I celebrated my 37th Solar Return two weeks ago by taking the day off work. For around a month, I had been carrying out a private little project I call Project 370, to give away RM370 in cash to various beneficiaries (which does not include my usual causes and projects). Among those I gave to were two animal rescuers, a single mother who sells tapioca and plantain chips outside the neighbourhood Maybank, the elderly differently-abled man who sells vadai and idiyappam outside the SPCA gates and to the workmen repairing the rubbish disposal area at my apartment. RM370 is not much, but then again, I am no Zuckerberg. I have parents to support, bills to pay and vet fees to settle. I will continue to give as often as I can, to as many beneficiaries as I can, but for now, I can mostly afford to only volunteer my time and energy.
My friends from the Yellow House KL Volunteer Hostel joined me in Ikea for a game of hide-and-seek that I had been planning for weeks. The rules are that participants are not allowed to hide inside furniture, damage or deface any property, scare other customers or do anything to alert non-participants to the fact that there is a hide-and-seek game going on. It turned out fantastic. I elected myself Seeker and went in search of the 5 Hiders. Babaq and Gibran were the first to be found, but Gibran ran away and continued to hide. Babaq assisted me in seeking the others out. We found Shyam and Gibran next, hidden behind a barricade of sofa cushions. Migle was found behind a curtain in a bedroom. Suntheran was the last to be found, since he shifted positions each time I passed by an area. It was a great game. I had circled Ikea at least 4 times by then and knew practically all the names, prices and specifications of everything by the end of 2 hours.
We had a late tea at the Ikea Cafe. It was raining heavily outside by then and we warmed ourselves out with vegan 'meatballs', cake and coffee. I thanked my friends for being such good sports and making my day for coming out to play with me.
It was soon evening. I picked up several cartons of juice and 24 doughnuts and headed over to the sports centre in University Malaya where I volunteer every Wednesday night with Care2Mentor. It didn't seem like anybody knew it was my birthday, and that was just fine with me. I didn't explain what occasion the doughnuts and juice was for.
We ran relay races around the track and I am glad I have not lost my ability to sprint 400 metres. Our games master Rudhra, an exceptional volunteer, came up with challenges in which our mentees had to relay tongue-twisters to the subsequent runners and the last runner has to deliver the message to the group, as in a game of Chinese Whispers / Broken Telephone.
After the final lap, all of us mentors and mentees formed a circle for the final message. I was the last in the circle, and imagine my surprise when the message turned out to be "It is Ee Lynn's birthday today. Sing her the birthday song." They did, and our group leader / founder Prem Kumar ran up to the middle of the circle with a homemade birthday cake for me. This means a lot to me as I think the world of this group of mentors. It felt really wonderful. We ended the session with a supper of cake, doughnuts, juice and bananas and I drove my teenage charges home.
I had another little celebration with my family on the weekend, and my team at work bought me a cake as well, so it has been quite a special week.
Come to think of it, every week is special, with its own projects and causes and special things to look forward to. Life is good. It really is.