Post by Carol Johnson
The afternoon took us back to Rajan’s house for the second event: A special meal for the autodrivers and their families. We had a few minutes in between events to rest, and to change out of the silk clothes of the morning celebration.
Afternoon Party, Indian Style
As soon as Richard entered the house, he was greeted with flowers and yet another beautiful mala given by Mahesh.
Upstairs on the roof, under a festive pandal set up for the occasion, Rajan and his friends have begun the party.
From the roof, we can see that Arunachala is presiding over the party.
Meanwhile, downstairs, there’s some party chaos going on, as Janani and friends try to replace the window curtain that has fallen down. The boys sitting on the bed are working, or maybe playing, on the computer.
Another view of the “outdoor kitchen.” Looks deceptively quiet from the outside.
Inside the kitchen, cooks are finishing up the main course: Mutton biryani. One final stir…
…and then the finishing step: The pot is covered and fire ashes put on top to assure a good finish to the dish.
Janani and friends peek into the kitchen.
I relinquished the camera to someone who wanted to take a group shot, the first of many.
Rajan’s kids with Karuna’s eldest daughter and another friend. Karuna is Rajan’s brother, so these kids are very close.
Back on the roof. Gopal and Mari have presented another mala to the birthday boy.
Veelu, part of the family – Rajan’s wife’s brother-in-law – gets in on the mala act.
Richard raises his glass to this loyal group of hard-working friends. We can always count on them to help us with anything we need.
Siva – called “Salad Siva” because of his association with Hari, a grower of organic salad greens – presents Richard with a very special gift bouquet.
The view of the kitchen from above. Food is almost ready!
Here comes the first batch of Chicken 65. And it is perfect: not too hot for us Western spice wimps.
Another batch of Chicken 65 in the works. The head chef is supervising, but stops long enough for a snap.
Ladies helping the the kitchen, taking a break.
The biryani is ready! The giant pot is carried from the kitchen to the serving area, the porch.
Up the stairs to the porch, passing over the kolam.
Richard enjoys the Chicken 65 with the guys.
Back downstairs, the kids get their own Chicken 65. The banana leaf plates are being set out in anticipation of the biryani.
Raam Kumar with his Chicken 65.
Vennila’s daughter Sweta has captured someone’s toddler.
Vennila waits for her biryani serving.
These boys in the foreground are Raam’s friends. He was so gracious to make sure he introduced them to us before the meal. Karuna’s older daughter is in the back.
The ladies sit along one wall. Janaki, Rajan’s wife, is in the center. She has hosted Richard and me for countless meals on every holiday and family celebration. She has always done the cooking and serving, and, by tradition, can’t eat until we, the guests, finish their meals and leave. Today is the first time ever that she has sat with us to share food.
The overflow crowd of kids is eating in one of the bedrooms, with Devi, Karuna’s wife, sitting in the main room, but still able to keep an eye o the kids.
Here it is! The wonderful, flavorful-but-not-too-spicy “mutton” (goat) biryani. There’s a side dish of raita and more Chicken 65 in the photo, along with our beverages.
Today Rajan is serving, instead of his wife. He’s bringing a bucket of sambar.
Now it’s time for birthday cake! We were blown away by the gorgeous decoration on the carrot cake.
The birthday boy does the honor of cutting the cakes. All of them were special-ordered from the bakery of the new Nilgiri’s supermarket. The one in the photo below was “eggless pineapple.”
Richard cuts while Devi helps serve.
Oh, the beautiful decoration must give way to the hungry group.
Outside, Purushothaman is waiting by the kitchen. What a good-hearted man he is. He volunteered to help serve the sadhus earlier today.
Richard serves cake to the drivers, still sitting on the roof.
The girls are making their way up to the roof to have their cake.
Now’s the time for “honoring” friends by feeding them.
Looks like play to me.
“Honoring” Richard, too.
People are beginning the clean-up. Veelu was helping serve the food and especially gracious to us today.
Back downstairs, Vennila’s daughters re-purposed the malas to honor their aunties, Lakshmi, and Devi.
The neighborhood dogs are going to be very, very happy with the leftovers from today’s feast.
OK, time out to go home and refresh before tonight’s finale. When we checked the Internet, it turned out that even Google knew about Richard’s big day. This is their birthday “Google art.”
