Luckily or otherwise, I have had no dearth of aunties in my life. Since childhood, I have known scores, even hundreds, of ladies whom I had reason to address by the said title.
As a toddler, I would be mollycoddled and doted over by all sorts of aunties. Even today I have reason to believe that some older ladies consider my cheeks worthy of being pulled in a motherly fashion.
The reasons for this plethora of aunties in my life are not clear to me. It is as though I have some divine debt to repay to them. Whatever the cause, I am compelled to set aside an hour or two, every day, to attend to their queries.
Aunties do not take 'no' for an answer. They are liable to call up at odd times for things like club memberships, nephews' jobs, driving licences and birthday parties. Even in the midst of an official meeting if I see the name of an aunty flashing on the mobile phone, one has no option but to respond, stalling proceedings. If a senior officer is in the chair, one tries to escape to the ante-room at the earliest to return the missed calls from aunties.
One particular aunty meets me every three years or so at weddings and says only one thing. "I'm really upset with you, Vivek!" The cause of her angst is usually the fact that I have not kept in touch with her. This year, I did try to tell her that we should meet in harmony whenever we do, for I am not likely to change. Three years later, I'll find out if she has.
Uncles have their place in my life too, but somehow they are not as demanding. They usually understand when I'm in the middle of something 'official' and cannot attend to their calls. They also have the advantage of being able to walk into my office for a cup of tea.
Aunties do not normally walk into offices. They try to catch me on the phone, hence they have more cause for complaint when I do not respond.
The one who totally exemplifies the aunty 'philosophy' is the one we lovingly call Funny Aunty. She is as likely to call me up at 5am as she is at midnight. She called recently at an unearthly hour to inform me that she was going away and that I should not expect her calls!
The thing about Funny Aunty is that she can call anyone she pleases for anything she needs. The reason why she calls me up particularly is that she remembers my number easily. She doesn't know how to save numbers in her phone, you see. "I can never forget your number," she once confided. "It is similar to my rickshaw-wallah's!"
Aunties! Life would be so very dull without them.