Auto Uncle and 30 aunts !

Last Updated 29 October 2009, 10:51 IST

We had moved fromIndia when I was 3. I remember asking my  mom when she came to tuck me in  to pray harder for a sibling for me. Weekends were nice in the copany of friends at the Bharatanatyam class and the Sunday school. We were into several get-togethers and sleep overs too every so often. But, once we came home, I felt like a lonely only child inspite of my parents trying to play with me.

When I was finishing up my elementary school (1st to 5th grade), we decided to move back to Chitradurga, India, where I had cousins of the same agewho were my playmates. Cousins are a great source of companionship. In addition to at least one set of grandparents, they share a lot more of family culture and other relatives. While I had my own aprehensions about learning Kannada and adjusting to a totally different teaching philosophy, I loved being around my cousins. I'm sure their implicit help was an additional benefit I should acknowledge in my adjusting to these cultural differences.

When I joined Don Bosco School here, my extended family grew bigger, I felt. All of a sudden I was loaded with the extras like father, brother and sister. Our principal was a Father and we had several Brothers and Sisters serving both as teaching and non-teaching staff.

So wonderful!

Also, all those of the prestigious driving profession were 'uncles': auto uncle, bus driver uncle, conductor uncle. Sometimes we added the suffix 'uncle' to their names but most of the times with just a general 'uncle'. But I soon learnt that one must address any new elder acquaintance  either 'aunty' or 'uncle'. That was the practice!

And therefore I found many more relatives : Jaya aunty, the janitor at school; Ramaiah uncle, the old gardener; and all the uncles and aunties owning the provision stores, bakeries, fancy stores. When you meet someone the common conversation-opener is, "How are you uncle?" or "Have you had your coffee aunty?" And the young children at school! I became an "akka" (elder sister) to them! I was fascinated when someone called me 'akka' at lunch time on the first day of my school here. I had to call my seniors "akka" or"anna" (elder brother) as well, for that matter. I found out that the younger ones weren't designated any titles but their names or nicknames. I still have to learn more about this BIG family of mine!

The moral of the story: Everyone belonged to one BIG family (of God).

It was "vasudhaiva kutumbam" here in India. I wasn't alone anymore!

Sindhu Srinath,
L.E.A.F. program,
St. Joseph's Convent,

(Published 29 October 2009, 10:30 IST)

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