Nighttime Western Party and Fireworks
Here we are again, having returned to Rajan’s house for the nighttime party. We had another rest and changed clothes again, Richard into a new kurta he had made for this day and I into a favorite saree. I have given over my camera to my ace photographic assistant, Raam Kumar. I instructed his to take a photo of everyone at the party. The rest of the photos are his. For not being very familiar with cameras, I think he did an amazing job both earlier today and again tonight. Good going, Raam!
The girls have made a special card for Richard.
A couple of Raam’s friends.
Richard, holding a lovely bouquet of roses, poses with Ramesh.
An “art shot” of Linda W. and Peter.
G. is in focus, his friend, not so much.
Part of the group chatting. It’s a little chilly tonight, by Tiruvannamalai standards, anyway.
We noticed that at the afternoon party, the “Indian” one, the men stayed upstairs, separate from the women and kids, who were downstairs. At this “Westernized” party, everybody is together upstairs. More change that comes to India through Western influences.
Below, some of the Indian ladies who came to the party. Vennila is on the left.
John is about to sample the Gobi 65. We made sure there was non-veg AND veg food.
Another group shot. From the left, it’s Anshu, Ramadata, Vishni, Lynne, and Shivani.
I’m posing with Terry.
Sujata, Peter, Tink, and Rick.
Knud sitting with Bibiji.
Many of the neighborhood girls participate in programs offered by the wonderful NGO HeartKids. (See Richard’s post about this event a couple of years ago here.) They recently took part in a dance recital there. They offered to give us a taste of their performance. In the photo below, they are getting ready.
Earlier in the day, Dakshinamoorthi and Lakshmi, owners of Sathya’s Café, prepared the meal for the sadhu feast. Now, this evening, they delivered their famous Saturday-night-special pizzas for our birthday bash. Below is one of the pizza boxes, with a special dedication for Richard’s birthday.
And inside the box, a “Richard Special.” This is our standard order on pizza night at Sathya’s Café: Margarita with extra cheese, extra sauce, and lots of garlic.
Terry and Cynthia.
G., his friend from Italy (who told me her name at least 4 times, but because I’m old I can’t remember), and Rama.
Knud, Bibiji, John, and a friend of John’s, whose name we also can’t remember.
Here I am with Vishni.
Lynne is pensive.
Linda W. is freezing.
Dr. Raja from the Animal Shelter. A real hero for the work he does with all kinds of animals that the shelter handles. (You can learn more about the shelter here.)
The firework show has begun! What a glorious way to celebrate my favorite husband’s birthday!
Here it is: the chocolate cake with appropriate candles. (Thanks, Lakshmi!)
The group huddles.
Yes! Another winner!
Ah, the cakes are ready for the birthday song.
Down below, the fireworks show continues with a “fountain.”
Karuna and Linda C.
Karuna with his son Vishnu. How adorable is this kid!
Sparklers in the night.
Devi and Janaki. The moms must be pretty tired by now.
Rajan decorated the house for this occasion.
Including festive star decorations. Raam is getting “artsy” here, playing with the zoom button.
Dr. Raja, Lynne, and Leslie, the founder of the Arunachala Animal Sanctuary & Rescue Shelter.
Janani and Linda C.
Rama, Dominica, Peter, and Tink. Peter is holding the book of Dominica’s photos that was just published a few days ago. It is a beautiful collection of portraits of 52 contemporary spiritual masters. Dominica spent the last couple of decades traveling the world photographing the likes of HH 14th Dalai Lama, Yogi Ramsuratkumar, Nannagaru, Ramesh Balsekar, Mata Amritanadamaya, Karl Renz, Adyashanti, and 45 other masters for this book. She also wrote the text, in English and French, and chose quotes from these masters’ teachings. She included brief biographies of them also. If you want to get this book, and you should, go here.
Ah, and here’s the newly (re)married couple at the end of the evening.
What an amazing day this has been. Richard’s birthday has truly been an affair to remember.
We are so grateful for the help and support and best wishes of all our friends, Indian and Western. Because of you, and Arunachala, our lives are always filled with joy. Thank you one and all.
Tags: tiruvannamalai birthday