Being Indian


A little belated,but wanted to put down this lovely memory to reminisce about later on

My veliacchan and veliamma( chacha and chachi) , their 2 sons with their families  decided to celebrate Onam in Bangalore at my parents place this year. So my Dad’s younger brother(appan) and his wife(cheriamma )and their 2 sons also decided to join the celebrations.My parents had also invited my in-laws and my sister’s mother-in-law this year for Onam.

How did it become a celebration of national integration?

My dad’s younger brother wife (cheriamma) is a Tulu speaking Mangalorean. Her sister and her husband also decided to join us for Onam this year.

My brother-in-law(sister’s hubby) is an Kannada+ tamil speaking Iyengar. My sister’s MIL K aunty came along with her sister. K aunty decided to add yummy Vangi bath to the traditional Onam Sadhya. So while the there was the Paladda paysam bubbling away on one stove, all the ladies were standing around learning to make Vangi Bath from K Aunty at the other stove.

My in-laws are originally Rajputs, but their ancestors migrated to Tenali(in Andhra) generations back. So they speak Hindi at home, but they follow the customs,food habits and festivals of Andhra. My MIL’s brother,wife and his in-laws who are from Tirupathi were visiting us and so they all decided to join the Onam celebrations at my parents place.

My sister, BIL and my niece could not make it for the afternoon Onam Sadhya,but they joined the celebrations later in the night.

BB had a blast with my cousin’s little daughter A and later on with my niece N. He almost smothered A with his love and affection.

The simple pookalam was completely the handiwork of BB and his cousin A.

When PP sent out a mail to some of our very close friends announcing the release of his book, we got a reply from a very very good friend U who commented that she liked PP’s reason for writing the book . She also mischievously asked if dancing around treeswith  his girlfriend(currently his wife and yours sincerely)  was another good reason for planting trees. We both laughed at this comment and let is pass.

But the thought stayed on in my head and I chuckled as I imagined both of us romancing, running and dancing around trees in true Bollywood ishtyle .Got to say that this is old bollywood ishtyle. Nowadays Bollywood heroes and heroines are too busy doing item numbers or romancing in phirang locales or on beaches.But I digress. Lets go back to the image in my head of the romancing  under the canopy of huge flowering trees with the tree gently showering us with flowers as we dance around it .But knowing my tree crazy hubby too well, my imagination also decided to get real and practical.The cozy,romantic picture soon blurred to be replaced by a image of the hubby abruptly letting go of my hand and running and hugging a tree instead like his life depended on it.

Being married to a tree hugger for 7.5 years has warped even my sense of imagination.

🙄

Sometimes BB stands at the gate and calls out to passers-by on the street. He neatly classifies them into  Onties, Unkuns, Didis, Bhaiyas, Dadas and Dadis based on their age. Even the old beggar lady at the traffic junction is addressed very respectfully as Dadi.The characters from his rhymes picture books are also addressed in a similar fashion; so we have Jack Bhaiya and Jill Didi, Muppet Didi( Little Miss Muffet) and the Black sheep who goes Baa Baa has a one bag of wool each for the Unkun, Onty and the Bhaiya.And even the little plastic figures fixed to the driver’s seat in his cars/jeeps/tractors are addressed as driver uncles.

When I think back, I remember consciously  addressing all the older kids that he meets as Didi and Bhaiya ( I started doing that because one kid who is about 10 months older than BB insisted that BB calls him ‘Anna'( elder brother in Kannada)!). But I don’t remember consciously addressing all the adults he meets as uncles/aunties.But it looks like we were  unconsciously pointing out the adults as aunties and uncles.Thats when I started wondering about the Indian obsession with uncles and aunties. I mean where else in the world would one address a random stranger on the road who will continue to be a stranger after the very brief conversation ( be it asking for directions, asking for the time or something just as humdrum) as an aunt or an uncle?

And this takes me back to my childhood days when the aunty and uncle business started. Indian kids growing up in the metros and the small towns grow up addressing their whole neighbourhood as aunties and uncles  for years together sometimes without a clue to the addressed person’s real names. And to differentiate between the unnamed aunties/uncles, we would sometimes prefix aunty/uncle with anything unique to them. Their uniqueness could be their profession, the state they originated from or some feature/characteristic that stood out. So in our neighbourhood we had a Nurse Aunty, a Kashmiri Uncle ( and obviously his wife was the Kashmiri Aunty), an All India Radio Aunty( the loud gossip monger),the cup and saucer house uncle and aunty ( you wont believe this, but their house had a cup and saucer shaped tank that was visible from far off and so the name just stuck) ,the backhouse uncle and aunty ( yes this couple were our back door neighbours and to this day we call this lady backhouse aunty to her face!) and the most unusual one of them all the char sau bhis aunty.( this was the lady who stayed 2 houses away from my friend’s house who stayed in house # 422 ;)). Over the years, we did learn the names of most of these uncles and aunts, but their unique names just stayed on long past our childhood days and when we visit my parents now, my son addresses the back door neighbour as backhouse ajji( granny).Another category of aunties and uncles were the parents of our friends. We didn’t really need to know our friends parents names.They were addressed as aunty/uncle and when talking about them in the third person,they were just referred to as U’s mom or R’ s dad. To this day, I don’t know the names of  the parents of some of my closest friends.

We Indians  take our uncle and aunty business quite seriously( atleast the neighbourhood ones and not the random stranger ones). For couples like my parents who left behind their kith and kin in Kerala to take up jobs in far off Bangalore, these neighbour kith and kin were the closest to the real ones left behind. The relatives from Kerala and the real uncles and aunts  settled in other parts of India could not always make it for all the functions/celebrations held in Bangalore, but  I cannot  remember a birthday party, naming ceremony,engagement or wedding which were not graced by the neighbour aunties, uncles and their kids.

I also learnt to appreciate the warmth behind the uncle/aunty business some years back. My friend U who lives in the US was visiting her mom in Bangalore and her American colleague and her boyfriend who were also visiting India decided to spend a couple of days at U’s mom’s place. This American couple were about 5-6  years older than us and I was shocked when I heard them address U’s mom by her first name. I was tempted to correct them every time they called her by her name and ask them to please call her aunty as that’s the way the elderly are addressed in our country, but then realized that its such an Indian thing that would not be fully appreciated by the Americans.

So the next time BB calls out to the random strangers on the road and addresses them as ‘Unkun’ or ‘Onty’, I will glad that some things have not changed since the time we were kids.