February 27th is Helen’s birthday.
Although not an alum, Helen – like so many of our alumni’s spouses – has become a permanent part of the alumni family. While some of us have gotten to know Helen only in the past year or so, those of us in Delhi are quite familiar. Josh and Helen have hosted several alumni gatherings, including one Christmas Carol singing event at their home in Gurgaon. During these events, Helen would cook for the entire crowd – up to 15 or more guests (still bearing remnants of their unquenchable boarding school appetite), often without ordering a single item from restaurants. How the two of them remained energetic and cheerful after all that cooking is just one of the traits that made them wonderful hosts. Everybody loved visiting them.
As much as Josh loved celebrations and gatherings of every sort, he had one specific mental handicap – he had a knack for forgetting people’s birthdays. In fact, while most of the world upon being told a new acquaintance’s birth date starts computing star signs and predicting character traits (“Oh you are a Leo, you must be….”), Josh’s blunt response was “I can never remember birth days”, followed by something about male brains and memory. The month of February with its unorthodox numbering of days plays particularly puzzling tricks on those with vulnerable memories. How Josh unfailingly remembered Helen’s birth day every year, in spite of these, is a matter of speculation. But, in a manner that is natural to most people with birthdate amnesia, he assumed others needed reminding too. And so, every year on Helen’s birthday Josh’s friends got a reminder message. We usually called and wished Helen over WhatsApp video – audio calls were never enough for Josh, he preferred video calls even before it became the norm.
Needless to say, this birthday is going to be the hardest one for Helen to celebrate. The one where her recollections from past birthdays will be the strongest. Through the events of last year, the one thing that stood out over all of the confusion, chaos and terrible news is the immense courage of Helen. Most of us will go through our entire lives without experiencing anything close to what happened last year. If at any point in our lives, we do face uncertainties so closely strung together one after another, we can draw inspiration from the infinite courage of our dear friend Helen, who is today celebrating yet another revolution around our star – the sun.
Happy birthday Helen.