The end of the year started like it had begun, in a whirlwind of activity, and I wasn't ready for it. Most of my work was in order - I'd completed what I'd set out to do - but there was certainly more that could have been accomplished. Furthermore, there were missed and cancelled trips (like my trip with Kraemer to the Himachal Pradesh/Himalayas and my solo trip to Thailand), and an early departure meant rushed, and sometimes missed, goodbyes.
But no one let me stay in a funk for very long (I told you my friends and coworkers rocked!)
The DFP Cohort II organized an afternoon "party" for me, where one of them dedicated the ceremony with a song, another emceed and a number of others volunteered to come on stage one by one to tell everyone why they appreciated me or would miss me. In typical Indian fashion, I was required to sit directly in front of or next to the podium throughout the talks. They ended with a slideshow put to music (such talent! go DFP!), delicious Indian snacks and juices and, of course, countless pictures.
Not to be outdone, those who remained in town from DFP I pooled their resources to feed me even more Indian snacks and treats (including barfi, which I'd been wanting to try for ages - you wouldn't believe how good something with a name that bad tastes). They presented me with a giant doll, since the girls in the office call Barbie and the DFP II fellows were convinced I looked just like the "Southern Belle" (that I'm from Ohio was irrelevant). They still email me now, several months later, to see whether I've found the doll a partner (and we still talk shop, too).
The Deshpande Foundation staff took me out to lunch at Hotel Swathi, an office fave, where Vidya ordered all the dishes for herself (just kidding, V!) and the group presented me with beautiful gold hoop earrings.
Kraemer and I also went out to dinner with Naveen at Hotel Naveen, the site for several of my events throughout the year, so we also got to visit with one of our sweetest, favorite waiters, Samson. Then we also headed out for one last evening with Shai and Kumar, probably laughing nearly as hard as we did last time and reminiscing about our motorcycle race home after the last dinner out.
Our apartment (Lesley, Arati and I) hosted a dinner for Durghamba's family (our housekeeper) with Kraemer and Pio. We so badly wanted to share with them a taste of America, but we learned that besides roomali roti fajitas (which is, er, Mexican, I guess), not much comes close sans an oven and cheese. Nevertheless, we sautéed up some spinach and garlic and served pasta with fresh tomato sauce … and ordered some pizza from the only pizza joint within a couple hundred miles. So it was an attempt at Italian - but they didn't even like that. Only Durghamba cleared her plate, probably because she's just so polite.
Sweet Durghamba also tried to make breakfast for me on my last morning in town, but we had already left for the airport when she arrived (and apparently Naveen, too).
Vidya wouldn't let me leave without visiting her home, either, so her mother, sister and Vidya spent the day in the kitchen creating her specialty, bisebele bath, and other deliciousness, including homemade gulab jamun. We were impressed with their cute, well-kept home and their ingenious space-saving ways (check out the floating baby crib!)
After my last day in the office, Shai whisked me away to his home where his new wife, mother, sister, neice and other family members and DF staff were waiting to serve up a delicious lunch of all my favorites - baingan (eggplant), lemon rice (MMM), chipathi and a tangy mango dessert. They presented me with a beautiful sari and blouse piece that I can't wait to get a chance to wear in the US.
Of course, in true SBF form, we had yet another early going away party for yet another two prematurely departing fellows, this time at the fantastic Sagar Palace. The ladies + Anoop ordered K and I a going-away cake and smashed some cake into K's face just for good measure.
And on my last night there, my apartment hosted one last shindig, complete with as American snacks as we could concoct, including any goodies sent from the US throughout the year that might have gone uneaten. We drank our favorite mixed drink - Blue Riband orange gin - with soda water, chatted about the year and generally avoided talking about when we'd all see each other again. But with this group, I'm sure there'll be - and I'm looking forward to - a happy reunion.