Monday, April 25, 2016

Papa and Siblings

I'm writing this out at the start of a work day. It could be because of a story on this American life I heard about an imminent death in some other family. It could be because, though I've been in the same country as my parents, I haven't had a chance to stay with them for more than a total of five days. The feeling of being with family is dearer to me than all parties and thrills of flirtation put together. With Amma, Papa and Noshi there is a sense of predictability that comes from familiarity. I know how much to say and when to be quiet. I know the jokes that Papa will appreciate and ones Noshi will. Listening to Amma gives me a sense of purpose in itself. It doesn't look like anyone else ever does. The predictability was the monotony I wanted to run away from when college began. I seek it now. Though we talk on the phone everyday, it's less than satisfying.
I think of how Papa and his siblings hangout when we get together at weddings. Papa is the middle child. An elder sister and brother followed by a younger brother and sister. The youngest sister, my aunt Baby Bua, passed away decade ago. Each of these people have influenced all of their lives. For instance, Daadi, my grandmother was called Baai Sahab or Amma until Baby Bua came along. She came along a full decade after Badi Bua, Papa's eldest sister.  Until she could speak, Daadi's reference was never contested. It was accepted the way they were taught. In comes Baby Bua calling Daadi, Mummy. After how many ever years, specially for Badi Bua, Daadi became Mummy. While people may say there's little to a name, at a certain emotional proximity, a name means almost as much as the person themself. My aunts and uncles were clearly close enough to accept that change of their own mother's reference by this this tiny child who I imagine was the centre of their lives and the household. I see how close they were when they talk about each other.
The most recent example was my cousin's wedding last year. Papa, the uncles and aunts would sit together over tea. Them being the elders, us kids, even if over forty take on an audience's role in reverence. The tone is set by Badi Bua, the matriarch. Tauji, Papa's elder brother chimes in very artful and charming oratory and imagery with some substance, maybe. Chacha, Papa's younger brother tries to outcompete all of them with more street, less artful conversation, but never satisfied that he won. Everyone knows they and only they, are right. Papa sits there absorbing the scene, occasionally throwing in a brilliant but silly joke. An undertone of detached futility and pointlessness of existence and the universe bases it all. Broken into smaller groups, Papa is happiest listening to Tauji. Papa has seen more of the world, geographically than Tauji. Tauji has had the less sheltered, self employed life, Papa hasn't. Tauji resents a lot in life. All of that is forgotten when they're together, perfectly happy to sit together and shoot the breeze.
I can see how Papa's thought process and outlook on life are pretty much Badi Bua's. Papa lived a single life away from home. I feel that he has fit his observations and experiences into her thought process. Unlike Papa, whose approach is somewhat "Que Sera Sera" to life from events as small as grocery shopping to as big as getting a Fellowship after retirement, Badi Bua plans out every detail in life. Maybe her early marriage and zest to provide and care for everyone she knows has something to do with it. I guess the stakes are high when you need to make sure the lives of patients, your children and family back home depend on you.
Chacha, in my mind, has survived and lived up all his life. Finances never held him back, whether they were there or not. I think he likes being with the siblings, but has forever resented not being taken seriously enough, as the younger of many siblings are wont to. Frankly, Badi Bua, Tauji and Papa always struck respectable figures to Noshi and I. We are perpetually bewildered at how Papa loves Chacha so much. He tells us something that I'm beginning to appreciate: "No matter what happens, he is my brother."
Whatever the history behind the dynamics between them, their dynamic as a group with others is distinct. When faced with having to interact with others, even distant family members and not necessarily strangers, they tend to clump together and move to the periphery of the gathering. I think of this is terms of solutes and solvents. We know how salts dissolve in the medium of water and are termed hydrophilic. We know how fats don't dissolve in the medium of water and are termed hydrophobic. Different fats that don't mix will clump together in water though. In a similar manner, this bunch of siblings I think, is sociophobic. Preferred mingling if you think of it that way. Among themselves they're tight and tighter still when around others.
Surely, this post is an introspective monologue and could be more structured, nuanced and entertaining. But it had to come out in some form, even if this is it. Maybe I'll write a book some day :D

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