For the past week, Macho Girl’s been in the village, ditching her city-girl image and hanging out with her family. Well, instead of sitting around waiting for her to return so I’d have someone to gupshup with again, I decided to take a mini-vacation myself. So, last week, I headed off to an uncle and aunt’s place in Mumbai city and joined 9 other cousins for a week of catching up, hanging out and chilling. Yep, you heard right. Ten cousins (9 girls and one poor little boy), aged 6 to 24, all under one roof for one whole week. My, what a ruckus!
So, for a very pleasant (and eventful) week, the 10 of us got up as late as we wanted in the mornings, got treated to scrumptious breakfasts, battled with each other for bathroom space, ran around the house getting ready, constantly bumping into one another (when there are 11 other people in the house, you can run, but you most definitely cannot hide!), went shopping to various crowded places, helped each other pick out shoes and outfits, bargained with the shop-keepers, squeezed into one table so we could all have lunch together, played mix-n-match with ice-cream flavors, went bowling and cheered each other on, comforted each other when the littlest one of us all kicked our butts at the game, ate popcorn together in the movie theatre, discovered how wonderful the paneer wraps are at McDonalds, helped each other win games of Rollercoaster Tycoon, exchanged e-mail ids, shared music CDs, argued about Blue’s nationality, laughed as we watched ‘Home Alone’ on the home theatre system for the billionth time, went on rollercoasters with each other at Essel World, enjoyed home-made chaat, listened to and made fun of Himesh Reshammaiya, imitated his nasal voice, panicked every time ‘Jhalak Dikhlaja’ was played on the radio, groaned together as we got bumped around in the back seat of the huge Maruti van, cleaned up together after dinner, and sat up into the night with Aunty and Uncle, reminiscing, talking about old times, sharing family stories and experiencing similar feelings of nostalgia. Phew, we did quite a lot, didn’t we?
In families as big as mine, it’s easy to lose touch with relatives. Priorities shift, work and immediate family take precedence, stupid geography works its evil plots, and slowly but surely, you lose contact with people you once hung out with on a weekly basis. Favorite cousins become people you meet once in a few years, and you find yourself asking your mother who exactly it was who called the other day, saying she was your second cousin. Family history charts go flying out of the window, you no longer know who’s married and who’s not, your nephew meets you after a few years and doesn’t recognize you, even though you played with him everyday when he was younger, and before you know it, you get disconnected from the rest of your family.
It took one week with 9 other cousins to make me realize how much the world has changed. It took several narrations by my parents and elders, of their lives together, of their huge joint families, and of several cousins living under one roof, to make me understand how far apart we’ve grown in the space of a few generations. It has taken me long enough to realize that quality time with the family is precious, and that every once in a while, family takes precedence over friends. That it is time we all tried to take some time off our busy, uninteresting schedules to spend a few precious days with our families, near and distant. Because, ultimately, it matters. Because, in whatever way you think of it, your family is the reason you exist. Because, in the end, your family is your life.
10 cousins, separated by two continents, four countries, five cities and 10 different lives got the rare chance to spend quality time with each other and enjoy each other’s company for a week. I don’t know when I’ll meet these people again, but I know I’ll carry fond memories of the time we spent together. Memories that will last for years. And sometimes, these memories are all that are needed to make you realize that really, nothing beats family.