The best part of being Desi in America is we get to celebrate both Indian and American festivals.
In the month of October when everyone is working really hard so they can take off for Thanksgiving, we are celebrating Navaratri. South Indians celebrate with “kolu” and invite folks over to their houses to view the kolu for 5 minutes and then eat for a few hours. This is a great time to bring out those music books, sit down in front of the dolls and sing loudly to them. What better audience than the kolu dolls who can neither hear nor speak!
When Navaratri ends there is no reason to feel that the festival season has passed. Diwali is right around the corner and everyone is throwing Diwali parties where, yes, you guessed it, the main focus is on eating a good meal. While people in India celebrate Diwali just on one day of the year, here in the US we celebrate from October all the way to December. There are family Diwali parties, there are friends’ Diwali parties, there are town Diwali parties• and now even the state is celebrating Diwali! Our festivals infuse much needed $s into the economy. We go to Diwali melas and buy lovely, exotic Indian wear for ourselves and for our kids (who hate them and don’t want to be seen in them). Then we gently and not-so-gently force them to wear these Bollywood style clothes to the various Diwali parties where they sit in a corner reading books or texting their friends.
When Diwali is done, despair not, because we are immigrants who embrace local customs and assimilate into the culture easily. So Thanksgiving is as important as Diwali. Families and friends get together over the Thanksgiving break to enjoy turkey tikka masla. We embrace the turkey but we add our own “masala” to it! And while others eat mashed potatoes, we give our thanks with more exciting dishes like Jeera Aloo! Cranberry sauce is great and all but can’t beat our hot and spicy mint and coriander chutneys. In our house, thanksgiving is about getting those idlies really soft so that all our guests can enjoy hot authentic idlies and sambar. So while my neighbor is warming her oven to get the stuffed turkey in, I am warming my oven to get the idly batter to ferment well in this cold weather!
Of course the highlight of Thanksgiving is Black Friday. Some of us wait all year to buy fancy electronic gadgets. Plus, the fantastic deals in the various stores challenge us to come up with a solution to a complex math problem. How can you grab that large screen TV in Best Buy when the store opens at 1am, and still make it to Staples to be one of the lucky 5 to get an iPad for $50! And on the way, can you squeeze in a quick stop at Target and grab that $5 watch for a long lost relative who we will see next summer? And who knows, if you are efficient and don’t get distracted by the tempting products placed just to delay everyone, you may even be one of the first 10 to grab the door buster vacuum cleaner for $1. But to do all this you need to have a big brain — luckily that is not a problem for us. Not only do we have the brain power but we are eager to use it to solve this non-trivial problem that presents itself only once a year on Black Friday!
After a fulfilling Thanksgiving it is time to get that big, tall Christmas tree into the house. The decorations come out and the house is once again festive (really there was probably just one week there where we were not in party mode) and we are ready for the Christmas and New Year parties. In true desi style our New Year parties are another reason to bring out the Bollywood clothing and dancing and finish up the year with some dal makhni, butter panneer masala and delightful gulab jamuns. After all •Tis the Season! And luckily for us •Tis always the Season!!