Being born as human we are immediately set out for a life measured by societal standard. The education on this massively vast subject starts early in childhood. No matter how boring Mimi Aunty’s talk about her maid’s shenanigans, I was not allowed to show any sign of disinterest. I was brought to believe that it was impolite to interrupt people, especially elders, when they were in a sermonizing mode. Growing up my enthusiasm and attention for subject matters of the more serious kind was dangerously low. Dangerous because I was a soft target of the many aunties and kakimas who sought a candidate to dole out their weekly gyan. The law of attraction seemed to work in a miraculous ways. Wedding party to birthday dinners, rice feeding ceremonies to satyanarayana pujas – no place was sacred enough for the overzealous aunties.
As a school going student, the advice almost always centered around career choices. Engineering seemed to be a favorite with many. This was not surprising since my hometown Jamshedpur is studded with coaching centers promising boys and girls that much coveted top AIR and a seat in the top colleges. And of course every mother dreams of saying, “my child goes to IIT xyz” in a nonchalant manner in any conversation. Even polite conversation with absolute strangers in the supermarket would be presented with the fact. Doesn’t matter if they are not even on first name basis. I was often accosted with a copy of Austen or Hemingway under my arm and got admonished for my literary choices.
It has been more than a decade of graduating from high school and college. The questions and strings of advise didn’t ceased. They continued to catch heat while I worked my way through the corporate ladder, got married and moved out of the country. Meanwhile living in a different continent across oceans hasn’t undaunted the spirit of the nosy neighborhood auntie.
When I sit down to examine the various levels at which their curiosity is displayed, I end up shaking my head in sheer disbelief . Last year while visiting home, every auntie I met made it their business to ask about my future plans with regard to expanding the family line. While I made some incoherent reply they grabbed, hugged and touched my belly with undisguised liberty. It was just for a moment, that was what my mother claims, but for me it felt like a lifetime. I struggled to make sense of the ‘affections’ and ‘interest’ bestowed upon me. While a good time had passed since that rude incident, another phone call from home brought back terrorizing memories of the aunties.
The aunties had spoken.
They had deemed that based upon my age in the biological clock and current state of unemployment, I should embark on the family planning business. At times I wonder, if they remember at all, that marriage and child-making is a two people affair. Running after one of the participants armed with a scythe and saccharine loaded words is futile. Their discussions are often about people who are clearly absent from the company and most times have no direct relationship with those involved. While the question about the sincerity of their ‘interest’ remains open, we are often left oscillating between marveling and cringing about the incredible human resources and networking skills of the friendly neighborhood auntie, striking terror in every child’s heart since they are born.