The family album
God gave us relatives. Thank God! We can choose our friends
It is the most cynical quip to forget family feuds and the most unfortunate during good times. Life sees many a circumstance to take the wisecrack seriously and many a times its existence is forgotten in happy moments and age of innocence.
As I look back almost twenty years, I was the happy four year old who had enjoyed every norm of a joint family; traversed the temple next door with grandpa, watched thathi say her morning prayers, waited for summer vacations to be able to make that cousins union, looked forward to be cosseted by aunts and uncles when amma scolds me – had been everything in the relationships I no longer adhere to and may be don’t belong to.
I sometimes wonder what happens to us as we grow; grow to be independent, grow to be judgmental of our lives and others, grow up beyond ourselves to not understand the happiness when we were four. And slowly, the same aunt and uncle who had every authority to pamper you would no longer interfere in your life. The cousin, who had been your best playmate, is the one you rarely talk to, you would prefer the company of your friends any day. And before you knew, the family tree had grown, strewn over the world map, divergent in thoughts and quests to make a life; had drifted to create hiatuses irreparable.
I am often confronted with requests to make a phone call to that distant cousin living in the same city as me, or the same country, to say a mere unreasoned ‘hello’. My reason to flee these uncomfortable gestures is my sheer ineptness to pursue mundane conversations about nothing with someone, I don’t relate to. I can no longer be the optimistic four year old, who would always think that cousins made best playmates.
At moments like these I often wonder when it had all gone haywire. And would it ever be the four year old bliss again? As I turn pages of the family album, with photographs that preserved the memories, I so wished to understand now; when life was beyond selfishness, beyond “having a social life”, beyond making decisions, beyond being rebellious. And there it was the whole family picture, together a million (read as: twenty) years ago, a several cousins I have not seen in years and a numerous others I have not spoken for ages, not due to lack of time or resource, but intention.
We had all in circumstance and pace of life, forgotten what it had been like to be fed by patti, to have slept in the lined up bedspreads, climbed the guava trees and fought for the most red fruit, swung the atukatil so hard like it was the end of life. We had in course of time, forgotten to share, to love, to care and live together.
They say “we are our relationships”; but then without these relationships, who are we?