Yes, this is in dedication to the big fat clan I belong to...
The Arora battalion as I like to fondly call them!
I hail from a very widely spread out family tree...whose roots and branches are hell bent on spreading in as far a direction as would be physically possible for them.
Often people ask me...So how many people are there in your in-laws? And I say...you name an in-law that should be and surely would a hand be raised to mark present!
If I got you baffled here...just imagine a typical Sooraj Barjatya flick with an over the top family saga and endless characters taking up the screen space....You’d get a picture of things in my humble abode...only a bit doubled for the members in line here go on and on and on...
After my wedding I even jokingly asked our chaiji, my father-in-law’s mother... ‘Aapke zamaane mein family planning nahi hote the na?’ And hey, we better not come in the eyes of the population control board...else taxes and fines would drown us in their mammoth proportions.
I remember the time I had just got engaged to my dearly beloved. Just before putting a tick mark on me by the ‘boy’...there had to be a preview of the ‘girl’ from the boy’s side. So there, a meeting was arranged in a temple ground and my mom, me and a family friend who got the negotiations started, waited there under the shade of a tree with bated breath...to let them come and the on-the-display ceremony to commence. A big car came to a screeching halt, followed by another car not so big. I was wondering if a police escort system it is, when there emerged a seasoned smart lady, followed by another and then yet another and ho!ho!...another still! A pretty young thing came out next and then another and another and more galore! Made me wonder how just two cars could have possibly upheld so many people or did they sit on each other’s laps and came!
Oh my good god! The whole jing bang had come to inspect whether the proposed new entrant in the family was good enough or not.
I looked here and I looked there...anywhere I looked, a specimen of the Arora battalion smiled sheepishly at me and I smiled back. The introductions came about followed by.... what have you studied beta n what do you like to do in your free time...crap...!
Yes, they still ask these questions to the young brides to be....! Thank god for small mercies, I didn’t have to bring in a tray of tea and enumerate which all snacks I had made and whether the tea cosy was hand embroidered by ‘moi’.... But then, soon after this they lost interest in me and a bitching and gossiping session went under way against those unfortunate members who were not present there at that time....I understood... ‘Kya family hain!’
Anyways, I passed the litmus test...and also finally the boy-meeting-the-girl- test with flying colours because my dearly beloved says he was hooked at first sight. The ‘rooka’ ceremony soon came by and lo! More members and more introductions...I was almost tempted to check the closets to ascertain if there were more of them hiding in there because they kept tumbling out at astonishingly regular intervals. Beta, yeh hain bade papa, yeh chote papa, yeh Abc papa, yeh Cde papa and more papas and chachas and tayajis and buas and masis and mamis all with their better and worse halves mind you along with an endless list of cousins popping out and asking... bhabhi, you remember me don’t you? Ya sure, I would say...you are the cute one, you are the intelligent one...you are the sweet one...because honest to goodness, I would be damned if I said I remembered their names.
After that was the toe touching ritual....I was pleading to god in my mind...Why can’t they all just stand in a line so in one breath I go about touching everyone’s feet?....I mean, I had to bend and then stand, bend again and straighten up...hold the neck of my kurta from sinking dangerously low and then bend again. I truly believe that severe back aches in women are an indirect outcome of the toe touching rituals that they are subjected too....
Anyways, the next meeting with my dearly beloved, I went all armed to face the crisis...a big art sheet, a pencil and a rubber. I drew a big tree and then a flowchart of the members with offspring and their off springs and any other extensions I should know of. All names neatly written and relations enumerated for me to go home and mug up! And here I had thought my education days were over! My father- in-law has four real brothers and a sister and then a cartload of his chachas and cousins...whom I don’t think I would be able to humanly recognize and categorize even now or ever in this birth!
So like this, a nuclear family girl got entry into a big household, thronged with people of all shapes and sizes, egos and magnanimities, sweetness and sourness...
And boy what a ride it has been...!
Each one here has welcomed me with such open arms in their existing fabrics that I have never felt that I didn’t belong here in the first place. Being the youngest I feel so overwhelmed when everyone pampers me to the hilt...all my eccentricities are ignored and whims upheld...everyone just goes out of their way to show how much they care...And the children of the house are an absolute pleasure to interact with and all of us extend our memberships to the mutual admiration societies that we have formed. When the whole clan gets together...the guffaws can be heard till miles down the street and the dirtiest of minds were all born and nurtured here. Oh God! I must have done something right to deserve this and hope and pray that I and they continue to do so!