It's only when you begin to give thanks do you realise how much you have to be thankful for
I have always been slightly leery of our Indian tendency to adopt every festival from around the world and make it our own. Growing up, I wasn't even aware of something called Valentine's Day. But by the time I had attained adulthood, 14 February was a full-blown festival of love, complete with red roses, strawberries, pink champagne, guff-filled greeting cards and the obligatory, over-priced, romantic dinner for two.
More recently, I have been appalled to see that Halloween has become A Big Thing in India. Kids of a certain socio-economic class across the country have taken to dressing like witches, clowns, superheroes and what-have-you and trawling their up-market neighbourhoods pan-handling for sweets. Quite frankly, I find the whole thing preposterous in the extreme. But, as they don't say, to each their own version of cultural appropriation.
But last week, while travelling on the West Coast, I finally found an American festival I could get on board with: Thanksgiving. We spent it at the home of a friend, the most generous of hosts (here's looking at you, Ash!) and spent a total of three hours at a table groaning with food and drink of every description. The adults sat and ate while the kids ran around, being periodically chased down to be force-fed a morsel or two. And then we ended by sharing with one another what each of us had to be thankful for.
That's what got me thinking: why is it that we so rarely stop to count our blessings? Instead we seem to spend all our time complaining: about the government, the state of the economy, demonetisation, our children's bad grades, bad bosses, and mothers-in-law from hell.
We are constantly bemoaning all that is hateful about our lives and the world in which we live them. So, it seems like a brilliant idea to set one day aside on which we stop and think about what we are thankful for -- and give thanks for it.
So, it is in that spirit that I am making a short list of all the things that I am thankful for:
* My last-minute decision, made decades ago in the teeth of opposition from my parents, to turn down a job in the civil services (after clearing all the exams and the interviews; and the medical test) to stay on in the magazine job I had taken on as a stop-gap. It was a leap of faith but one that has served me well. Instead of a desk-bound life devoted to paper-pushing as a bureaucrat, I have had some of the most amazing experiences as a journalist. Over the years, I have interviewed Prime Ministers, travelled with Presidents, profiled film and sports stars, covered General Elections, and visited places that I hadn't even heard of growing up. And I have journalism to thank for all of it.
* I am thankful for the loyalty of friends. I haven't made too many, and sadly I have lost touch with a few with the passage of years. But while I have lost out in quantity, I have more than made up in quality. These women (and yes, they are mostly women) whom I am proud to call friends, are always there for me, listening to me vent, having my back when I need them, chivvying me up when I am low, and cheering me on in all circumstances. I really don't know where I would be without them.
* I am grateful for the fact that my extended family keeps extending in ever-increasing circles as I grow older. There are the cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles that I have accumulated through marriage, who have welcomed me into their lives. And then, there is my own blood family that is always expanding with the inclusion of new members, with weddings and births breathing in new life and love into our tight circle.
* I give thanks every day for the fact that both my parents passed without suffering. They died 26 years apart but in eerily identical ways. They got up one morning, had their baths, did their Puja, then went and lay down in bed -- and never woke up. Both times, the news came as a huge shock. And it took me time to come to terms with the loss. But now, overlaid with my sorrow is the hope that when my time comes, I would be just as fortunate. Now, that would be truly something to be grateful for.
* But more than anything, I am thankful for the opportunity I have had, for so many years, to speak to all of you, week after week, baring my inner-most thoughts and feelings. It feels good to share, and it feels even better when I hear back from you, sparking off some of the best conversations of my life. It is rare privilege to be able to do so, and I am grateful for it every day.
So now, even if you didn't celebrate it, I am thankful for the chance to wish all of you a happy, albeit belated, Thanksgiving. Stay blessed -- and remember to take the time to count your blessings.