|   Mar 27, 2016

         My mom’s weekly routine is busier than mine. She has numerous agendas lined up. Amongst that is an interesting concept called afternoon tea party or chai pe charcha.Every week, she goes house calling at someone’s place. I got irritated once and asked her ‘’why don’t you rest in the afternoons? What enjoyment do you derive in roaming about in the hot sun and meeting some long lost relative? She said that they are my social safety net. They are not long lost but are treasured since a long time. These relations go beyond a lifetime. There is a rich history in these relations. They are a part of my childhood, my married life, my deliveries, my crises and lows and my celebrations.We have been for each other through thick or thin, in good times or worse. She has time to sit beside her ailing father or mom in law or brother in the hospital. They have silently woven their net making it stronger with each visit.                                                                 

         Usually I blame my hectic schedules for not catching up with relatives or making courtesy calls. We as a generation are focussing only on our joys, outings and enjoying each day and our weekends. We have no space for socialising with relatives. We consider relatives as a hindrance to our socialising. It is a mere formality to greet them. In our generation, we prefer friends to relatives. But the truth is relatives do matter, they are a part of the extended clan, a part of your culture and your family

         INFACT, I DO REMEMBER THESE CHAI PE CHARCHAS DURING MY son’s birth. These ladies were there to tell me to take care of myself, something no doctor actually bothers to do so, they were there to guide us in our motherhood, they were there during my miscarriages trivialising the matter and relegating me with their own bad experiences. They taught me that finally ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WELL. Today we go on the net and surf about any issue magnifying it ten folds and worrying about it endlessly. But any issue seems trivial in these chai pe charchas, no problem too great to be solved and no misfortune permanent. There is ancient wisdom in these sessions when we have our grandmas telling us not to worry when our child doesn’t eat or when in laws are difficult.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

          Long before our honourable prime minister made this concept fashionable,these afternoon tea parties or chai pe charcha was a routine in Gujarati households. Actually it still is a routine in joint families. But it was a power domain of only the  ladies .NO males were entertained. So the chai pe charcha could have some definite agenda like cooing over a new baby ,a house call to visit an ailing relative or impeding nuptials and the scouting for grooms or brides. Sometimes, there was absolutely no agenda but to catch up with distant relatives.                                                                             

         The courtesy calls were carried out in a way so as not to hamper the running of the household. Post lunch and after clearing of dishes, everyone would be ready, no fancy clothes or make up to impress, just plain daily wear clothes and the kids with moms, aunts and grand moms would be ready. I remember accompanying my mom and aunts and grand moms to various relatives’ houses. They were not first cousins, infact probably second or third cousins, sometimes even ex- neighbours. No one fretted over the coming of guests, people were welcomed warmly, the houses looked lived in and no one tried to impress with any fancy dishes or welcome drinks! In reality for all their sophistication, gujjus are happiest with chai and some teatime snacks like homemade farsaans! No tachycardia over the menus nor would exclusive delicacies would be served.                                                                                        

          The ladies exchanged pleasantries and we kids were let free to roam about. They would also make sure that we reached home back in time so they could start preparing their evening meal. They didn’t need friends; their social circle was strong to withstand all kinds of upheavals.                                                            

          Where have the tea parties gone? I knew practically all my extended relatives since I used to regularly accompany my grandmas on her social visits. So today when I do meet any great aunts or uncles, I do have things to talk about. People were just few blocks away! These afternoon tea parties encouraged bonding, reinforced positive social behaviour and courtesy amongst us kids.Infact when we joined college, we were taken to some relative’s house who stayed nearby so we could contact people in case of any emergency.                                                                                                                                                                      

        But all is not lost. My son still looks excitedly when his grandmother takes him for these chai pe charchas when he gets fussed over, knows his extended cousins and their houses! He probably knows more about them than me and my hubby,which cousin has a dog and which cousin strums a guitar ;how the great aunt is recuperating after a fracture! It is a break from the normal routine monotony when all that is expected from him is schooling, studying and classes! May these chai pe charchas continue!!!!!Have you built your social circle yet!!!!!


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