2019: Three Hundred and Five

I’ve had a very happy day.

My maternal grandmother’s sister and her husband spent the night with us. This morning, we woke up and went to eat masala dosas at a place near our house. While the dosas were excellent, I don’t think I appreciated them as much as what we did once we got back home. We had an hour to kill before they had to leave, so we sat and chatted. While chatting could have taken several forms, a sense of nostalgia ended up becoming the theme of that gathering. Everyone in my family is an excellent storyteller. I’ve been regaled by their tales when I was a child. Larger-than-life characters who make some difficult choices, all of whom have lovely family backgrounds and loving parents – most stories used to allow me to idolize the protagonist, without much plot progression occurring before I dozed off to sleep. Today’s stories though, were all real. I’m not too well-connected with my mega-family (the extended ones), and as a result, there are so many people I just don’t know much about, other than their names or faces (it’s never both). I heard so many stories about them today. The ones that hit the closest to home were about my great grandparents. All four of them. I’ve only met two of them (from my maternal grandmothers’ side), and only recently began prodding my maternal grandfather to tell me stories about his parents – so to hear about them today was very special.

Truth be told, I enjoy these stories because they allow me to live in the past for a few minutes, and experience scenarios I will never get to experience today.

The other truth of this is that I end up missing several people as a result. Today, I missed my chikamma. This is a useful place to explain to you how I “tag” people in my family. I don’t have a system for it. People in my grandparents’ generation are technically my “Ajjis/Tatas”, but some of them are called “Uncle/Aunty”. My mom’s sister is the only person among her generation I call “Chikamma”. Everyone else is called by name. I don’t know why. I think it’s because they were all young when I was growing up. I feel like they only asked that I don’t append this Chikamma business to their names. Except, their spouses are all called “Uncle”/”Aunty” where appropriate. It’s highly confusing, and a system only I understand.

But anyway, this chikamma I missed, A – is someone I’ve always called by name. When I was young and visited Bangalore for my summer breaks, my care was entrusted to a full community. It wasn’t just my welfare and well-being. It was also my entertainment. My grandparents would have gone crazy otherwise. My mom’s cousins were pretty young – all in their mid-late 20’s, I think – and working hours in Bangalore were pretty chill at the time, a proper 9-to-6 type of thing. As a result, A used to come to my grandparents’ place pretty frequently to play with me and keep me entertained. I have a whole host of memories with her. They’re vivid and vague at the same time, but they’re all happy and fuzzy. I can recall being in her care and feeling warm in her presence.  One of my vivid memories is playing with her phone, and goofing around in the lounge area of our Basaveshwaranagar house. My other memory is visiting her and her husband at Electronic City. I usually had trouble with new entrants into the family (I hadn’t grasped at the concept in its entirety), but Uncle made some fab food, took me around this amazing Infosys campus (where they both worked), and gave me a PSP game on loan (which I never returned). In their home, I felt affection, and love.

Today, all of those feelings flooded back to me.

The weird thing is that I spent more time with her when I was in Dubai and visited Bangalore just for the summer breaks, than when we relocated to Bangalore. That’s largely owing to the fact that we lived in Whitefield, but also because, well, we all grew up and got busy with our own lives. Technology should have helped us keep in touch, and I know it has – to the extent that I can pretty much pick up exactly where I left off with most of my relatives, but I was overcome with guilt at the fact that I couldn’t go to her place and tell her how much I missed her and how grateful I was for all the time she spent with me when I was a little baby.

So I wrote her a long, senti message. Just to say thanks. To overcome my guilt though, I know I’m going to work on keeping in touch with my family more. I have some really cool “aunts” and “uncles”, all of whose company and affection I have enjoyed as a child. I need to make sure I’m their favourite nephew, especially given the options they now have. (so many tiny humans)

And then the evening came, where I visited my own second/third cousin, who had recently given birth. I’ve spent a lot of time at their house, and I’ve written about “Akka” and all my memories here. Her daughter is now ten days old. She’s the youngest human being I have had interaction with, and first time I’ve been referred to as “Tejas Mama” (Mama is what Uncles are called). I saw the little one in the care of her Ajji and Tata, and well, it reminded me why I’m so grateful for their warmth and love.

Family is wired so differently to the rest of society. I’m lucky and grateful to be born into one which is unconditionally loving, and unconditionally supportive. Seeing that little girl and hearing all these stories reminded me of that power, and my fortune, and I’m so excited to welcome her into the world. She’ll end up dealing with whatever is in her destiny, but we share a family, so she’ll always have that unconditional love and support to fall back on.

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