Please mujhe maarna mat. (Please don't hit me)
I don’t usually give such stupid headlines or write on topics that sound silly to begin with (actually, I do. Sorry). But this one is born out of sheer helplessness. You see, last week’s sermon on loving yourself, much to my good luck, went down really well with the readers. So many of you wrote back with a pledge to love only yourself, that I got seriously worried for the population growth of our Country.
But, you know, each time a certain week’s write-up is really liked, it leads to quite a stress for me in trying to think of a ‘nice’ topic for the next. I couldn’t think of anything sensible this week (don’t you dare say ‘what’s new’).
I try my best, and there is a limit to being mean. Anyway, so I thought of ditching writing this week, and instead placed an apology message on this page. But, then I read this mail from a girl who was super-stressed about something so interesting that I’m having to write this minutes before we go to press.
“I have six maternal uncles and three aunts. Sometimes they all visit our place, together, when there is some occasion. My mom fusses over them so much that I can’t tell you. Even if I want to study in my room, I’m expected to sit and chat with them and their families, and run errands. Can you please help? And please, please don’t write my name or mom would kill me,” read the mail.
Okay fine, if you insist, I wont write your name, Preeti, though I don’t see any reason why your mother should kill you if your nana-nani loved and reproduced so much. I’m thinking of ways to help. Arranging for abducting your fleet of mamas and mausis comes to my mind first but that could lead to legal hassles for both of us. Hence, restricting myself to giving tips.
But before I go on, let me state a clear disclaimer. Nothing that I write in this column pertains to my mom’s relatives. Nothing. If you are reading this, Ma, be known that in the interest of truth, and my ultimate safety, I am prepared to randomly repeat this disclaimer after every few sentences in the write-up.
Coming back to the point, we all have rishtedaar (relatives) of all kinds, shapes and sizes, in our lives. But there are none to beat mom’s relatives. Ask your dad and his long sigh will tell you if I’m right.
Mothers, actually, are the nicest of God’s creations and they bring all the sweetness and tolerance into this world. So what if this sweetness is slightly more when it comes to her side of the family? (Statutory disclaimer: Not applicable to my mom, at all). She leaves her home to settle into a new house and nurture it. It’s obvious that her heart would go out to those she grew up with. Woh aur baat hai (it is another matter) that this ‘going out of the heart’ sometimes translates in going out the way when it comes to socialising with them.
A friend of mine often cribs, ‘My mom is otherwise quite penny-wise but when it comes to buying gifts for her side of relatives on occasions, suddenly all restrictions vanish.’ (Statutory disclaimer: My mother does not, ever). Another one says, ‘Mom talks to her sister almost every day. My mausi knows which exams I’ve flunked and how many hours I spend on Internet everyday. She is always ready with advice, sometimes sarcastic comments, about my life, my career, what subjects I should choose and when I should get married.’
Arrey, yaar… it’s no big deal. All relatives in India are born advisers, whether from mom’s side or dad’s side. Someday you’ll also do this to someone. Till then, here’s what I have to advise.
1 Thank God that you at least have relatives: Many don’t. We are still in a generation when you at least know what a chacha, mausi, bua or mama means. At the rate young couples are opting for a single child or no kids, the next generation won’t even know what the words mean. As irritated as you may sometimes get when the uncles and aunts drop in, do remember that the cool, firang friends you may have made on the Internet envy Indian families for the warmth and the way siblings, cousins and relatives connect. It’s simply a case of counting your blessings. Sometimes we forget to.
2 Understand your mom’s psyche: A sociologist friend had once told me that there are deep-rooted reasons behind why a married woman, in the Indian set-up or, in fact, universally, is instinctively protective and soft towards her own relatives. Traditionally, from the time a marriage alliance is fixed, the girl’s side subconsciously behaves subservient to the guy’s family — always trying to ensure that ladke waale should not get upset, should be well taken care of, etc etc. The bride, in this case your mother (Disclaimer: not mine, surely), throughout her life afterwards, makes subconscious attempts to make up for it. She wants her parents, her siblings to feel important and loved. And hence, sometimes the fuss, which is so normal … in fact justified. If you see any sense in the above theory, I can safely tell you that it’s mine and I have no sociologist friend. Otherwise, please think that these experts are crazy. They have a theory for any nonsense.
3 Finally, a word for the parents, especially mothers: (Disclaimer: Not mine. Ma, why are you even reading this? It’s not about you, trust me. I love you). Always remember, ma’am, that no child, teenager or grown up person likes it when reminded in front of relatives that he/she should greet them with respect. If you won’t keep harping ‘namaste karo’ or ‘touch their feet’ or the favourite of the Punjabis — ‘beta, aunty se theek se milo’, perhaps your children would greet your relatives more warmly on their own. I’m sure you didn’t enjoy being told when you were young.
Also, it never helps to point out the flaws of your children in front of your relatives. Even if the poor relative tries to give a well-meaning advice (they mostly do), he/she becomes a villain in your child’s eyes. Discipline your children in private, let the mama-mausis pamper them. They’ll soon start looking forward to the relatives’ visits. You can thank me then, for the advice. I do accept cash, with a heavy heart.
Sonal Kalra is trying to decode the meaning of the phrase theek se milo. She’s going to attempt something on her relatives. She may not be left with any, afterwards. Mail your sympathies to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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A special word this week for the always-alert Vivek Anand and the always-confident Ankit Mutreja. Stay good, stay calm