I have lived in a hostel since kindergarten, so I mostly know my immediate family only. Beyond that, I mostly hear about my relatives, you know… the distant uncles, from my parents, or see them on Facebook. Many of them have seen me, or so they say, when I was maybe a three or a four or when I was born. I hardly remember any of that.
So, when I meet them, it gets awkwardly interesting. Comments like ‘kitta bada ho gaya ab‘ (how big you’ve grown up) , ‘last time to ittu sa tha‘ (last time you were so small), ‘ab shaadi ke layak ho gaya‘ (you are ready to get married) are very common. The personal best one is ‘papa par gya hai ekdum‘ (you look just like your father).
I always find these comments quite entertaining. But most of these one-time meets generally slip into a untouched corner of my brain a few days after they happen. I’ll surely recognise them when I see one but that’s all there is. However, in the last two years I found the importance and meaning in such connections and relations.
I moved to Mumbai in 2014. I was selected at a premiere institute for my engineering studies. So, my parents, protective as they are, keenly wanted to introduce me to some relative there. I was surprised at the sheer number of people they somehow knew in Mumbai.
We had my father’s cousin in Mumbai. The first day in Mumbai, we went to meet them. Thankfully, for a change they hadn’t seen me when I was little. They were every warm and welcoming. They had a son and two daughters, everyone maybe five plus years my older.
At that time, only one di (brother, cousin) was at home. I didn’t know what to talk about (which happens every time with me). But she was extremely easy and quizzy. She initiated a conversation I thought was very distant. We talked about me, about her, my college among other things. A little more than I had thought. I met the other bhaiya(brother, cousin) and di on my subsequent visits there.
I have been with them on festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi, and for a few days here and there. I feel really welcome and comfortable there. Sitting on the couch, watching TV, eating home-made food, chatting with bhaiya or di about anything, it feels like home. The best part of it is I don’t get treated like a guest. While I am there, I stay in bhaiya’s room, although there’s a guest room. And I am extremely pleased to have a relative there.
Di (the one I had talked to initially) got married this January. It was a memorable big fat Indian wedding. But I was a fish out of water there. I hardly knew anyone. But uncle introduced me one by one to many of his guests, some of who somehow knew me. It was a little creepy. It was very heartening to be related to do many people, so suddenly in such a small span of time. I found so many people of around my age.
While they’d dance around during the ceremonies, I’d mostly stand alone. But one person or the other always pulled me in to join them. I was so happy to have been a part of the whole experience, especially since I thought I was an ‘outsider’ . Eventually, I became a part of them. It was the first wedding I had attended, or at least I remember to have. It was memorable. But, I was a little sad too.
Now, it’s been almost two years in Mumbai. Although, I visit them, it is not as often as I want to, but a few times in a year. Bhaiya always asks me to visit his office, which is very close to my college, but I always procrastinate. Don’t know why! I always find some complerly unrequired stupid thing to do when I am free, which is very often. When I finally decided to go to his office just before coming home for vacation, he was out. But I’m sure I’ll visit there as soon as I’m back at college.
It feels good to have a home and such lovely people. I used to think I wouldn’t need it, since I had survived the previous thirteen years without any such thing. But, I’ve realised that college can be very consuming and frustrating sometimes and I am grateful to have such good people nearby.
People are unfamiliar just until they become familiar.