My aunt, a strong, awesome matriarch (probably not technically, but I have no other way to explain what she means to the family) has been unwell for a while and that was as good reason as any, for a family reunion. So I got on to an Air Asia flight to spend Christmas in Calcutta – the way I did in the old, old days when McDonald’s and malls, branded clothes and “English songs” were things that I truly aspired for. College, education, and a degree in engineering came as an afterthought. I digress. So I reached Calcutta on a wintry Christmas evening. Welcomed by the favourite brothers and the favourite nieces. A niece who I will always remember as the baby who used to pretend I was a horse – at 2 am every night! She was 2 then, I was almost a teenager and hence very worldly wise. Today she is 18, aspiring for the same things I aspired for when I was her age. She is looking for worldly wisdom, and I am trying my best to avoid it.
My brothers, my best friends, my confidantes, and the hunks who swayed to Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Govinda. And had the courage to be, in my conservative small town, fun and studly! My brothers, who are suddenly grown men, have kids, responsibilities, wives, and jobs. And are still fun!
The baby nieces who with their poise and style, determination and awesomeness, promise to grow into women I will be proud to have seen growing. Somewhat seen growing. From a distance, on Facebook, in occasional family reunions. My nieces who dance like there is no tomorrow and have maintained the fun quotient that comes from shared jokes and hereditary quirks. My nephew, who at 13, is more gentlemanly than many others can hope for at 53. My nephew, who unlike most of us who come from where I do, wants to be a footballer.
My bhabhis who never fail to surprise me. Secure, polite, awesome women, these. I may be a bit of a black sheep when I say this but my brothers are lucky to have known, loved, and shared their lives with these women. Women who have become a part of this heritage of madness and quirkiness so effortlessly.
The grand old patriarchs – the aunt and the uncle. With whom I disagree so vehemently on most things and yet I aspire to be like them. In ways that I have the right to choose. The patriarchs that define free spirit, love, and giving. As non conformist as they come, and yet in so many ways, traditional to a fault.
And my mum, who was a staunch believer of never saying good things about one’s kids in public to avoid spoiling them, is suddenly so proud of me and so vocal about it, that it embarrasses me. My mum, my best friend, the one who knows the secrets, keeps them to herself, and makes me more proud than I thought was possible.
4 days of insanity, 4 days of endless discussions and a lot of laughter, care, food, and giving (and a LOT of taking), 4 days of disagreements, staunch beliefs, unwillingness to change without realizing that in the flash of what seemed like a moment, everything has changed and yet nothing has. Thank God for it.
Oh and I forget. I was welcomed with a bouquet of flowers and so many smiles. Sometimes that is all it takes to know that no matter how far you go, there will always be that one place where you will belong from the word go. I will not lie to you, I had my fair share of panic attacks about this trip. I remembered the quirkiness, the judgments we made, and how I have become a bit like the kind of people we judged together as a family. But then I saw them, saw the evolution in them but mostly I saw acceptance. And I knew that if there ever was a family I would like to return to every few years, this was it. This, right here, is my past. And guess what, I never knew how insanely proud it makes me. Quirky, yes. Traditional, you bet! Evolved, in a lot of ways yes. Fun? Hell yeah!
What better way could I possibly have to end a year of changes by going a bit in rewind mode and then retuning home to my world of peace and quiet, beer and music, partying and sloth, friendship and camaraderie, and work and worldly responsibilities. I am suddenly so full of gratitude and longing, and the knowledge that I have pretty much lost my ability to be judgmental or hold grudges. I suddenly feel better prepared to hit the 30s and the new year with all that I have.