South Tour: Ooty to Coimbatore – How we celebrated Thanksgiving in India

25 Nov

COIMBATORE: I have not eaten turkey since coming to India.

Every potato I’ve eaten here has been unmashed.

And when it comes to dessert, you’re certainly not going to find pumpkin pie.

My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of chicken noodle soup, rice, noodles, daal, carrots and tomatoes, spicy potatoes, and a 4 oz. cup of vanilla ice cream. I’m not going to lie: the food was quite bad. At least the vanilla cake, with “Happy Thansgiving” (sic) spelled out on top, capped our meal nicely.

It was the least traditional and most memorable Thanksgiving dinner of my life.

Of the 18 students on the tour, seven are from the U.S., meaning today’s holiday was one not celebrated by most of us on the tour. Some of the students from Europe and Canada were familiar with Thanksgiving, but had never celebrated it. The hotel staff around us, of course, was about as familiar with the holiday as they were with lemon meringue pie – in other words, not at all.

Nonetheless, it was an occasion for all of us to put on our best clothes, eat a nice meal together, and celebrate.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday. Not once in my life do I believe I’ve missed Turkey Day dinner with my family – normally at my aunt’s house. The weather is usually close to freezing, I’m in the midst of a five-day break from school, and I get to see my close family gathered together for the first time in months. It’s an opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of people I already know but haven’t seen for some time.

Tonight, everyone at the dinner table was between 15 and 20. None of the blood that flowed through our veins was shared. The amount of time we’d known each other varied from ten days to several months, but in all cases it was less than a year. Before eating, we held hands, went around the circle and said what each was thankful for. Everyone found different ways of saying it, but what we showed thanks for always came back to the same thing: each other.

My journals, too, keep coming back to the same thing each time I put pen to paper. Because each day I realize even better why my friends are my friends. It’s like having three families – one in Illinois, one in Nagpur, and one in this hotel in Coimbatore. They’re not interchangeable, and certainly not replaceable, but each group is important to me – in different ways, for different reasons.

Spending Thanksgiving abroad doesn’t make me sad so much as it makes me happy. Because this trip has helped me realize how much I have to be thankful for, at home and abroad alike.


P.S. Black Thunder Water Park, unlike most of the events on this tour, was merely good, not amazing. The bumper cars, however, were well worth the ride.


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One Response to “South Tour: Ooty to Coimbatore – How we celebrated Thanksgiving in India”

  1. Neal Says:


    I enjoy reading your views about India, its people and places, etc. Seems like your trip to South has been interesting.

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