Monday, 5 October 2015

Cousins


I’m going to go meet my sister since I’m in Gurgaon. She stays close by, on Sohna Road’, I told a gathering of friends over lunch.

Sister? But you said you have a brother?’ asked a doubting Thomas.

Oh, my cousin’, said I with a smile.

So say cousin, na. Not sister!’ he was quick to correct.

But we grew up together, in the same house, so the concept of ‘real’ … but the conversation had moved on. The thought, however, remained stuck. 

~


Most of us trying to grow up since the 80s have lots of cousins. That’s because at that time children did not wait for office promotions or ‘right ages’ to come. They just came, like a logical next step to a formally organized marriage and a year or so of couple time, at best! Single children were as uncommon as a house without a carrom board, and ‘hum do humaarey do’ as common as evening cricket in the lanes. Kid 2 happened right after Kid 1, riding on the wave of left-over nappies, or after the mother had regained her breath and sanity and combed her hair. Economy of time, money and getting done with bodily expectations for the woman remained the drivers for “completing” a family. With romance and drama in it the movie reel went from I’m ready, set, go, boom, aaaa, push, out (times 2). Pack-up!  

As a result of all that mathematically proven conception and delivering, happening in all our extended homes, we in our 30s have a vast network of cousins. If we compare the spoils with how many our parents had, we don’t have the same numbers. So let us not. But, if we compare with how things will be, with the single-kid wave spreading like a chalky patch of hopscotch in rain, we know Cousins, as a role and relationship, will slowly fade away. 

And so will the Superpowers that cousins have had ever since the Big Bang. 

Back then, when the bones were young …

… we did lots together! If you grow up in a joint family, like I did, you’re far above the rest of humanity in the Republic of Fun. Top class, really! But it is not the only way to know what cousins are made of, of course.  Cousins, lived with or met over summer vacations after a day’s train journey with our mothers, were precious wherever they were. Distance no bar! Age no bar! 

An older cousin was a window to our own futures, setting standards for a younger, aspirational demography of children in at least a couple of houses of the family. From getting princesses in Mario Brothers to ones in school; from acting guides on how to pluck mangoes to being buffers against bullies in the lane, older cousins were relied on with wide eyes and mouths agape. Idolising one such was as easy as the swish of hands pulling out a sling from the back pocket, or a billet doux. Looking up was especially easy if your relationship status with the ‘real’ brother or sister was … ahem … complicated, making you wish your parents never got a second ‘from the dustbin’ after they got you from a ‘pretty nurse in the hospital’! 

Older ones put in place standards – of smartness, sportiness, suaveness, sensibility, sense and maths scores, sigh. They did the hard work of setting benchmarks, and the younger ones like me simply had to try to reach them. No marks for guessing the parental dialogue we heard-unheard if we did not. Let’s not go there! 

On the other hand, a younger cousin, with kachhi mitti in all games, was exactly that. Soft clay in the hands of those who had lived slightly longer, and an inspiration for the older ones to act wiser than their milk teeth could ever allow. For all we know, those emulating hands and feet forced them to cut the wisdom teeth in time. In the complete food chain of all cousins put together! A sister who first taught you how to plait your hair may have grown into a confidant to discuss your period pain. A brother who let you in on his school bunking secret did so, so as to sneak you along to the cinemas. Another told you how bees do it because she had a chapter in the biology book. An army of cousins who made your goriest battles their own, and only in exchange for WWF trump cards (everyone wanted The Undertaker, and to see his face).  

Yes. Our cousins were a cross between best friends and siblings, and they were great at being both; like those double-sided tattoos Boomer gum came wrapped in, or audio cassettes where both Side A and Side B were equally exciting! They oscillated from becoming kith to being kin, helped us grow up or grow down, and most importantly left us feeling a part of a big happy family, because they were family.  No matter how infrequently we met them.
   
Now, when the hearts are getting weaker …

…families have undergone a change. We’re not just smaller, we’re also living lives within our own addresses. And our cousins are scattered all over the world. That proximity when we batted not an eye lid to share a bed with three others (tallest near the feet, please!) can no longer be achieved, not even at their weddings or our children’s first birthdays. We’re still close but we’re living apart and our lives are very different from those days when the same jean-pant passed down three pairs of legs, or the same Tobu cycle changed its moulded plastic seat for three toddlers in a row. 

