It was after a gap of 13 years that I visited my husband’s extended family this summer. I have always known them to be friendly and accommodative although my interaction with them has been very limited. Had my mother in law been alive we might have visited them more often but unfortunately that was not to be and with my brothers settling down in Mumbai all I could manage were hurried trips to Mumbai to visit my ailing mother when she was alive or to attend the marriages of my nieces and nephews. It is my regret that my children never got to know a whole set of second cousins who may not speak fluent English or chat ‘online’ but are not only warm hearted and genuine but caring and affectionate as well. Having met them only thrice in 34 years I was touched by the way they made me feel as if I had been meeting them on an annual basis. They wanted to know details about my children and grandchildren and insisted that we bring them over when they next visited India. The contrast between the superficiality of urban life and the simplicity of these village people was evident and believe me when I say that I found myself longing to be part of such a culture.
It is not as if they do not have problems. I was treated to so many family stories – some touching, some hilarious but underlying the sorrow/joy behind the information was a kindred spirit that is conspicuously absent in the hectic modern day schedule where parents can barely manage to take care of the demands of their children. I heard of a grand aunt who assisted a grand nephew who was planning to take up a job after his 10th board exams to do his post graduation and today he is a successful biology teacher with his students scattered all over the world. He is being invited to conduct work shops on how biology may be made interesting to students in different schools in Tamilnadu and his coaching classes are so popular that he is finding it difficult to accommodate all those who approach him. His students have formed associations using his name – no mean achievement for a boy brought up in a village and having had to walk 5 kilometers to school however inclement the weather. Equally impressive is the fact that he has not forgotten his days of struggle and does his bit to help meritorious students so that at least a few students who come in his contact do not have to drop out for want of money.
Another nephew was about four years old when I first saw him. He was a slow learner and never went to school. He makes himself otherwise useful to all his relatives in general and his brother’s family in particular. The entire family dotes on him and he reciprocates in equal measure. With people wanting to have nothing to do even with close relatives unless they find him/her equal in status and standard it filled my eyes with tears to see the concern shown by one and all to this young man.
More than anything else I was touched by their accepting me as one among them rather than an outsider. We stayed with my husband’s aunt who is herself childless and has been staying with her sister’s son for the past 30 years. The four days I spent in Trichy had an energizing effect to my mind and I returned to Jamshedpur with pleasant memories of my stay. I do wish we have more of such people who make one forget the ways of the wily world we live in. I did make a fool of myself trying to make dosais. More about it later.