A message in a bottle

Such the days have passed. Thanksgiving upon us already and here we are in India. Do we need another festival? Since we have come, we have had Ganesha Puja, Navratri, Diwali, Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Lakshmi Puja and Eid- twice. Nothing Christian has come to my notice. That is strange. We have lit candles, bought statues in golds and reds, we have drowned some of them in waters, some sit still on a shelf adorned with flowers I forget to change, we have burst firecrackers, we have eaten sweets devoted particularly to each deity and festival. The Goddesses have come fierce and bold and beautiful. We have danced in circles like pagans around a fire, like swirling dervishes, like flocks of birds skimming the water.

I wear dark glasses like a film star in disguise and sit working in coffee shops. I have been accepted into NYU. The realization of a dream more terrifying than the dreaming of it and my fingers are often frozen on the keyboard. Next week, families and friends across America will come together to give thanks. A custom now completely disassociated from its humble beginnings, as is perhaps all customs in the world. Indians and actually all non assimilated, non believing Americans or immigrants will travel during these holidays or stay home and meet over buffets of their own food- curries and baklavas and shawarmas and other such. Inculcated now in an American family, we do turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy. Never a turkey eater, I have taken my share of what seemed like thin pink overcooked or undercooked slice hoping no one noticed that I did not know how to eat it. Now, sitting here in Pune in my dark glasses, my head bowed over this keyboard, I wonder idly whether I should try and replicate a thanksgiving meal for our children; trying to keep America alive in India, the way we did with India in America. I imagine myself scouring the few Western groceries for turkey and I wince at the thought and wonder if chicken would do instead.

Soon Christmas will follow. ” Does Santa come to India?” the girls have asked. “Yes indeed,” we have assured them. “But there are no chimneys,” asks our oldest, ever the stickler for details. We splutter through our explanations. “Is she on it finally?” I wonder. I hope so, she is soon going to be ten. And so it is like magical bottles on swirling green seas, we, this family of five foreign and yet not so foreign on foreign and yet on not so foreign lands float, twist, turn and bounce. We have messages we carry. We just don’t know what they are- yet.

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