So while you share eggnog with old Uncle Willie and listen for the hundredth time about how he won the chess tournament of 1935, I can walk around with insouciance, hurling expletives at cab drivers, telling salespeople off, and chewing out every missionary panhandler who approaches me for a holiday donation. I am Hindu. I already celebrated Diwali in November. I don't have to be pleasant now.
As you have probably gathered, I hate the holidays in America. I hate the cheer and bonhomie that swathe society like sticky Indian halwa; the booming litany of 'Happy Holidays,' and 'Happy New Year,' that follows me like the sweaty breath of a moneylender. For the record, the Hindu holiday season falls in autumn, I don't celebrate Christmas, and the Hindu New Year is in April.
Besides, Hindu holidays are not marked by elaborate lists of what to buy for whom. Most families wear new clothes, burst firecrackers, light diyas, and gorge on goodies. Here in America, I go into a frenzy of shelling out $179 in the black market for the toy of the moment only to find out that my nieces and nephews already own it. I agonize over how much money to give to my dry cleaner, newspaperman, and doorman, especially since I'm not satisfied with their services. And then there's the guilt induced by the pile of cards with photos of happy families who are so together that they can send out New Year cheer to all and sundry even when they have three kids, two dogs and the odd cat when you can't manage your life with one kid and no animals to speak of.
Most of all, I hate making those New Year resolutions that everybody seems to think are de rigeur. Every time I go to a party nowadays, the main topic of conversation is losing pounds or New Year resolutions. This time I have come up with a list that I carry with me like a politician's speech. Every time someone asks what my New Year resolutions are, I whip out the piece of paper and brandish it like armor. I am ready to take on the world of questioners. Ready or not, here is my list of New Year resolutions.
· I resolve not to turn my living room into a transit lounge by putting up every eccentric Hindu priest that passes through New York on the way to the wilds of Canberra or Chatanooga.
· I resolve not to make my 3-year-old daughter recite every Hindu chant that she knows to the hapless guests who step through my threshold.
· I resolve to walk out of the room every time another Hindu parent inflicts this childish nonsense on me no matter how tasty the cooking of the hostess is.
· I resolve not to call India only at the discount times that telephone companies provide even though a relative may have died, a friend was stranded in traffic during riots or a nuclear bomb was blasted.
· I resolve not to go to the Hindu temple in Flushing only when I feel the urge to eat dosas at the restaurant next door. Food must not come before God, at least in principle.
· I resolve to spend at least one vacation learning a productive American sport instead of convening around the dining table of some relative, eating samosas and watching Hindi movies ad nauseam. I resolve to watch at least one 'art' movie a year instead of sticking to Bollywood blockbusters.
· I resolve to implement none of the above, especially since my taxes are overdue, my daughter is sitting on a desecrated diaper and demanding my attention with a banging spoon and knife, and the pile of bills climbing my closet resembles the Pisa tower. Not to mention the phone calls I haven't returned, the New Year's cards I haven't even opened, and the list of last year's resolutions I am yet to implement.