Does that mean we are islands drifting away from who we thought were our ‘real sisters’ and ‘real brothers’? Was what nourished us and shaped us as children and teenagers that impermanent? No. It has to be about scarcity of time and a busy life. Has to be. You can’t make invisible the little bits of our cousins that we have inside each one of us, no matter how you have found your I-for-Individuality in the maddening urban crowd. Nope, you can’t.

As I sit and type this, I realize how there is a very important secret superpower we cousins can tap in each other. The power to keep holding hands even when factions of families feud - over property or businesses or marriages or mere gossip - things that adulthood in our parents often comes furrowed with. What if we kids-of-yore stand up to our respective parents to say ‘You and your brother don’t get along. But my brother and I still do.’ Do you think this insistence to look beyond the temporary ‘now’ will help bind extended families with glue better than the translucent grey one we used to make birthday cards with, popping brushes into a shared blue-and-black bottle?

Isn’t it worth it to ground ourselves in happier memories of climbing trees and playing pitthoo than letting grown-ups fight like the kids we never were, not permanently at least? Isn’t it worth using that superpower, the power of choosing to be brothers and sisters despite all odds and above all else? Totally worth it, then, not growing up enough to let differences seep in. And especially now, at a time when cousins are an endangered species. Endangered, because the family tree is tapering and one day this role and relationship will … 

Fade into nothing? 

No. Not in my lifetime.




39 comments:

  1. That's an amazing and heart touching post, Sakshi. The memories of growing together, climbing trees and small fights makes the memory cherry on cake. How the whole equation has changed!!!

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    1. Equations change as much as we let them. :)
      Thanks, Vishal.

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  2. Made me remember all my cousins! Being the youngest, I have learnt a lot from them. :)

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    1. Ah, you were the youngest variety, were you? :D
      I was somewhere in the middle. Saw the best of both worlds, really. :P
      Thanks for reading.

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    2. Also, huge congratulations on your BlogAdda #win15! You deserve it! :D :D

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  3. The many cousins, the joy of meeting them at Nani or Dadi's, the exchange of gifts and the stories from all over. Lovely post that brought many memories :)

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    1. Thanks, Parul. Why didn't I remember the gift exchange? Oh yes, because I barely got any, I think. Stingy cousins! :P

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    2. Lol! We used to get a few from here and there and then my brother and I used to sit and exchange so we get what we want. Those days!

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    3. I had a kid brother too, who I could successfully bully! :D I hope you knew how "best" to exchange those gifts, to your advantage. :D
      Those days, really!

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  4. Damn! u nailed it! Its like a flashback infront of my eyes. Those long train journeys with mother and sharing clothes and books and what not with cousins. And climbing trees and playing in the scorching heat of summers.. Oh god! I can just go on and on... Loved it.

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    1. Rolling Stone, make yourself known. I need to send you flowers for the 'loved it'. :D
      Thank you very much, RS.

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  5. Thanks to Whatsapp, we now have a cousins group which has reconnected the wiring in a way. And when you drop in to meet this cousin, do come home. I live close by.

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    1. Yep. Thanks to FB, Whatsapp, you-name-it. We are more "connected" than we were back in the days of trunk calls.
      I will come over. Had to go after KB's lunch, but we sat longer than expected.
      Thanks for reading!

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  6. This has made my day.. took me to my childhood.. because my dad was posted in a city (chandigarh) which had good educational insititutes, and which also meant that EVERY cousin came to live with us at some stage and by the grace of god I have a Huge family .. at one stage we were about 8 -10 kids living in one house at all sorts of ages.

    very nostalgic .. I was the eldest of the lot so could bully everyone :) thankfully we are still in touch and share the same repo to date.. and i get ot bully them now tooo...

    LOVED LOVEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDdddddddddddddddddddddddd the POSTttttttttttttttttt...

    I am going to put a message on the whatsapp group right now ...

    Bikram's

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    1. Ah! We were in Doon, and that city still has ... ahem .. better educational institutions than Chd? Just kidding! :D Thank God for huge families. All ages meant all sizes meant lots of hand-me-downs. ;)
      Oh, I see. Mr. Bully, huh? Or the Fatherly Figure? Well, whichever, you ruled the roost, I'm sure. :D (Psst, I bully still too. It comes masked as advice)
      I hope you will acknowledge in your WA group that it was a blogger who made you remember them? Always give credit where it's due.

