Today’s Daily Prompt: If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?
Disclaimer: I greatly respect my family’s heritage and stock of traditions. This post is written with tongue-of-cheek, self-deprecating humour, and to be read from the same point of view.
Now that I have safeguarded myself from any angry relatives who might accidentally stumble across my blog, let me start the post – I will be truthful. On reading this the first thing that came to my mind was my grandfather hitching a ride with ‘Doc’ and ‘Marty’ (from the ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy) and ringing our house doorbell, and jovially asking my mom – what’s for dinner? And asking me to go get him some of his favourite samosas from the store. My grandfather was a pretty cool guy. I don’t think he would be shocked by anything if he came over to dinner. But anyone a generation before would probably have a mini-heart attack, and die again! Assuming that they condescend to enter an apartment building, smaller than the servants’ quarters in their ancestral home, here are some things that I think they will find shocking:
- Coming from an aristocratic lineage where women were considered the ‘pride and honour’ of the family, I guess my ancestor would be more than a little shocked to find my wardrobe stocked up with jeans and t-shirts, and heaven forbid, my precious dresses. For all I know they might just hold a bonfire for all my clothes.Also the fact that I am unable to wear or manage a sari without my mother’s expert help might be a source of consternation to some of my late family members.
- The Biggest Shock would obviously be the fact that all my father’s brothers and my grandfather’s brothers no longer reside together even in the same country, much less the same house. Some are known to me and my sister only by names; the black telephone cord substitute blood line in case of others; some are just glossy photographs in a yellowed photo album, others are buried deep within the hard drive containing pictures of the last family wedding, ten years ago.Over time, one of the changes for the worse (at least in my opinion) is the widening gap between relatives, even primary ones. I talk to my first cousins over the phone maybe three-four times a year. I meet them in formal settings maybe once after two years. The camaraderie and mutual love shared by cousins once upon a time is as good as a fictional myth now. Once upon a time, in India (doesn’t it sound like the beginning of a fairy tale) the concept of ‘single child’ never existed, because even if you didn’t have your own siblings, you always had your cousins, and they were as good as.
- The fact that I can’t recite any Sanskrit hymns or sholkas, and am mostly ignorant about the rituals associated with worship will immediately earn me the trophy of the ‘Worst Daughter Ever’. Also seeing me mingle quite freely with guys, and girls from all castes and religions, would definitely be a shock to all my ancestors born before the mid nineteenth-century.
- The fact that both me and my sister can neither write nor read our mother tongue, Bengali, would be as great a source of shame for my ancestors as my parents, if not greater. To our defence we were brought up away from the region, and never felt the need to learn a language we did not use in our daily interactions.
- Once upon a time dinner used to be served in huge golden dishes with at least seven courses. Now it comprises of take-out pizza on microwave-safe dishes. I don’t think my ancestors would be staying for dinner after all!
- The apartment we currently reside in would probably give claustrophobia to any ancestor kind enough to drop by for dinner. Our apartment, situated right in the middle of the urban concrete jungle, lacks the open air, free space and outdoor gardens, our ancestral home in the village undoubtedly had. We can’t even see the sky from our windows, unless you try, really, really hard. The only greenery comes from the potted plants and flower boxes on the balconies.
- If my ancestors were to come over for dinner on a Sunday there is a good chance they would partake of a meal prepared by my father. Which would indeed be a radically shocking, socially upsetting and paradigm changing sight for even my great-grandparents. On most Sundays, to give my mother a well-deserved break, my father takes over the kitchen. He is a great chef, and a standing joke in our family is that after retirement he should open up a restaurant. An idea that would undoubtedly be seriously frowned upon by my ancestors, no matter how good his chicken biryani is.