Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 57: Thanksgiving as a Pakistani-American

***We have so much to be thankful for today! Take a moment to help out those who really need it after Pakistan's devastating flood - $25 feeds a family for a whole week! I donated here, and so can you!!! ***

It's days like these one really feels that aching for family. The move from Pakistan to America was long, long ago for my parents, and while they've both lived here longer than they have there, something holds us all from letting go of Pakistan as "home." Maybe it's harder to let that homeland go when you don't get to grow up with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and all those other extra relatives, all of whom live in Pakistan or are sparsely spread out in other countries. For small families like ours, friends become the closest thing you have to that other "extended family" entity. You end up growing up in America with your friends' mothers as the "aunties" you see once in a while, their parents the ones you respect as you would your own grandparents, their children your "cousins."

Naturally, when birthdays and holidays like Thanksgiving role around, who is here but your pseudo-extended family to celebrate with you, light the candles of your cake for you and gather your friends to sing "happy birthday" for you? These people are the ones you grow up with as you spend each day in a city that, for some odd reason, never seems like your own, even though you are born and raised in it and know its every street.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that, for many Pakistani-Americans, is a symbol of the ways in which my parents' generation, my own, and now even the one after mine, continue to try to balance two cultures, two experiences, two modes of being, two sets of knowledge; so we carve a halal turkey and drink non-alcoholic apple cider, and we wear shalwar kameez while mocking heavy desi accents. We meet together on a day called "Thanksgiving," not even thinking about why we celebrate it or the parallels between its origins and ourselves as the new-age "pilgrims," trying to etch out a new existence in a land not yet "native" to us.

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