Saturday, December 04, 2004

On Thanksgiving

I am skeptical about Thanksgiving. Children are taught that the Pilgrims and the Indians happily feasted together at Plymouth and that was the first Thanksgiving dinner. No one mentions the genocide of Native Americans that followed it. In fact, I've read that after every raid of a village, the Pilgrims celebrated with a Thanksgiving feast. Eventually, one day was decided and recognized as a National Holiday.

It is hard for me to separate Thanksgiving from the extermination of Native Americans so I did not participate in the celebration. I guess Americans who have been celebrating this holiday since they were kids feel differently -- it's more about turkey, family, and football. But even my Indian friends did not share my point of view. Some argued that though the genocide followed it, Thanksgiving is still a victory of the Pilgrims against the harsh conditions they met when they first came here. Others just listened to me, smiled, neither agreeing nor diagreeing and went on to their feasts of stuffed turkeys.

Thanksgiving is one day when I do feel like an alien in this country. My siblings were visiting me for the long weekend since I am their only family here. When we went out for lunch all restaurants were closed and the streets were deserted. We ended up at an Indian restaurant that was open. The restaurant was packed with fellow desis. We didn't feel so lonely after all.

Despite all my objections to this holiday, it was nice to see all the families in San Francisco. On my way to work the day after Thanksgiving the bus was full of families, not the usual single crowd. I had to force myself to read my book and not stare. The interesting part was the role reversal. City people on the bus were taking care their visiting parents, guiding and teaching them about city life. I had never seen Union Square so crowded, there was hardly any room to walk on the pavements and people were spilling on to the roads.

Seeing all the families together made me miss my own and I was glad my siblings were visiting. My only consolation was that I will be with my family for Christmas. We had our own fun, we got high (not very elder-sisterly) and cracked up watching dumb videos. I didn't cook Turkey but when my brother complained about me feeding them frozen food all weekend, I made rajma. The only "thanks" I got was "it doesn't taste like mom's rajma."

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