before aunty

Spiderman 3 scene: Spidey guy is sitting lonely at his house, when his old lady knocks at his door. She comes in and sits for a chat. She mentions, “When we spoke on the phone, you sounded a little disturbed. So I thought I’d just come by.” And they chat about Mary Jane. “Did you ever propose?” she asks. He gives her back the ring she had given him for the wife, and says he isn’t ready to put the wife before himself to become a good husband. She returns it saying, “I trust you Peter. You’re a good person. I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it right.” Then she leaves the ring on the table and says, “In time,” and bids goodbye.

Now this scene, if it was done in India, it would have been much different. The lady would have come over screaming his name, “Pappu, what in god’s name do you think you are doing? Why don’t you call me? Am I no longer your family anymore?” And after a lot of such over-emotional pleasantries would come the real question, “Are you still dating that girl? Look what she did to you. Oh my poor boy! Forget her; she’s not even from our caste. I’ll find you a better girl. A richer, bustier, coyer and more obedient girl who will cook nice food and deliver you healthy and beautiful children!” In a matter of seconds, she’d mention a hundred eligible girls and forget about the fact that she had just ‘dropped by’ to meet him and not to lecture. The guy, tired of the masi, chachi, kaki or whatever he called her would say, “Oh please (as applicable), I don’t want to marry now, I have to take care of the world.” And she’d say, “Oi bhaad mein jaye tera world. Chal ghar chal. Tum bachche aaj kal badon ka kehna maante hi nahi ho. Taang todungi tab pata chalega.”

after aunty

And the poor guy would accompany her to a gaudy wedding and speak to chicks who’d be half as charming as his lady love and still appear humble and polite.

You see, the Indian scene of love and marriage is quite an interesting phenomenon actually. An Assamese friend of mine was dumped by the folks of his Punjabi girlfriend and the lady love complied with them and left him. He grieved the loss for months, chatting with me for counsel. A few days ago, he found another chick and guess what, she was Punjabi. Yeah people generally go back to the same preferences over and over again. I suppose they even have a term in the marketing jargon, to explain consumer behaviour. Anyway, so I was saying, his girl’s folks perhaps said, “He is not from our caste and community. Forget him, we’ll find you a richer guy with more petrol pumps and khet khaliyan than your guy can ever imagine,” and swooped their daughter away. It comes by nature of a race, for not just parents, but the entire extended family, relatives, their relatives and friends to interfere in the affairs; and I mean “affairs” proper, of two individuals. It’s just Indian. Sometimes perhaps, this genetic tendency comes in handy when you’re emotionally broke and much tired of crying your eyes out, but sometimes when you actually need your own space to reflect where you have gone wrong, you’d wish you could vanish and go to some cave at the end of the world to rest in peace. No I don’t mean ‘die’, but generally, just rest, in peace.

We Indians don’t have the word ‘lonely’ in our dictionary. If we are geographically lonely (read: settled elsewhere other than hometown), we aren’t mentally lonely. Phone calls of ‘khana khaya?’, ‘tabiyat thik hai?’s keep giving us company. That makes me wonder. Here’d be no ‘lonely trekker’ as in Discovery channel. Ours would probably be called The Picnickers, because obviously that’d involve whole families. Add to that, everybody knows everything about everybody else. Everything is graphically detailed and you don’t really leave anything to be understood. In fact, drop a hint and next thing you know, the whole neighbourhood knows what was perhaps just a Freudian slip. You can even do the ‘do aur do chaar’ and understand the reason why social networking sites have such frantic fan following here in India. If anywhere else it’s used more for professional networking, I’m sure out here, it is used for the youknowhats of the people and society. In fact the whole business of youknowhat is so seriously taken, that there are whole channels broadcasting daily soaps on that, and a greatly flourishing industry of actors who do 30-60 shifts acting out such roles, getting salaries and awards for that.

In an upshot, Indians are garrulous people, nosey in their own might and concerned about the kin with every ounce of the body. For good or bad, you will always have someone hanging around you to give you company or ask silly questions and advise you whether you want to hear it or not. The only and major plus point of this is that – you never feel left out or lonely enough to commit suicide; at least not until it’s been too much. And even for a suicide, you have to be rather alone. Tough chance, eh? You see, it’s not courtesy to leave an Indian lonely. Privacy, let’s face it, isn’t really our forte. Somewhere down the line, we all like to be mobbed and chatted up with. It’s just that you get to choose your company nowadays, because you move out of cosy homes to work in faraway cities and make friends with strangers.

But invariably you do visit home and make those unending social visits and respond to questions like, “Oh living alone in a metro. Must be expensive huh! How much do you earn? Haven’t you married yet? Oh god! Why?” Duh! It happens only in India and we so know how to answer or avert such remarks. “Yeah hello (over the phone), yeah just a sec… Aunty excuse me,” and you save the evening!


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