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We moved to Pune 5 years ago, a city where neither my husband nor I have any family. We were often questioned as to why we chose Pune, especially since my in laws are in Delhi and my side of the family scattered between New York and Bombay. Our reply, “we really like Pune; the weather, a small city feel, rich in culture, good universities” often invoked a response “are you serious? But you have no family there.” True and Not!
Although we don’t have family here, our neighbors have so lovingly replaced that void. In the world that we live in today, most families are nuclear. Parents and in-laws, uncles, aunts and siblings are all scattered not just all over India but all over the world. Even though technology has somewhat fulfilled “being in touch”, virtual will never nearly replace the real. And this is where our neighbors, the Arya family has become like our extended Rana family.
I am sure many of us have such wonderful neighbors/friends who become so close over the years that you seldom feel the lack of your own family.
Every festival, birthday and achievements become ‘our’ moments of bonding. Since my daughter is the only child, they have never let her feel that way.
Their didi is Hari’s didi, their uncle is her uncle, their dadi is her dadi and vice versa. Although we don’t share the same surname, we are just like one family.
And so, it was not surprising that when our dear neighbors (our extended family if I may say so) were going to Udaipur to their Nani’s home, we tagged in tow too. I was reluctant initially, since I didn't want to impose on their privacy and their family time. I tried to explain this to Hari but she remarked, "Mommy, even she can come to New York to my Nani's for next vacation. She has told me that I must come, so I cannot disappoint my best friend mommy. Even aunty said we must go, we will have lots of fun." Her excitement overflew and diluted my apprehension to go. And so, off we were to Udaipur. The children called this the aunty and baccha vacation, no uncles please!
It was a lovely vacation for all of us. Udaipur is a city rich in culture and heritage. And since we wanted our little ones to experience that, we decided to steer clear of carrying any electronic media/gadgets with us to that trip.
And so the days were packed with outdoor activities. Udaipur being the city of lakes, boating topped the list. Long boat rides on Lake Fatehsagar is what they enjoyed the most. Besides this they were able to appreciate the Rajasthani folk dances at Bagore Ki Haveli, which is a must visit. Walking down tiny narrow lanes bedecked with local handicrafts was enough to trigger the dormant Picasso in them.
And when we would come back home they would draw all that they saw. It was wonderful to watch them contemplate their experiences on paper. It seemed that this trip made them appreciate the rich heritage that India is so well known for all over the world.
At home, the children bonded over long tub baths, eating, playing UNO, carom and other board games. Watching them, I realized how well they were in tune with each others needs, despite not living in the same household back in Pune. They handled each others temperament with ease. Sure there were occasional outbursts, yet they were able to come to terms themselves.
And while the children were busy amongst themselves so were the adults. It was lovely to be a part of each others everyday life and discover that sometimes all it takes is a big heart and open mind to be able to live together happily. I was happy that I obliged to Hari's plea to make this trip happen.
We all left Udaipur with a renewed sense of dependency on each other, like we do for our own families; dependency that invokes a sense of social and emotional responsibility towards each other. This trip made us realize that for some, even though our immediate family is not around, our extended family is just a doorbell away.
The kids experienced that in life; to have unfettered moments of bonding, creating memories and building everlasting relationships is not just limited to family and that neighbors/friends can become like family and give us all the love and support we need.
And if we can keep this spirit of brotherhood towards everyone, then we can all live as one big happy family. A family that allows kids to grow without prejudice of me, mine, yours, theirs and embraces the spirit of ours. And in that lies the true essence of #Khuljaye Bachpan!