For the past few weeks I’ve been developing a bedtime habit of writing three things that I’m thankful for. This is a practice my friend introduced me to and I try to write this everyday. Just the other day, as I was flipping through the pages, I noticed that the one thing recurring on almost all days was – “Extended Family”.
Extended family for most people includes parents, siblings, parents’ siblings, their families, cousins, grandparents and their siblings, and grandparents’ siblings’ families. My extended family includes parents, brother, parents’ siblings and their families, and a bunch of approximately 30 Bengali family friends. These are the people I’ve seen more than my blood relatives and in many ways are closer to me than blood relatives. These are the people who have raised me to be who I am today. And these are the people I know I will take care of as my own parents.
Most often I decline invitations from acquaintances of my own age by saying I have a Bengali get-together to attend which happens every weekend. And I’ve often been asked why I hang out with my Bengali aunts and uncles so much. Well, for starters, they’re funny as hell! I don’t think even five minutes goes by without laughter. Even while talking about something solemn they will find a way to bring in humor. Frankly, they’re more fun to hang out with than people of my own age. And also because I love them and because they’re my world.
Last Sunday my photo happened to be printed in the local newspaper for a pretty lame reason (I attended a concert 😐 ). It was so inconspicuous even I would’ve missed it. But my aunts and uncles did not and I woke up to find at least five messages about it from them. They were so excited that one would think I won the Wimbledon and the newspaper featured an article about it. But even though it was such a silly thing, it reminded me just how much they love me and how little things about us kids can fill them with joy. Not only that, when they go on a holiday, they often bring back something for me. Most of the aunts in my extended family have only sons so I have been their adopted daughter for many years now. Every time they come across something girly which they would have bought for their daughter if they had one, they buy it for me. For all the motherly love they shower on me, I know that I have a responsibility towards them too. As age catches up with them and their physical strength wanes, I know that’s when I can show how much I love them. My aunt once asked me what would happen if I got married and settled in another city. Forget what would happen to them; I would be more heartbroken. This is why I want a ghar-jamai!
Obviously they’re loud; they’re Bengalis after all. On the days we go out, I try to dress down to ensure that I won’t be noticed by the public. Trust me, they can be so loud that every pair of eyes in the surrounding will be on us. We will also receive one or two ‘requests’ to lower our voice yet we will not heed. We tend to look like a waddle of confused penguins to the rest of the crowd. These are the people who lose their way to the place they’ve been to at least a thousand times, who will feed you ghee that is brought specially from their favorite store in Kolkata, and who will be by our side even before we realize that we’ve lost a loved one.
When I think about the future, specifically my parents’ retirement, I know I won’t have a say in the decision regarding where they will live. No matter where in the world I am, if it’s not Hyderbad, they won’t live with me. I am their heart but their world is here, amongst our extended family and that doesn’t sadden me at all. Because I know they will spend their old age just like they do today- laughing, eating, drinking, and bringing the roof down.
This is what my world looks like. This is what I do on most Saturdays. This is the most valuable asset I have. And this is the one thing I’ll forever be grateful for.
Check out Amartya and the awesome work he does on Facebook. Thanks for the pictures Amartya!