Friday, February 16, 2018

New Year Friday

Over the years, a number of new experiences have made me a better person.  While it is impossible to prove any counterfactual of what might have been the case had I never left India, I have plenty of evidence that coming to America has been wonderfully enriching.

And by enriching I am not referring to the mere dollars.  Nope. Not even a penny of it.

Take the event of today, for instance.  It is the Chinese new year.  The pappu face me had no idea about the Chinese new year. 

When I was a mustachioed undergraduate student, Chinese new year did not feature in my cultural awareness in any manner.  For that matter, neither did many others, like Hanukkah.  After all, there was no real world context to create that awareness.

My world suddenly became HUGE the moment I came to America.  All of a sudden, I was in a mixed company of people from backgrounds that were all new.  My bearded face began to appreciate the adage that travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.  (Ahem, did you catch my arrogance there--I was pretending that I was wise to begin with!)

A Jewish male fellow student, who was from Canada, was the first one to tell me about the significance of Hanukkah.  A female classmate, who was from Taiwan, invited me to the party that she was hosting to celebrate the Chinese new year.  And more.  I started getting wiser.

After graduate school, when I was working in California, our office secretary invited us to join them for the Chinese new year feast.  Ginny and her husband, Citron, were Chinese-Americans, and only a few years younger than my parents.  Of course, I could  barely eat anything in the multi-course dinner at their gathering.

Anne, the wife of a Jewish friend back in California, was from Hong Kong.  She taught me to say happy new year in Cantonese.  And laughed every time I mispronounced it.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


Ramesh said...

Oh yes - the joys of being in a global society. That's why America will always be unique. A land of immigrants from all parts of the world.

I'll tell you what might have happened had you stayed in India. You would have become me. And still come to know all about Hannukah or the Chinese New Year. Better still, you would have traveled to Israel and China. And learnt to say 新年快乐 (Xin nian kuai le) which is the Mandarin way of saying Happy New year !!

Incidentally the official party view of the festival (yes there is an official party view of everything in China) is that it is the Spring Festival that is being celebrated and not the New Year. This year the lunar "new year" has come late - more often it comes in late Jan. Imagine celebrating "Spring Festival" in Jan when its snowing in much of China !!

Sriram Khé said...

One thing I knew clearly early on--I wanted to understand humanity and was not interested in the professional lives along the lines of what you refer to as "you would have become me."
If at all I had stayed back in India, which is simply unimaginable, chances are that I would have dropped out of society and made a mess of my life.

Some day, I hope I will get to travel to China, which has fascinated me right from my high school days ... some day!