Birthday in the Slums

One week ago today, I was woken up at midnight in India by a knock on my door. Three of my dear boys stood there with hand made cards and it was only then that I remembered that it was my 29thbirthday. They had stayed up just so that they could be the first to greet me. I hugged them and sent them to bed quite touched. I tried to go back to sleep but for the longest time, all I could think of was the long list I had made in college listing the things I wanted to accomplish and in doing so, change the world by the time I was 30. I could not help but be a little disappointed that time was running out.

Then at 6AM, there was another knock on my door. This time I was asked to come downstairs. I threw on my shirt and made my way down to the garden of the Asha Deep Foundation orphanage. And there they were- all 100 of my orphan siblings waiting for me in a large circle. I felt myself choke up as they sang the Indian version of “Happy Birthday” and young Reshma stepped out to pray for me. Then I was bombarded with the most creative, hand made birthday cards, flowers, leaves, and weeds that the children had plucked to make into bouquets. I just stood there speechless with my arms fool of cards and plants.

“Now it is time for birthday bumping”, one of the boys called out.

“A what?” I replied a little worried. Little Akbar came up and grabbed all the cards from my arms. “Oh my God! What is a birthday bumping?” I cried.

There was no verbal explanation. Instead the older boys hoisted me on their shoulders laid flat. Then they proceeded to toss me in the air 29 times! I felt my pants slipping down. There was nothing to do except surrender to the “bumping”. By this point I was fully woken up!

I spent the rest of the day with my beloved siblings as they treated me like a prince. They offered me their hearts and that was priceless. That night as I stood with my team on the rooftop taking in the full moon and the sounds of the slums, I thought once more of my list. I didn’t think I had come close to accomplishing those big dreams or changing the world, but at that moment, I felt richer that a king. When I look at my life as a 29 year old, I define it by the hearts and songs of a hundred orphan siblings in the slums of India.


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