About a month or so ago younger brother of my grandfather passed away, I got the information on phone and did not know how to react, while I was very sad at the news, I just could not make myself cry. He was the youngest of 6 sons my great-grandfather had and the last member of the old guard in our family.
I have not been very close to him for many years and would meet him once in a while in some family function and we will just exchange greetings and not much talking.
But this news took me back the memory lane of the first 10 years of my life when we all lived together in two adjacent houses. They were typical old style city houses with rooms being added as sons got married and more kids came in family. As I saw my favourite roof being covered by another room, and there were no stairs to go there, so I used to just jump to the next house where the family of “Kaka”, as we called him, lived.
Between Kaka and Bava (my grandfather) there were 9 sons and daughters, and if my memory serves me right, till the time we lived there we are around 15 cousins of all age groups including son of my cousin aunt who lived with us as his parents lived in a small town. Nobody bothered with our school names and we were Pammi, Cuckoo, CV, Kaku, Boney, Bunty, Pari, Bitto, etc. for each other (None of them is mine).
The leader of this vanar sena was Pammi my feisty cousin who missed no opportunity to bash us to reinforce her authority being the eldest in the gang. She continues to be the leader and was the first in family to declare to her father that she will marry the guy she likes and he need not worry about her marriage. We all cheered for her from the sidelines as her dad fumed and pledged to never talk to her.
Well, as they say all is well that ends well, today she is a mother of 2 beautiful kids. As for my uncle, he claims he thinks his son-in-law is the best thing since sliced bread. I think my ability to take orders from women and an inherent fear of women in authority (read my wife) comes from all those thrashings Pammi gave me in my childhood. You see bullying is bad as a concept was not known to her or to me in those days.
At some point of time there were 3 kitchens in the family one in my grandfather’s house and 2 in Kaka’s house. But the separate kitchens were only for the adults, we Vanars were free to eat wherever we thought the best meal has been cooked. This led to funny situations sometimes, I remember my mother once making some yummy chicken and all the cousins invited themselves to try it out and even before the adults could come to eat there was nothing left.
One of my Chachoo (uncle) had to go to a nearby dhaba to bring some more food for the rest of the family. This was lesser of the problem, the bigger problem was one of my aunt has just started following some guru and had pledged to stay off meat. Imagine her horror when her son told her that his tummy was already full with chicken made by badee ma, as my mother is called even today in my extended family.
When I was about ten my father moved to another city and we will visited them only during summer vacations, that too only for a few days. Slowly, some of the other cousins also moved to different cities or within the city. The locality became a commercial hub and the houses were converted to commercial property with all of my uncles moving to far-flung corners of the metropolis or to other cities.
Time and distance have made us strangers. Last time, I met some of my cousins who were born after we moved out, I could not even recognise them. My own kids meet their cousins once every year or so, but thanks to technology they get to talk to each other more often. For last 2 years we have been avoiding going to Delhi because of intense heat, power cuts, etc. but this year the kids are missing their grandparents and are looking forward to a visit to meet them as well as a toddler cousin they have only seen in photos.
I am also looking forward to meet some of my cousins after a long time and hopefully they will be equally happy to see me.
Sasha and Prasad Np are proud parents of 2 girls whom they fondly call Princess and Pinkette. He wears many hats after taking a break from being corner office critter for a long time. He is now an entrepreneur, blogger, photographer, traveler and a potential investor in start-ups with unique concepts especially if they are in travel related business. He blogs at Desi Traveler, and can be reached at Facebook and Twitter.