Christopher Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492 just like I discovered the United States of America on March 17, 1974. How can anyone discover a place that already exists? Anyway, yesterday was a holiday in honor of Columbus discovering America. For the record, Columbus never actually walked on North American soil; he only went to the Caribbean and Central America.
Regardless, our family and I remembered and honored the memories of Christopher Columbus by lighting Indian Diyas (cotton wicks laced in butter) below his picture and singing devotional songs in his praise. We invited our family priest to sprinkle holy water and rice on Columbus’ picture and asked him to narrate to us the story of Christopher Columbus. This is an Indian tradition. This is how we honor great men and women in our culture.
“We must honor and respect Christopher Columbus. He is the reason we exist on this land today. Had he not discovered this land, we couldn’t have been born or immigrated here,” our priest continued, “Columbus was a great man although he did everything wrong in his life. He was even born in a wrong country. He should have been born in Spain instead of Italy. He Later realized the mistake and corrected the course by first marrying a Portuguese woman and then deciding to move to Spain where he lived with his newly found mistress.”
Columbus wanted to be a spice merchant, but he ended up becoming a slave merchant instead. India was rich in spices, so he set out to go to India after procuring grants from Queen Isabella I of Spain. As a part of his habit, Columbus took a wrong turn and ended up on a wrong continent called the Americas. He was so befuddled that he called the native people Indians.
The New World that Columbus encountered was a wasteland devoid of any spice. Poor Columbus kept on looking for ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. He needed something, at least enough, to fill the kitchen rack of Queen Isabella I back home. Columbus returned home with three boats full of indigenous slaves as he had nothing else to show to the queen.
The queen was preparing a special meal to honor Columbus and needed the spice. Columbus kept on insisting that he had actually found spices, but left the sacks back in India by mistake. So, he was granted another voyage to go back to India and bring the lost sacks of spices. This time Columbus brought a tree bark from Trinidad that looked like cinnamon. He leaked the bark in front of the queen and kept on uttering “yum, yum, yum.” The queen was convinced and sent Columbus on his third voyage.
This time Columbus exterminated the entire population of Hispaniola’s indigenous people by mistreating them and bringing them as slaves to Spain. Those who were left died of European diseases brought about by Columbus and his crew.” The priest, thus, ended his sermon.
In retrospect, Columbus was lucky not to go to India. Sikandar Lodi, then the Sultan of Delhi was moving his capital from Delhi to Agra. He was looking for a few healthy men as movers. I am pretty sure that Columbus and his crew would have ended up working for the Sultan and would have ended up in the famous mental asylum there.
In the end, all of sang the Oscar winning song “Jai Ho” and feasted on Tacos from Taco Bell, Columbus’ favorite food in the New World. Oh well, It was a nice day. How was your Columbus Day celebration?