F is for Family. The good F word eh? Today is Day 6 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and I am thrilled to talk about my family’s Fabulous Four.
Should have been five, but I did not have the privilege of knowing him. I am referring to my Uncles – my Mother’s brothers. Today, I am reflecting on all that I have received from my fabulous four. I am thinking about how they have shaped me, my attitude and my inherent nature.
Seldom does one see siblings as supportive of each other as my Uncles and Aunts. My Mother was the youngest of nine – they were four sisters and five brothers. By the time I came along, all the Aunts were married. Three uncles were married and two weren’t. So we lived as a joint family with my Grandma, my Mother, three Uncles and one Aunt (the eldest Uncle’s wife). The others were settled in different cities. Today, am sad to say only one Uncle survives.
My Uncles believed in giving without expectations. The love I experienced made up for any perceived shortcomings. I know some people think growing up without a father makes for an incomplete family, but I disagree. I think I was lucky to grow up without mine because it gave me a much better environment to grow up in. So maybe we weren’t financially big shots, but as I always enjoy saying, the affection made up for it. They taught me that.
I was very close to my uncles and it is amazing how they played important roles in my life, each in their own way. I am glad they influenced me the way they did. They all had big hearts.
The eldest uncle, Kittu mama encouraged me to think that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. While I have had this reinforced by many people in my life, it was he who convinced a very young me that I was stronger than I thought. I remember I used to feel inadequate because I was very short and looked smaller than I was. That he is responsible for my clothes-craze is well-known in the family, but he also taught me how to look for good stuff. He taught me that regardless of what mood I was in, I must eat well because everything looks great on a full tummy. Impromptu movies, shopping for no reason, experimenting with food and recipes, generosity and a zest for life – I owe it all to him.
Next, Venkittu mama. More subtle in his affection, he would act like it was a given that I would achieve great things. I realize what a high I got whenever I heard him tell my Mom “She’s going to be a wonderful person, loved by all. Don’t worry about her. She’ll make you proud. And you’ll be with her all your life”. Ah. He bought me my first “Garden” saree – a very coveted brand in sarees when it was launched. A beautiful red jacquard saree with a self print. I still have it, except I converted it into a cover for Vidur when he was a baby…and he calls it his healing robe. After I started working, he moved to the same city and took me out to eat my favorite food every fortnight. We would go shopping around Mambalam in Chennai and he would let me waste all the time I wanted looking at things I’d never buy. He supported me through all my major decisions.
Gopu Mama. Oh! No matter what I say, I can never do him justice with words. Seldom can one be blessed with such a relative. When I was five, he was five going on 30. When I was ten, he was 10 going on 35. When I was 30, he was 30 going on 55. See what I mean? Today, I cannot believe he is 75. My mind just cannot accept it. He was the one looking after me when I had measles at 5 and my Mother had to go write an exam. He was the one who took me for a walk every morning when we went to buy the milk from the booth down the road.
Every day, i would look at the JNRJ on the cross near the booth. I would recite poems or the tables on the way up. And tell stories on the way back. Then I’d come home and when they opened the milk bottles we would both scoop the cream on the top. He told me fairy tales like no one else could (not counting my Mom, she was serious competition for him and usually won hands down). He could spin the fairy tale for weeks, adding as he went. He taught me to be self-sufficient and attempt everything before asking for help. And I remember being very surprised when I found that I usually did not need help.
Even today, I laugh when I remember, while studying, he would ask me questions and prompt me with “The” if I hesitated before answering – as if that was a big help. My Mom would be so amused. Yet, “The” seemed to connect with my memory and trigger the answer. So funny. Gopu Mama introduced me to great reading. When others were immersed in Mills & Boon, I was reading Wodehouse, Westerns and Classics and practicing writing, playing word games. Not implying anything about M & B…but you know what I mean! What fun I used to have in his lab – he was a Scientist in the Ministry of Defence . He taught me good values, kindness and giving without expectations and most of all, the will to experiment.
Kondu Mama. Cadburys chocolates. Postage stamps from all over the world. Great books. Movies every Sunday. Picnics. Humor. Doted on me as a baby. And doted on my son the exact same way when he was a baby. Brilliantly intelligent – fab sense of humor. Zero laziness and took over the kitchen on Sundays, ensuring that all the ladies in the house took Sunday off from their routine. What about his weekly off? This was his way of enjoying himself. Made friends with everyone in the area. Financed street-dwellers, encouraging them to support themselves – selling flowers, cooking snacks and selling them, sewing… Generous to a fault. We always associated him with being dressed stylishly, fond of spending and always ready to help others. He was Ubuntu at work!
Point is, I could go on and on.What I just said seems so inadequate. But I’ll stop here.
Family is like flowers…bright, cheerful, beautiful and uplifting!
Who, in your family, has influenced you in a big way?
Thank you for your presence here,today.
Please visit Debi O’Neille at Writing against the wind
Kathy Combs at The Giggling Trucker’s Wife