Having only been in-country for three months I didn’t want to tell anyone that my birthday was looming as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on the actual day itself, perhaps more emotional than usual. It all seemed to be working wonderfully well too, until late in the afternoon I received an email from my colleague Bishwajit saying he knew I had a secret AND he know what it was. But he’s discrete, so I had no worries that the rest of the office would find out. Then Ely, one of my flat mates sent me a text message. ‘Happy Birthday! I’ll bake you a cake’!
Now Ely has a ledgendary reputation for baking amungst the VSO community, so this was very welcome news. Bishwajit and I work in the same building, our NGO’s Head Office on Aurangajeb Road, so I invited him back to the flat after work to share some birthday cake. Babo, my other flat mate greeted us when we arrived. He also knew it was my birthday and had bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, with dusky red roses and orange gerbra. The scent was heavenly. It was so nice to receive such a fabulous gift. Bishwajit then produced cake candles, a large tub of chocolate ice-cream and a wicker bowl of absolutely gorgeous flowers, a stunning assortment and wonderful arrangement.
Bishwajit carefully arranged the candles on the cake, turning off the ceiling fan before slowly lighting them one at a time. For once the power remained on, so the light was switched off, and, in the dark, they sung ‘ Happy Birthday’ while I attempted to blow all the candles out with one breath. I must have been about seven years old the last time I did this…and it felt wonderful! Everything was so unexpected and it really made me appreciate that even in such a short space of time these people around me, out here in Dhaka city, wern’t only colleagues, but my friends, and very dear ones too.