Hands in the center as if they were a sports team, they yell Sinha Poribar! (Sinha family reunion) as they all raise their hands and cheer.
I am half a world away from home, visiting family for a reunion in Kolkata. I touch the feet of the adults when I greet them, a gesture of deep respect. I recognize the same teasing cheerfulness in my uncle Rontu-kaku that I see in my dad. All thirty-eight of them have my deep brown eyes and olive skin, and they welcome me so warmly, it’s almost overwhelming.
The gulab jamun has been eaten; the talent show begins. It doesn’t go on for an hour, rather, it lasts two days. My thirteen-year-old cousin, Pukai, performed a beautiful cultural dance, wearing her orange and red sari, and holding a small candle in each palm, depicting Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Piktu-kaku and Titu-kaku sang, hoarding the mike for several hours. I didn’t understand a single word of the Hindi songs, but I remember a sense of pride in being part of this warm and rich culture of my newfound family.
I wonder how many gatherings like this have taken place over the years, while I was tucked away in my corner of American culture back in the States. Even so, somehow these people feel familiar, like home, and I blend in just like the chickpeas in the curry, without even trying. That’s because I am part of their community, which is my family.