“You’re only as old as you feel.”
Well, to be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty stinkin’ old lately. Consumed by work, I feel too tired to kick back and have some fun. You know what they say about all work and no play. It makes Sharon feel like an old lady.
When my friend Mary Catherine suggested taking our book club out to a restaurant to celebrate my birthday, I retorted that it would have to be close to my house. However, she already had a place in mind. She knew a chef with a pasta restaurant in Gurgaon. If you don’t live in Delhi, then you won’t appreciate the impact of hearing that you have to leave work on a Friday afternoon and drive to Gurgaon, technically a Delhi suburb but far enough out that it considers itself a separate city. I had only been there once before and my strongest memory was of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours. I swore I would never again go to Gurgaon. And yet, that’s where I found myself on my birthday eve.
Mary Catherine had booked a van for most of the group, but some of them were delayed at school by parent-teacher conferences, so my friend Nancy and I headed out a bit early in my car. Despite the gloomy prognostications, my driver Gilbert found the restaurant in about 45 minutes. It was a BYOB joint, so Nancy and I popped across the street to the pompously named Galleria outdoor market to buy some wine. We asked the shopkeeper to chill a few bottles while we killed time poking around the shops.
When we spotted the Disney princess party hats, we knew we had stumbled upon Birthday Mecca. Inside, we found everything a birthday girl could ever want: tiaras, boas, sashes, chunky plastic jewelry, you name it. We settled on sparkly hats with marabou feathers. Mine featured a big taffeta rose and a ruffled button proclaiming “Birthday Girl.” The man, who was much too serious to work in this kind of store, pulled out a selection of white, pale pink and magenta hats, telling us, “Also have red for boys,” which made Nancy and me collapse in giggles because what boy wouldn’t feel much more masculine if his bedazzled party hat were RED instead of PINK? After buying hats for all the book club ladies, we were about to leave when Nancy spotted a fart machine. “Batteries not included,” said the deadpan shopkeeper, inducing another round of hysterics.
Strolling through the Galleria, we decided to spread some birthday joy.
First, we convinced the momowallahs to don party hats for a photo.
Then I wedged in between these two guys for another shot.
We picked up our chilled wine (and posed for a few more photos), and then walked back to the Pasta Bowl Company to meet up with the rest of our gang.
The Birthday Book Club
Mary Catherine with Chef Om and his lovely wife, Aditiy.
Chef Om and Aditiy treated us like royalty, even though we were quite loud and silly. From the various bruschetta appetizers to the perfectly tossed salads to the beautiful main courses, everything was deliciously fresh. While many Italian restaurants feature the same boring fare with the same gluey sauces, Chef Om’s creations clearly reflected his creativity and commitment to quality. Mary Catherine had ordered a chocolate cake with the inscription, “Happy birthday to our beautiful Sharon!” (awwwwww…), which we followed with mouth-watering tiramisu and a little banafee pie.
The evening was filled with so much laughter. We talked about our book for about five minutes (The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner … snore) and then moved on to more interesting topics.
Mary Catherine brought wine and paper cups from school in case the restaurant didn’t have wine glasses (which they did).
Chef Om mixed up some scrumptious salads.
Of course I had to help … and ended up spilling olive oil all over the place.
Cheese and wine – my two favorite food groups.
This was my dinner. A pumpkin-y ravioli with chorizo on top. I nearly licked my plate.
I blew out the candles AND blew cocoa powder all over myself and the surrounding area.
Swag! (Olive oil and a bag of pasta – so nice!)
One of the bench dwellers from our earlier market photo shoot had said good-bye with that classic line: “You’re only as old as you feel!” and his words stuck with me all night. It’s such a cliché and yet so true! A few hours of hilarity snapped me out of my funk and made me feel years younger than this newly acquired and meaningless 47. Happy birthday to me!
Postscript: Guess who loved my party hat even more than I did?