Being the first born of a large joint family is never an easy thing! With pressures and responsibilities of being the eldest, there also comes a lot of love! Sometimes so much love, that one wonders how to handle it! And that’s when the trouble begins.
Well, let me elaborate!
I am the first born of my family. My mum and dad, both, are the eldest siblings in their respective families; hence a new generation was born with my birth, in the big fat wonderful family.
A child brings boundless joy and when she is the first child, everyone wants to shower love and affection – ofcourse in kind and cash as well. There’s no dearth of gifts, to the extent that everything gets personalised; including your clothes. They either have your name or your initials. If not someone from the family, the driver is always present on time to take you for your evening ‘sair’ (drives/ walks). There’s some new and exciting stuff to eat post the evening sair every single day. Never a dull moment! And the exciting life goes on…
Life is tough!
Despite the tough challenges, I had a very happy childhood. I was a bright child in school, a witty one amongst family, a top favourite amongst friends! It was natural to build expectations from such a super kid. Don’t miss how the pressures and responsibilities were building up. Teacher’s pet, family’s pet… grandfather’s pet… oh yes… that’s where it all began…
Mum’s side of the family was always in our city. And more often than not, being the adorable first born; I was seen in my maternal grand father’s house more than my own. All early memories that I have only seem to have nana, nani, mama, maasi in them… very little of mom and dad! I traveled the length and breadth of the country with my grand parents. I was their prized possession and would be present for every social function, sometimes also representing mom and dad… such stress first born 5 year olds had to go through then…
Once, after my big mama’s wedding, nana nani and the family were going to the land of the Ganges… the land they hailed from. I was ofcourse, the ready attachment… all set to go with them, given that summer vacations were on too… It was a wonderful trip. I loved being with my grand parents. I don’t think I would ever refuse to go anywhere with them – till that day – when nana said, “A (my mom) ki amma, chalo aaj ganga mein dubki (dip) laga aayen.. bahut din hui gaye”. I heard that and knew this wasn’t going to be a pleasant day. I started dreading it right then… the ‘dubki’ just wasn’t happening for me… not that I had a choice. I even tried acting unwell, but how dhhh!! do these things work when you are the showstopper of the khandaan?
We left… reached ganga kinare… and by then my heart wasn’t just beating fast… it seemed to be oscillating somehow.. I had once heard someone say “ye dharti phat kyun nahin jaati and main us mein sama kuyun nahin jaati”… yes exactly… that’s how I felt. We got on to a ‘nauka’ (a small boat) and the malha (sailor) started. Nice guy.. was also singing along the way and speaking to us in avadhi (our local language)… I cannot deny that it was one of the best boat rides I ever went on. My loving family, my bestest nana nani, the boat swaying on the Ganges…it was beautiful. I kept absorbing the beauty of that morning on the Ganges when the spot arrived.. ‘Sangam’… the meeting place of the holy rivers – Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati! The place had such a calming effect… well oh well… the calm before the storm!
Everyone started getting ready for the dubki… including me, reluctantly so… And for the life of me, I wanted Superman to arrive and whisk me away… or even the good ‘ol Spidey would do… and for the sake of patriotism, am not sure Shaktiman existed then! The boat’s anchor was lowered and one by one everyone got into the water. I was scared to death, no, not because I was afraid of water; but because I hated the ‘dubki’ idea…
Well there came the wretched moment, my nani called me in the water and I refused to budge… that’s when I was suddenly airlifted by big strong arms. Nanaji!!! noooo!!! …
“Please nanaji, mujhe paani mein nahin jaana hai, mujhe dar lag raha hai”, I squealed.
“Arre Archanva, kuch nahin hoga, tera nana hai na beta, aur phir ye to Gangaji hain”.
“Nahin nanaji, mujhe dar lag raha hai, mujhe paani mein nahin jaana… mujhe boat pe rakh dijiye nanaji, nahin to main aapko kaat loongi, kaat loongi main aapko…”….
I could feel myself inside the water, though nana was holding me protectively and with very sturdy hands, I just could not stand being inside the water, with all of it coming inside my mouth ears nose, what have you; and then I decided that I wasn’t someone who gave hollow threats… I did the improbable 🙁 I bit him hard, yep! I bit my nana hard … just below the naval… the place I could catch while he was bringing me above water. And then, it was his turn to yell. And yell he did. Everyone was shocked about what happened. And the next moment, he was laughing out loud, my nanaji. The family just couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
“Kaat liye hamaar kaleje ke tukda humka, aise hi nahin dhumkavat, karat bhi hai!”. And that’s when they all started laughing, holding onto their bellies tight. Naniji then saw the mark… it was bleeding and there was a scar already. I was very upset with nanaji and with myself and with the universe or whoever it would be for landing me in such trouble. Luckiy, there was also a Panditji on the boat for a puja and he put some turmeric on the scar. My nana felt better and he held me tightly in his arms. With tears in my eyes, I sincerely apologised and he smiled and kissed me on my forehead and hugged me like he always did.
Well, the ‘navel pe scar’ wali story became very famous and it made me a wee bit more popular in my family. Years after that, even when I came of age, everyone in the family gathering would keep recollecting it and laughing their guts out. Including me. Nanaji never got rid of that scar and the story continued. Though I lost both my grandparents a few years back, every once in a while the navel scar story still does comes up. I sit back and think, I gave him a scar for life, just like he gave me the best memories for life. I cherish every single moment spent with my grandparents and feel blessed that they spent so much time with me when they had so much more to look after.
Moral – Don’t undermine the importance and love of your grandparents. You are a lucky person if you have them beside you, if you don’t appreciate them when they are rocking on their chair, you will feel the pinch when you see that empty chair rock!
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