After breakfast we headed over to the children's home to watch them all excitedly receive their presents of colourful new clothes which they eagerly changed into, though many had to change back into their costumes for the Christmas performance. Before lunch we all gathered in the circle to share the Christmas spirit with music and the Christmas story and what it means to us. The children were wonderful and so enthusiastic with their performances and when they followed along in prayer their voices were so loud and strong. I will attach many photos when we get back to Delhi but they will not capture the true feeling of the moments; I wish a photo could also capture sound and spirit of the moment it portrays.
For lunch the volunteers chose to serve the staff and patients. The badminton court was lined with mats and the food was served onto disposable plates formed from leaves. The volunteers made their way through the rows serving the food from enormous buckets that were regularly refilled from even more enormous saucepans. The food was not the normal ashram food but rather was brought and cooked by caterers. There was a paneer and vegetable curry as well as a chicken curry and just for Christmas sweets of gulub juman and these amazing balls of a kind of a sweet curdled milk (I must find out the name). The dishes where so spicy and it was great to see Hunter having a go and eating the chicken and paneer.
The afternoon was a time for everyone to relax after such a nice meal. Sam and Hunter played badminton most of the afternoon while Ray and I spent time with some of the volunteers and patients. Just before afternoon tea we headed to the kitchen to see how chai is made for a hundred people. The recipe is as follows-
Place 4-5 buckets of water in a massive pot and heat over a flame. Before it comes to the boil add a couple of handfuls of tea mix. Bring to the boil and let boil for a few minutes. Get a large chunk of ginger and pound it to smithereens with a rock. Then add a bucket of milk; boil for a bit longer before adding about a kilo of sugar and the ginger. As it boils aerate it by scooping up saucepanfuls of the chai and pouring it back into the pot from a great height. Then strain into several kettles and serve!
Although I occasionally drink chai at home its not as nice as the one served at the ashram... I think its because things always taste better when someone makes it for you.
I have to commend Sam and Hunter on their attitude this Christmas. As a child Christmas is one of the most anticipated days of the year as you wonder what surprises lie under the tree. This year Sam and Hunter where happy to forgo their presents for the experience of being here in India. In fact they even gave an impromptu gift to the men in the ashram; when the old worn out ludo game finally packed it in they happily gave the men in the TB ward their fancy set we brought with us from Australia. They did this on their own accord.
We all missed spending Christmas this year with family at home - which we really love doing - but the experience and spirit here at the ashram is something that we will never forget.