We are united not only by our love of spicy food, cricket and movies, but also by the fact that many of us are parenting our parents
BRUNCH Updated: Feb 17, 2018 22:23 IST
I was thinking of this during a family get-together. I live in a large rambling joint family full of chewing-challenged elders who disdain dentures and own up to their gastric sounds without guilt or explanation. Each of them is a character, indeed a weirdo, and I say this with admiration.
As ideas and language get more specialised, how do we communicate between generations?
So I persisted. “Not about weddings or babies,” I said. “Something that you have learned and would like to pass on to your children and grandchildren.”
They all gazed at me in that distracted, vaguely dismissive fashion of folks who have seen Partition, Independence and the
Depression, but prefer to focus on more immediate concerns like if there was enough butter in the pav, and too much tamarind in the sambar.
“What’s your killer app?” I burst out finally. “Your life lesson?”
“What’s a killer app?” asked my mother-in-law.
“It is something that can solve all problems.”
“Oh, like an ottan-mooli,” said my dad, alluding to a Malayalam phrase I didn’t know. “One medicine that can heal many diseases.”
“Can it heal piles?” inquired an uncle.
“No, if you take a kashayam (decoction) of cinnamon and dates, you can cure not just piles but a gallstone too,” said an uncle.
“Didn’t Subbu have a gallstone?”
The joke’s on you
I felt like clapping my hands and shouting, “Silence or stand up on the bench.” I needed a drink.
“Please,” I pleaded. “Can we focus on the issue here? I need you to advise the children on some life skill. Like building a habit or learning an instrument. Something. Anything.”
There was only a minute or two left before these geriatrics would accost me with questions about how to poke someone on Facebook, or save some silly fire-bursting emailed greeting on their computers for repeated watching combined with stomach-shaking laughter, or bug me about finding a video in which an elephant rolls over on the ground. They were a pain, my relatives and like much of India, I am surrounded by them.
What unites today’s India besides a love of spicy food, film songs, cricket and big fat weddings? I would say that many of us are parenting our parents – and an assortment of uncles, aunts, and random elders whose children live beyond our shores. It is equal parts frustration and comedy livened with moments of tenderness that borders on the sublime.
(This fortnightly column addresses the issue of parenting our parents, an integral part of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)
From HT Brunch, February 18, 2018
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