i am thankful to live in a part of the world where, despite its many issues, people live in religious harmony, in a town that provides a beautiful example of interfaith co-existence. hindus and muslims live in peace here, far from the pakistani border. the men of islam can be identified by their caps and white koltas, but the women are just as colourful as their hindu neighbours; bright swaths of colour and sparkle and nothing to mark them as muslim or hide them from the world: no burkas, no abayas. the imams vie for the quiet night air time as they call their followers to prayer from the two mosques in town. the muslims light sparklers with the hindus on diwali; the hindus wait for prayer to pass before offering tea to the muslims. the children run barefoot together and laugh. meanwhile my coworker kalam, a lawyer with 12 years working for women’s rights, was denied a visa to america to attend an anti-trafficking conference in san francisco, because his first name is mohammed.

i am thankful that i was not born in a bamboo shack on a dirt lane, the latest daughter threaded on a string of prostitutes running back for generations.

i am thankful to have a hand pump outside my home which, thus far, brings relatively potable water to the surface. so few people, in this country or in others, can say that. i see children swimming in pools of filth where water buffalo lounge and men shit and women wash clothes, and then they bring the water home to their mothers for tea. holy rivers filled with trash and the ash of burning bodies.

i am thankful that i am literate.

i am thankful that i am living somewhere where i do not have to be ashamed to be american. it is too rural here for anyone to hear anything other than the golden platitudes of America the Beautiful, and for the vast majority, my country is still the ultimate dream and goal; a land of plenty and of happiness and freedom. i do not correct them; in many ways they are right. but it is a relief not to apologize for my country’s sins, as i do elsewhere.

i am thankful that my feet face forward and aren’t twisted under themselves so that every step is pain.

and, lastly, i am thankful that i am among the very, very few in bihar who can leave.

happy thanksgiving, dear friends. i hope it is full of family and joy and laughter. pause a moment in the celebrations and be thankful that you, too, were not born in bihar.

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