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    2. Point noted and Amending done.. you blog address has now flashed all over :) he he he he

      and yes mine were masked as advice tooo ..

      and Doon it had a great school .. Doon school .. (if i have got it right) and I visited that school a lot of time for the inter public school matches .. I am from YPS.. :)

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    3. Oh I see. Maybe I was a spectator to that match. But I had come to ogle at the Doscos :D
      It's still there, Doon School.

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    4. I am sure then you would have surly seen the Handome Sardar .. playing hockey :) that was MEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


      remember remember he he he he he he ...

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  7. This is outstanding, Sakshi. It made me nostalgic beyond imagination, and that came with a pinch of sadness, because you are right, the family tree is fading fast. We would always have memories.Yes. But with them would also be the sense that nothing will be 'that good' again. And I do feel bad for the next generation because they would miss out on this due to our choices.

    It's a fantastic post, with your permission, I would like to share it as much as I can 😊.
    Honestly, thanks for writing this. Something worth sharing with those same people on what's app beyond silly jokes 😊😊.

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    1. It will never be 'that good' again, even if it is replaced by something newer and better (like how easily and frequently we can be in touch with our family now). That's the magic of a past and a present laden with memories.
      I can see you really liked reading this, Prateek. Why would I ever mind you sharing this post? It's free for all!
      Thanks a lot for being here.

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  8. What beautiful thoughts expressed here Sakshi......I wish that 'cousins' come out of the 'endangered' quota and live in full bloom sharing our sorrows, pains and secrets.......:)....

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    1. Ah, yes, those secrets. They better keep their mouths shut about those.:D
      Thank you very much, Sunaina. Glad you read and liked.

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  9. Sigh! *misty eyed with a lost look* ...bang on about those hand-me-downs, the hierarchy! What a lovely post for the festive season!

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    1. Yes, it's probably the festive season that is making me remember those times. I didn't think of that. Thanks a lot, Ilakshee.

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  10. I absolutely love the part of "you and your brother..." how beautifully you said it. The relationship between cousins is always special... even the distances cannot fade it away. Those fun filled days... your words have made me nostalgic. :)

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    1. Thanks, dear Rajlakshmi, for stopping by.
      Get in touch with your favourite cousin. Now! :D

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  11. I am new to your blog.Such a lovely post.I remember the summer and winter vacations that happened to be the best time for us as we all met in one place.Those were Fun-filled times and the memories are timeless.We all still try to keep in touch. :)

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    1. Yeah, always keep in touch with them.
      Good to have a new reader. I hope you will keep coming. :)
      Thanks.

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  12. Congratulations! Your blog post was selected for Spicy Saturday Picks edition on October 3, 2015 at BlogAdda.

    Please find it here :http://blog.blogadda.com/2015/10/03/spicy-saturday-picks-october-3-2015

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    1. Congratulations!! I can feel the same high as you are feeling now as even my blog post was selected for the Spicy Saturday Picks on October 3, 2015.

      And I must say your blog post was really personal, straight-forward & emotional. It definetly struck a deep chord Sakshi!! Well written.

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  13. This is such a beautiful , sweet, nostalgic and a bit heavy too post :) Loved it, Sakshi! I belong to a generation like you where cousin is a brother or sister. I still treat my first cousins as sisters and brothers. I didn't grow up in a joint family but met my cousins over the holidays. I have an older cousin who still buys things for me and my daughter :) I feel sorry for my kids. They have one cousin who is in medical college and the other cousin who is a yr old. Like you said, right ages to come....

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    1. Very few have noticed the 'bit heavy' part. Glad you did. :)
      That older cousin of yours who buys you gifts sounds great to have. :D
      Now that's quite a age range (gap) of cousins to have.
      Thank you very much for reading.

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  14. Beautiful this is Sakshi! At times, I just wish we remained kids and could share everything without the fear of being judged or having to go by someone else's definition of relationships. I am now missing all my cousins with whom I have had such beautiful memories during summer vacations. Thank you for reminding of those beautiful days. :-)

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    1. Life does get complicated as we grow up, isn't it? And one upon a time, the gravest problem to sort was who take ownership for breaking the neighbour's window with the cricket ball. :)
      Thanks for reading, Rekha. Glad you enjoyed!

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  15. Lovely read! I am proud to be one of 30 cousins on my mom's side and one of 14 on my dad's! Cherished those visits to grandparents' house for the summer. And everybody had some cousins of their age group. Glad to say the affection is still there, and thanks to FB and Whatsapp, almost eveybody is in touch. I am guilty of painting such a golden picture of a childhood with fun cousins, that my kids are actually jealous! For them, maybe second cousins will have to do!

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