My husband, our daughter and I went, for a few days, to visit our families back in India. This has become an unsaid protocol, a yearly visit to India – Bangalore. We met my family and my husband’s family, both in Bangalore. Needless to say, days were hectic. Our schedule was jam-packed with places to visit, weddings to attend, relatives to meet, food to eat and things to buy. There was never a dull moment.
While in Bangalore, my husband and I woke up everyday with great enthusiasm and smile on face. Headaches were snubbed by popping pills; acidity by drinking a cup of homemade tonic. My daughter, all of four now, was equally energetic. There were days when she managed with just 6-8 hours of sleep and no afternoon nap. She ate all her vegetables without much nagging from me. She was even ready to let go of her daily rendezvous with her best friend Mickey mouse in his clubhouse!
“You guys! Move back to Bangalore” was the common tune of everyone in family, as if they all were conspiring to persuade us at any cost this time! They had a list of benefits already worked out for us. Kiddo will bond even better with grandparents and her cousins – the common reasoning. That she will learn our values, tradition and culture even better was another motivation. To aid their conspiracy, suddenly my kiddo knew all the names and relations of our divine Gods “Ganesha is the son of Shiva”.
Time flew without much fuss in Bangalore. Kiddo was showered with lots of gifts; her toys in 15 days grew more than the toys she had collected over last one year. I do not disagree with any of the above reasoning. Yes, kiddo might bond better with our relatives. She might soon know the significance of all our festivals. She might even memorize our family tree by the end of a month. Just in fifteen days her limited vocabulary in our mother tongue had grown by ten fold.
There are many advantages of staying away from family too. Kids get more independent and responsible while growing up in a nuclear family, away from extended family. There will be no grand parents to fall back to. There will be no aunties and uncles to pamper and do all kid’s work behind us. Probably, the biggest advantage is the exposure to a foreign culture and language. They grow up to be more broad-minded and tolerant of other religions. Kids observe and learn the lifestyle and practices of a new culture and their own culture and in the process become more flexible.
I am not sure towards which side the scale tips more. We all have choices to make a decision. To gain something we often have to lose something. But I am sure that kids don’t have to be taught who loves them and who their well-wishers are. We didn’t have to tell our kiddo about our extended family. She already knew, somehow, that they were an extension to our family of three (well four, my kiddo insists to add our dog to family count). We are away from family for a purpose. You can call it as career or commitment. Kiddo is slowly but surely forming a bond with her cousins, grannies, aunties and uncles. And with time, this bond will only get better. I end with that hope.
Divya Rao is a mother to a 4 yr old bundle of joy. She has one eye set on growing her career and the other watching and enjoying her little one grow up.