What’s Up With Indians Celebrating Thanksgiving?


What’s Up With Indians Celebrating Thanksgiving?

Illustration: Akshita Monga


here exists an array of places in the city that are temples to the Gods of gastronomy, but where only the rich and the well-heeled can worship. A middle-class schmuck might sneak in now and then, only to be left aghast by the vivid colours and overall bourgeoisie show of culinary prowess and stumble out in a daze of disbelief. The only way people like me can frequent such an establishment is if we are employed there, to serve the aforementioned rich and well-heeled.

Let’s call it Nature’s Casket.

I stood in its hallowed aisle one afternoon with the air conditioning breathing its merciful breath down my back, giving me unspeakable relief in my synthetic white uniform, when she sauntered in. My sales bell went off – as did my MILF bell.

“Do you have any turkey,” she asked. I dutifully guided her over to where the turkey sausage, turkey ham, and other mystery riff-raff were dumped, and tried my best to pile on the overpriced, additive-laced shit that passes for charcuterie in this country.

“No I mean a whole turkey,” she said in that deep voice and faux firangi accent, gesticulating as if I were deaf.

“We sure do,” I shot back, and took her to where the monstrosity lay, entombed in its icy sarcophagus. I dreaded pulling it out, simply because of the sheer volume of things blocking its way. But I made the effort and moved a bunch of stuff around, and out it came, wrapped tight in its bright yellow packaging, bearing an alien script from the Middle East.

She inspected it for weight, cradling it in her arms as if it were a baby. A six-kilo baby, swaddled in plastic and frozen for the past seven months. It was 2,000 bucks a kilo, which worked out to a cool 12K. But for her – and the fact that I had to move this inventory – I let her take it off my hands for a 25 per cent discount. Her eyes lit up, she flashed me a smile, and rode off into the sunshine taking with her my turkey and any hopes of a solid May-December romance.

As I looked at her leaving, I wondered why this attractive middle-aged Indian woman wants to celebrate a cultural signpost that belongs exclusively to the land of the free and home of the homicidal. It is a testament to her hotness that I allowed her the leeway of perhaps being from a family that was personally involved in massacring the last of the American Indians. It is also a testament to her blonde highlights and fake accent that I realised that she perhaps thought of Indians in terms of her bua in Brooklyn – and not the peace-pipe-smoking, scalp-taking native people with Pocahontas pinups in their teepees.

Somewhere along the way, we Indians, perking up at the sound of our nationality, picked up on this sham.

The tradition of Thanksgiving harkens back to the time when the first Europeans colonised North America and learnt to sow crops from the friendly natives. They celebrated the first harvest with a grand celebration we know as Thanksgiving today. This was right before they channelled their inner Trump and decided to do away with the non-white natives who were deemed savage.

This genocidal chapter in history has now been translated into an excuse to meet up with friends and family, thank Mother Nature for her abundant bounty, and roast up a whole turkey. As time passed, the genocide was covered up by blatant displays of consumerism with the lowly turkey as it’s mascot. Somewhere along the way, we Indians, perking up at the sound of our nationality, picked up on this sham. We began either going to Indigo for a Thanksgiving lunch or throwing dinners of our own with these bland super-sized chickens with some overly herbaceous, stodgy stuffing that tastes like shit. But hey, the dish looks great on Instagram after it’s been put through the Hefe filter.

Somehow, in spite of the fact that we live in a land where we celebrate numerous iterations of different harvest festivals, religious festivals, new year festivals, full- and half-moon festivals, we still feel the need to appropriate another tradition that only has the word Indian in common with our lives.

And it’s not just Thanksgiving. Every St Patrick’s Day, almost everyone’s social media feed is choc-a-block with invites and check-ins to various shebangs. These allow us to celebrate a festival dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint, who America made famous, all while wearing green and trying to channel your inner Irish alcohol tolerance. On Halloween, Indian people everywhere dress up as their favourite fictional characters just because they saw the Halloween episode of their favourite American sitcom and went, “Man, we have to try this out. They’re having so much fun.” Out come the Wonder Woman or Joker costumes adapted to Indian sensibilities, just because Shaktimaan, Vikram-Betaal, and the entire cast of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana weren’t cool enough costume ideas.

Since we’ve adopted these American or European festivals with the same enthusiasm that Brangelina (R.I.P.) adopted Third-World orphans, why not look to other lands? I hear England has a cheese-rolling festival where competitors chase wheels of cheese down a hill. Imagine this happening on Pali Hill or Malabar Hill; good fun this. Our poverty-porn-peddling compatriots might also have a field day dissing this vulgar display of dairy-fuelled excess, while the rest of us aam aadmis eat Amul by the slice.

Then there’s that crimson-tinged toss-up from Spain, La Tomatina, where we can hold up traffic on yet another day of the year just so we can get drunk and hurl tomatoes at one another. And heaven help us if this festival intersects with another. Wouldn’t it be just riveting to watch a mingling of La Tomatina and Ganpati, people dancing to Bollywood music and hurling pulpy fruit at one another as they make their way to the sea?

The next time you see a picture of a nice fat roasted turkey with bronzed skin oozing its juices in a borderline sexual manner, or one of those BuzzFeed food videos that show you how to properly prepare some exotic festive food, remember this: We’re the country that discovered the concept of zero. We pioneered flying objects and plastic surgery. We owe it to ourselves to at least come up with a decent original festival that is yet another excuse for us to drink ourselves silly or kick back with family and friends. Not appropriate a tradition we know nothing about and whose dire history the origin country has conveniently elided. Please. For the love of all that’s Holi, don’t even think about touching that seven-month-old frozen turkey.