Zara raise your hand and tell me how many of you have ever fought with your parents about not wanting to meet or talk to relatives very often, while they insist that you do. I can suddenly sense a whole lot of teenaged hands up ... regardless of which part of India, or the world, you are in.
When 16-year-old Raunak mailed me about ‘the pressure of having to communicate with relatives’, he challenged that it ranks right up there when it comes to tension points in a family with grown-up kids. Got vigorous nods from my very young team when I asked them if meeting rishtedaars is a stress factor in their lives.
Even though I’d written about this topic long time back, their faces confirmed that an injection of calmness is badly needed. Vaise like most other topics, I’m pretty unqualified to advise on this one, too. I love my relatives, but I have no doubts about them not feeling so kind towards me, because of my sheer unresponsive nature. My family has practically given up even on complaining that I don’t take calls, wish on anniversaries or have Sunday lunches at chacha’s or bua’s or mama’s place. I feel terribly guilty about it but somewhere I know that they know that I don’t need to do this to prove that I’m there for them. Anyway, coming back to the stress, my conversation with a few teenagers and young adults had them utter things like these ... My parents insist that we visit our relatives at least twice a week. I hate it. My mom keeps handing me the phone, asking me to wish relatives on random occasions. I don’t even know what to say in these conversations. I don’t have cousins of my age at my Nani’s place. I get very bored. My mother keeps nudging me, in front of everyone, to greet and talk properly to uncles and aunties. I am EIGHTEEN years old! I love the last one, since I’ve watched a whole generation of ‘beta-namaste-karo’ parents with a lot of amusement, specially in North India. Random, but damn interesting things get said in a Punjabi household — ‘Aunty ko pehchaana? Yeh Ruby aunty ke brother ki padosi thi, jab tum 6 months ke the’.
Or the more common — ‘Bete, uncle se achhe se milo!’ Vaise, what on earth means ‘achhe se milna’? In today’s context, this instruction can have hilarious, or alarming, connotations but I guess the emphasis here is that the youngster gives due respect to the elder relative. It’s important for parents to, however, realise that no matter how good your intention is, respect can’t be extracted out of a person by making him or her feel embarrassed or awkward in front of others. Just saying. Anyway, here’s what I have to say to Raunak, and anyone who has the stress of a forced yaari with rishtedaari :)
1. Give and take: Healthy interpersonal communication, be it with friends or colleagues or relatives, is all about it being both-ways. You can make a face and crib about a rishtedaar, but remember that the relative might be doing the same about you, or will soon start doing it. No one in this life keeps showering unconditional love even if you don’t respond, except for your parents. At this age, surrounded by friends, it may seem to you that you don’t care. But eventually in life, it never hurts to have a strong bond with the extended family, if possible. And it’s not as tough as it seems. In older generations, with families having 6-7 kids, people had multiple uncles and aunts. Ab toh ya chacha hai, ya bua hai. You either have a mama or a mausi. With more and more couples opting for a single child, your kid is not even going to have those. Why not cherish the bond if you are lucky to have them? Family re-unions are so much fun when you remember to leave your attitude at home.
2. Technology to rescue: Jaao Mark Zuckerberg bhaiya ke charan chhoo ke aao. Thanks to Facebook, it’s so damn easy to wish a happy birthday to Ruby aunty ke bhai ki padosi ki aunty. Or to flaunt updated information about cousins in front of your parents. Now we know more about what’s going on in relatives’ lives than ever before. Like their vacation pic, drop-in a comment, show it to mom, and voila ... all ‘beta namaste karo’ stress is gone!
3. Talk to your folks: In case you still feel that your parents are overdoing this pressure-on-your-head thing about connecting with relatives, it’s best to have a frank chat with them. Without being disrespectful in any which way, and without losing your cool, tell mom and dad that you feel stressed about it. Unless you make random, generic statements like ‘I hate all relatives’ without a valid reason for disliking a specific person or persons, why wouldn’t your parents listen? Today’s parents are anyway so conscious about not burdening their kids with requests to accompany them anywhere. If unknowingly, they are putting you into an awkward spot by saying certain things or forcing you to interact with a relative who makes you feel uncomfortable, they have a right to know it from you. Trust your parents’ intention about wanting the best for you, and they’ll trust your intuition about what’ll make you uncomfortable. Simple! Really. Sonal Kalra thinks that she had started writing a pro-youngster column but it has turned out to be a pro-parents one. She’s sorry for giving so much gyaan but sometimes it works.
Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra