I was privileged to be invited to a Pakistani birthday party. One of my co workers invited me to her son's 16th birthday party. In many other cultures birthdays are family affairs. It is not a strange thing to invite an adult to a kid's party. My friend invited me to come early and hang out for a while before the other guests arrived. I was treated to a snack of ground nuts with sugar and tea. We watched Indian TV. The entertainment for the evening began with an American Idol type show. This one featured kids under the age 18 singing in the competition. It was explained to me that in India if a school aged child showed talent in singing or dancing they were educated fairly strongly in these arts. I didn't understand a word of what was going on, but it was interesting to watch. The judges seemed to approve of just about all the contestants. They were always nodding and looked on approvingly. My friend and her husband told me about the judges, some were singers and others actors. They pointed out the more difficult songs and the different types. I have difficulty telling the difference between good and great singing in English, I had no idea the quality of singing I was hearing. My friend kept telling me that they were all very good.
Just before 8 the other guests began to arrive. The birthday boy greeted the guests shaking the men's hands and ducking his head so the women could touch his head. I'm not sure how exactly everyone was related to the birthday boy, but I think most of them were family. Suddenly I was immersed in conversations that I couldn't understand at all. Occasionally, someone would turn to me and offer an explanation or ask a question, but otherwise I was presumed to know what was going on. Soon dinner was ready. We all gathered around to fill our plates. There were beans, goat curry, chicken curry, vegetable dish, rice, and a cucumber tomato salad. There was a basket full of naan. We gathered in the living room around tables to eat. The food was nicely spicy and delicious. I was grateful for the naan and rice that helped absorb the spiciness. After dinner the kids went upstairs to play and we watched music videos of Indian songs and Indian x-factor.
The birthday cake was brought out with lit candles. Lots of pictures were taken and the candles blown out. Then my friend was called from the kitchen. Her son cut the cake and handed her a small piece. She fed him the first bite. The cake was taken back into the kitchen and served up along with tea.
At this point I was quite tired and trying to figure out when it would be polite to leave. It is exhausting being surrounded by people speaking in a language that you don't understand. Around 9:30 the party began to break up and I took the opportunity to get ready to go. My friend gave me some rice and chicken curry to take home for my lunch the following day. I really enjoyed my cultural experience. I think I've been adopted into my friend's family and look forward to more Indian singing shows and Pakistani food. Maybe I will even learn some Hindi and Urdu so I can understand what is going on.