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What do you love about your family? Is it the way they make you feel after a long day at work? Is it the way they greet you when you haven’t seen them in a while? Perhaps it’s how they respond and listen when you’re having a rough day.
For me, it’s all of the above and then some.
As a child growing up in the early 80s in India, I was fortunate to live in a joint family. My cousins lived with us, under the same roof and later, moved into a house next door. My other aunt lived two homes away. Cousins on my mother’s side lived within a few kilometres of our home and my maternal grandparents were within walking distance.
How this helped us growing up is something I treasure even today. We’d spend hours at each other’s homes. From fights to sharing food, we did everything together. Weekends were whiled away at the grandparents’ home where we were both pampered and given tasks to do. There was no argument over ‘But I don’t have to do this’ or ‘Why doesn’t she do her share?‘ Tasks were assigned and tasks were done. No arguments and no questions asked.
Perhaps it is for these reasons that my face lights up (even in photographs) when I get to meet family after years. Cousins, aunts, uncles, extended relatives- they’re all part of this exquisite fabric that makes up an integral part of my childhood. Seeing them again, twenty or thirty years later, helps me remember what an incredibly blessed person I am.
Many of my family members live in the same city as I do, except for a few, very close cousins whom I get to see once in a few years. It’s a different matter that our lives as adults are so different today that we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like to make it happen.
Life happens. This is the unfortunate and necessary truth. We have to fit our schedules around the routine demands of our work day existence and the delicious moments spent with people whom we cherish and care about.
Today, my nephew, on the verge of turning 11, did the traditional Indian Upanayanam ceremony. It’s a sort of rite of passage from one stage of life to another as a young boy. You can read more about it here.
The day began quite early as Gy and I set off at 5.30 am to get across town to the venue. Once we walked in, smiles, hugs and a burst of love greeted us. Quickly, duties were assigned to each member and I was pleasantly surprised to see how Gy effortlessly slid into idea of doing the tasks without a whimper or a frown. Within the space of an hour, we jointly managed to clean the hall, arrange the chairs, set up the welcoming committee with flowers, sindoor and sweets and even capture photographs with close family members.
As the hours progressed, the hall began to fill with chatter, people and laughter, each explosively embracing the other in a sense of joyous celebration. I stood by the dais , waiting on my cousin, as she periodically sent me off on tiny errands. Gy mingled with the family, greeting familiar faces, smiling and learning new or strange ones and taking care of her younger cousins, who walked behind her, literally holding on to her finger.
Meanwhile, my face was glowing, from smiling and laughing at the jokes by my big brother, from crushing people in bear hugs, from holding them and from listening to them as they recounted what’s been happening in their lives.
I watched all of this- the colours, the coming together of family, the flash of lightbulbs, the nitty-gritty of the traditional ceremony- and was hit by a wave of gratitude.
How much we have to be thankful for. How little do we realise this, as we get caught up in our day to day existence.
Today would have been my uncle’s 77th birthday. He didn’t live to see his grandson make this transition to a different stage of his life. But from wherever he is today, he would have seen the coming together of generations of people, to bless that boy on this special day.
He would be proud and overwhelmed, as I am, at the magical glue that is family.
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