'...I'm not sure he would have forgiven us if we weren't able to come!