The other day i recieved a whatsapp message from my bestfriend in bangkok. “Happy mothers day, kriti”, it read. Now an advantage of being bestfriends with someone for 15 years is you can skip all of those ‘hey its been long!’ Or ‘i miss you bff’ or even ‘xoxo’. So instead of an obligatory ‘thank you darling’ reply to her, i immediately ask her if its an international mothers day or a thai one.
One of the perks of being a third culture kid is that we’re accustomed to celebrating most of these significant days in a rather confused state. First, there’s this blues of not having to joyously celebrate those events of your native place just like the natives would. On the other hand that same mystified guilt feeling of celebrating something you honestly are a foreigner to.
I was a little fazed when she replied back saying, “oh, its a thai one, but i just felt like wishing you”. I felt as if she was wishing me a happy birthday when it was really my husband’s birthday – 3 days later. I felt lost and i couldnt relate to it. Perhaps if i was still in Thailand, i would have picked up some flowers for my mother on the way home from university. Perhaps if it was an international mothers day, i would have delightedly thanked my bestfriend for thinking about me on the day before preparing something special for my mother in law. But it wasnt any of the two. Before the conversation could go any further, i was adrift in a place between a territory i could have belonged to and a soil i should belong to.
I remember celebrating Diwali (one of the most religious festivals in India), and how i wouldnt even feel like skipping a single day of school just for the sake of it. There were my cousins back here celebrating their 3 day holiday, while there was my brother and myself not really knowing what it’s like to burn crackers (because thats what they do).
Then came Holi, which we played with some cheap powder in the bathroom or balcony because our whole house was cloaked with a dark blue carpet that refuses to let go of any stain.
Then arrived Rakhi, where i would sit in front of my brother and tie that tiny chiny band like thing on his wrist, not knowing why. Who cared? As long as i got my gifts.
Now that i’m finally settled in India, i miss Songkran festival (like tomatina in spain-only with water and not tomatoes… Thank God!). But if i would tell any of my relatives here what fun that is, they would be clueless. They hardly ever heard the word. Imagine, out of no where, i start throwing chilled water on strangers here in India. I would be sued. Well, maybe not sued. They dont believe in that kind of revenge here. Instead swear a couple of those ***** words at me; stare at me for few seconds to get the idea across that they are very, very angry; shake their head two or three times in digust to further make sure i feel guilty; and then pass me by thinking i might have been a refugee from the mental hospital across the street.
Clearly, it feels as messy as it sounds. Its not easy being raised in two different countries. After a massive mental brawl, these festivals had always left me feeling dazed and tired. These celebrations, whether Indian or Thai, strongly refuses to belong to me. But i still need to console them to let me through. That mental persuasion wears me down. And oh by the way, When in Rome, do as Romans do.