Being an Indian-Australian, Thanksgiving has never really been on my radar. I’ve known about it of course, how can you not, thanks to the fact that majority of pop culture in most Western countries is very US-centric.
But this year, having been away from my closest friends and family for more than eighteen months, and having spent the majority of my travels under the influence of some amazing Americans, I find myself pondering about what I’m thankful for.
I have a lot to be thankful for, really, too much — but a generic “thank you, life” is a cop-out.
I was born to a couple who were both each other’s second spouses. They eloped from home — my dad came from a rich business family & my mom from a well-off working family — but they lived in severe hardship for at least the duration of my mom’s pregnancy. Her main form of sustenance was plain rice while my dad even briefly rode manual rickshaws for a living. But I’m thankful that no matter how dire things were they had the courage and belief to not only go through that period but also take good care of my foetal self.
Fast forward four years and a little, kicking, screaming, (unnaturally) excessively pooping little girl was born. She didn’t even let me get near her for the first few months. Although she spent most of her teens throwing tantrums and fighting with me, I can’t even find the right words to express my gratitude for having a sister like her.
My parents were extremely creative and mobile people. They moved from one place to the other, seamlessly transitioned from one career to the next and happily explored completely new industries and major cities — the consequence of which, of course, is that by the time I finished school I’d been to ten different schools and made a dozen or so sets of friends. And I’m thankful for all of those friends (yes, even the ones whose names I can’t remember and also the ones who briefly bullied me). I’m thankful also, for the extremely good education I received. There wasn’t a single school I went to that wasn’t either very unique or extremely prestigious. My teachers (along with my mum — although she disagrees) shaped my world views and I’m grateful that they taught me to be extremely open minded and promoted a healthy belief in pluralism. My Nana and Nani were instrumental figures in my childhood. Two hardworking and dignified individuals — who were excellent examples of the grandparent I’d like to be.
I’m thankful for the television and film work I was able to do as a kid. It sparked my interest in the creative arts, which I know will not only be my career very soon, but also a life-long passion.
I’m thankful for Jurassic Park. Had it not been for that movie, my interest in science and technology may have never come about. I remember enrolling in an out-of-school computing class the very week I saw that movie. Two years ago, I graduated as a software engineer.
My parents separated when I was 12.
I went to boarding school and instantly hated it. The first year was hell. I missed home, I was bullied and I hated the physical training classes. But I’m thankful to my mom for being a strong single mother. She took such good care of us, I never felt a single day that we now only had one primary parent. I’m thankful that despite my protests she didn’t take me back to Mumbai. I eventually went on to love the boarding school life, made life-long friends and learnt incredible and priceless lessons in life-subjects ranging from girls to music, religion to politics, from loyalty to trust.
Then we moved to Australia.
This was a whole new world. We went from the hustle and bustle (and the constant honking) of Bombay to quiet, serene and orderly Adelaide. It was the biggest of culture shocks.
Once again I went to one of the best public schools. I received excellent education, made amazing friends, found my love for theatre and had countless crushes — none of them as big as the one on Crystal Thompson. I learnt about heartbreak, got to take part in major statewide public speaking events, discovered dragon-boating, dated the cutest (and smartest) French horn player and finished school with unexpectedly good grades.
I’m thankful to the friends I made at university. I am thankful for the opportunities to shape many different clubs.
I’m thankful for the women I’ve dated. Yes, I will always be a little annoyed about our break-ups, but I know that we shared amazing moments and that nothing will change that. You taught me many lessons and you educated me on the subject of life. Most of all, every single one of you appreciated who I was, right until the moment you decided that my questioning, rebellious nature was too much for us to work.
I am thankful, in some weird and inexplicable way for my depression. I know that I wouldn’t be the hard-working, over-the-top motivated person that I am, if I wasn’t fighting depression every single day. My best friend and two of my close family members are also severely depressed. And seeing these incredibly strong, talented and intelligent people also battle with depression makes me understand that people far more resilient than me are fighting against the same illness. I am thankful that they are part of my life.
I am thankful for having the opportunity to work in extremely different fields. From pizza delivery to graduation day speaker, stewarding to marketing assistant, making sandwiches to leaflet dropping, writing complex programs for the government to managing a retail store, radio presenter to business manager, cricket coach to magazine sub-editor. I am thankful that people believed in me enough to join me on my crazy ‘ventures’. I started a web design business at eighteen, a theatre company at twenty and founded a magazine at twenty-six. I didn’t have much experience in any of those roles before I started, but I have been lucky enough to have friends and family who supported me wholeheartedly in anything I’ve ever attempted.
I am thankful that I had the chance to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. And the means to enable me to travel every weekend from Adelaide to Melbourne and back.
I am thankful for the life I live right now. For the last eighteen months, I have been travelling around the world. I’ve met some of the most amazing people I have ever come across, eaten delicacies from seventeen countries, seen beautiful, exotic and ‘wondrous’ landscapes and worked on some amazing projects. I met the folks at Trade Monkey quite early on in my travels. I was supposed to stay with them for 6 weeks as a volunteer. Eighteen months later, I’m still working for them — as their Chief Information Officer.
In my travels, I’ve taught screaming infants in Vietnam, engaged in deep conversations with university students who could barely speak English, made fundraising videos in Chiang Mai, worked in hostels in Brazil and Colombia and learnt things about myself I could have never imagined. I’ve swum with monks, danced with local Salvadorans and slept on the floors of complete strangers.
I am thankful for the most precious thing I have — freedom. Freedom I got from having been brought up by an amazing parent; freedom I got from an excellent education; freedom I was given by the sheer luck of having been born where I was born; and the freedom I have because of my health.
It’s something I never want to take for granted and I hope I never will.
Finally, I am thankful that I’ve never had to wish for anything — so whenever I come across a wishing ritual, I am able to ask for wishes for other people.
Thank you, life.
This story first appeared on Medium