To quote George Burns “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city”. I could not agree more.
Last year around Christmas, I was alone and bored. For want of better things to do, I decided to forgo the usual text and Whatsapp forwards and call up all my relatives listed on my Phonebook instead. Yup. That sure was a first.
We have a pretty large family, or so it seems to me, because every time someone decided to get married, I’d be standing clueless at the reception as my mother introduced a multitude of strangers in what I always perceive to be gibberish, along the lines of ‘..and this is your grandfather’s nephew’s son-in-law’s maternal aunt who also happens to be your great aunt’s husband’s paternal niece.’ Needless to say I’d lose her at grandfather and smile vaguely through the rest, hoping to never come across that particular person again. But the problem with huge families is that someone or the other keeps getting engaged or married or having babies and you are expected to be there every single time, and I’d keep meeting the same strangers over and over till I realized with finality that I’ve a better chance of learning to name the 101 dalmatians.
Now, for the record, I am not known to be good with words (socially accepted small talk/gossip, if you may) and all I ever did at these parties was stand around and smile amicably, and laugh appropriately if someone happened to crack a sad joke. On paper, sure I can survive, and yes with my handpicked wacky friends too, but conversations with regular folks have always been a nightmare that I never venture into consciously (much like normal nightmares I guess). They don’t take to sarcasm as well as one would hope. Forget outer space, I’m yet to find intelligent life in my family. Therefore social events are dreaded in general and unexpected visitors sometimes have me running for cover. I am not proud to state that on innumerable occasions I’ve hidden in my room just so the darned person would grow tired of ringing the bell and leave. So no, not a people person.
Hence proved that my decision to call everyone was actually a mighty brave one, and something no one saw coming. I’m not joking. You’d know what it entitled when I tell you that when my mom came to know of the affair, she woke me up in the middle of the night to check on my mental status. “Are you sure you’re alright?? Perhaps you hit your head somewhere?” Okay now I’m joking. She didn’t really ask me, she was already utterly convinced that her only daughter went cuckoo under work stress.
So I picked up my phone and started dialling numbers that I did not even know existed on it. In alphabetical order so as not to miss anyone, and obviously also because I did not care to have favourites . I mentally went over plan B (short for Bail) which I had hatched for when the experiment backfired – “hello?? Can you…? I was just… *scratchy sounds*.. heloo? CLICK.”
The response I got on every call was fright, confusion, surprise and warmth, in that order. Every time. “My dear, whatever happened?? (sounding ready to be appalled, with some tears to spare) Yes, so it IS Christmas and all.. *puzzled pause* Awwww… Merry Christmas to you sweetie.. How are things with you? *smile smile smile chatter chatter*.
I started getting the hang of it after a while. And my, how pleasant they can be when surprised thus! It turned out relatives are not all that nauseating when they don’t meet you in person. I mean, there is no way they can disapprove of your new hairdo when they can’t really see it. My theory is that they google Top Ten Annoying Stuff To Tell Your Niece prior to every preplanned social gathering so they can comment on all aspects of my existence ranging from unhealthy physique to marital status. Now that I caught them off guard, no such atrocity ensued. The talks were enlightening to say the least. All of them were quite delighted that I wished to communicate of my own free will and I was delighted in turn to realize that none of them knew ANYTHING about me. Apparently I am studious, ambitious and god fearing, not to mention a role model for the younger generation. I disagreed adequately of course (successfully adding humility to the list), thankful that none of them ever visited me in college or knows anyone else who went there.
Christmas is a magical time indeed. I survived the whole Contacts list unscathed and, better still, with a much greater self esteem than when I started out. The whole family thing is not over rated after all. Who else will play into your charades so readily and support your non-existent endeavors? Not the shrink definitely. The sole trick is to maintain adequate distance at all times. So these days when I get depressed, I skip the Suicide Hotline and call an aunt.