Tangled relationships

Upon unravelling the family vine, we found that Mohan could be his own son's cousin!

During our times (and our fathers’ and grandfathers’), it was the done thing to get one’s daughter married to her own maternal uncle, probably to preserve the family property. In fact, it used to be the prerogative of the said uncle. If he were too old for the girl, then his sons would be the next choice. The uncle’s presence at “Jai Mala” was to signify his acquiescence to give the girl outside the family (which would be done after ritually offering the girl to nine demigods). Likewise, a boy could marry his maternal uncle’s daughter or his paternal aunt’s, without inviting public censure.

All this intra-marrying would give rise to a lot of complicated connections. The most complicated one was between Mohan and Jyoti. First Krishnan married Kamala, a distant cousin. Later, Kamala’s brother Venkatesh fell in love with Krishnan’s niece (sister’s daughter) Padma and married her. The daughter of Venkatesh and Padma, named Jyoti (loved and) married Mohan, Krishnan and Kamala’s son. On painstakingly tracking the relationship by unravelling the tendrils of the family vine, we discovered that Mohan could be his own son’s cousin! We gave up at this point and did not try to find out how Jyoti was connected to her sons apart from being their mother.

Well, what is worse was marrying multiple times (of course, one wife at a time) as our great grandfathers did. Going back two or three generations, we are always able to find a link to any member of our community. The computer family tree always compliments me as the most connected member.

Well, if such multi-links happened within families, it was no less when it came to extended families. It started when I married Ramu. Later, my sister Komala married Sathyan. Sathyan’s brother Prasad had already been married to Ramaa, a friend of mine. Couple of years later, Ramu’s sister Geetha married Narayan, Ramaa’s elder brother. Since Ramu and Prasad were posted in the same unit, we had a roaring time flummoxing people — “Ramu’s sister has married Mrs Prasad’s brother and Mrs Ramu’s sister is married to Prasad’s brother!”

Communitywise, too, there were tangles when my friend Sukanya married Ramu’s friend Gopal. The links carried on to the next generation as well – all this was quite clear to us but extremely complicated to outsiders. The last one I cannot help narrating is a social one. Once, I saw a young lady waiting to meet the Principal of the school I was working at regarding a teacher’s post. When my friends saw me talking familiarly to the lady, they asked me “Do you know her?” Well, the young lady was Prema. I let go the litany breathlessly.

“Prema’s father and Ramu were classmates. Prema was my daughter’s classmate in college. Prema married my son-in-law’s close friend. Prema was a colleague of mine in my previous school in addition to being my friend Malini’s cousin…” My friends let out a collective groan and put their hands up to stop me from going any further, expressing their regret for having asked me the ‘simple’ question.

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