Sep 12, 2014

Nostalgia and hope

Let me first tell you that I am no fan of daily soaps on the television. But while helping my little daughter with her lunch, which takes really long, I feel the need to watch something and keep myself occupied to that I don't get impatient with my tiny little girl.

And watching Mahabharata at that time (1.30 to 2 in the afternoon) was really good. I remember having seen another version of Mahabharata on TV many years back, but I liked this one because it somehow seems more relevant in the present times, as there was a lot of stress on women-related issues, or maybe I just understood it better, thanks to my age!

However, Mahabharata came to an end and now there is another daily soap in the same time slot, called "Nisha aur Uske Cousins". It tells the story of a Jain family in Jaipur, and how these modern, boisterous bunch of seven cousins carry out their mischiefs and escapades in a joint family of three generations.

The show quite reminds me of my childhood. I have a huge group of cousins and have enjoyed some of the best times of my life with them. My father, the oldest son in his family,  had eight younger brother and sisters  and he made it a point that he stayed attached to his roots and his family. That is what brought us close to our cousins and extended family members.

Though I was not essentially in a joint family, we did experience the joint family life to a large extent. That is because we travelled to our native town in U.P. every year in summer holidays and our maternal house in Madhya Pradesh every Durga Puja vacation, even if it meant travelling in second class coaches of Indian Railways, which had dirty toilets and fans which did not function.

It took a good four to five hours to reach Howrah from our town Haldia via road or local trains. We even covered some distance on 'launches', motor-driven passenger boats, which we could get on only after walking on dangerously thin planks of wood, which had just enough space to keep one foot at a time!

From Howrah, we would get into trains and reach our destination after spending more than a day and night in the train.How we enjoyed those journeys- buying all tidbits from vendors who passed by, drinking tea from kulhars, having that 'pepsi' once in a while! And we read books and played ludo or just slept, climbing to the upper berths in the train.

We were always given a huge welcome- some of the family members would invariably be at the station and when we reached home in rickshaws, we received the warmest of hugs, though we would be stinking like hell!

During vacations, our huge gang enjoyed playing together, eating together, we quarrelled and we made up, we hit each other and cried, we hugged each other and cried, we laughed and we joked, we cycled and we ran- it was one huge party. When the vacations would get over, we would return to Haldia with a heavy heart. During the rest of the year, we wrote letters and sent cards to our cousins, keeping them posted about our lives.

Those visits became less frequent as we grew up and then most of us got married. (There are many to go, yet! Remember, I told you what a huge family it is!) Now we get to meet only during family functions like weddings. Whenever I tell my son about my cousins, he is amazed at the number of mamas and masis he has, and always tells me....'you are so lucky ma!'

Amidst all this nostalgia, I am forced to think that ok, I don't get to meet my cousins that often because we are all busy with our lives....but what about my children? Why don't they get to meet their cousins? In fact, my son knows more about his friends than his cousins.

Isn't it my responsibility to stay attached to my roots and ensure that my children also enjoy that camaraderie and warmth that I enjoyed as a child? Now when we can afford to travel in a much better way than those filthy trains, what is it that keeps us away from our family? Why have I got so lost in my daily grind?

And I am unable to find any believable answer. Though I did not have any expensive gadgets as a child, I had a rich life, enriched with love, care and warmth of my huge family. But in my quest of giving my children a life that is 'better than mine' am I really able to do that? Is their life really better than mine?

Whatever the answer to that may be, I know what I need to do. And I hope I shall be able to do it soon. I hope I shall be able to take my kids to their grandparents' house frequently so that when they grow up, they will have funny incidents of their own to narrate to their kids!


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