Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Here in America

Today is Deepavali (or Diwali to most). And if this was Malaysia, there would be a frenzy of preparations. We  would clean our home and make a gazillion varieties of cookies, snacks, and dishes made from memory, not recipes, that we serve our guests during the open house, where friends of all races and family gather to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Lights. Except this isn’t Malaysia.

Here in America, we don’t see any signs of the celebration unless we travel into the heart of Little India, on the little strip of Devon Avenue in Chicago. Granted, it’s only a ten-minute drive from our place but we’re still out of its festive range. My girls will be oblivious to the event while my family half a world away feasts on dishes I’ve not had in years. It will be a raucous affair. And we will miss all of it. 

Instead, here in America, we will choose to perhaps make a small meal after work or just go to one of the restaurants on Devon Avenue and eat together as a family of five, not – jeez, I lost count - twenty? Thirty? Forty?! My mom will quietly have her modest feast with us as she usually does, although I know where her thoughts will travel because mine will be there too.

Here in America, it will be Halloween soon, and we’re surrounded by its reminders as we spot synthetic cobwebs and plastic gravesites on neighborhood yards. Headless bodies hang garishly from porches and obscene amounts of candy flood the aisles in grocery stores – all PSA on childhood obesity in moratorium. There’s money to be made!

Here in America, our older daughter learned to carve a pumpkin; her first Jack O’Lantern. And she is eager to parade around in her Halloween costume. One that matches her baby sister’s. (I couldn’t help it. I just had to before they can make their own decisions and defy mine.) She will go trick-or-treating, and she will boast about her massive candy haul. She will then give me a million reasons why she should finish her candy in one sitting. And I will come back with a million and one as to why she shouldn’t. There will be a hyper kid on a sugar rush, but eventually, she will succumb to the crash.

Here in America, I’ve not experienced any of this myself, but I imagine that’s what it will be. American TV has taught me that much. My daughters will not know the Deepavali celebrations I grew up with but they will have their own traditions, however alien they are to me.

Here in America, “Happy Diwali” is uttered in tiny little pockets throughout the country and “Happy Halloween” will resonate in almost every household. I chose to plant my roots and raise a family here, and so Halloween will now be part of our annual celebration. I will learn the tricks, and I will find the treats, if it means giving my girls the sense of belonging that I felt when I was growing up. Even if it’s not familiar to me. Even if it means leaving behind the celebration of my childhood. Assimilation has its price. But you know what they say, “when in Rome…”

Except we’re here, in America.



Have a safe and wonderful weekend, tricking or treating.

And for what it’s worth, Happy Deepavali to those of you who celebrate.