Friday, January 15, 2010

In the eyes of the world.....

As a woman, your identity continues to go from being some one's daughter, to some one's sister, to some one's in-law, to being some one's wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. Concurrent to that, if you happen to be a working person, you have an office identity as well. If you work in the same organization as your spouse, they never let you forget it. And if your job enables you to live in a campus community, you have some other identities which override all the above.

As we found out.

More than 25 years ago when we were just 3 people in the family, and my son, K. was like 5 years old. Birthdays were different things then. Grandparents within and outside Mumbai started arriving sufficiently in advance, after having serious discussions with the grandson about desired presents. Assorted aunts, uncles, their children, K's friends from campus, our doctor (her daughter was K's friend), neighbors from the old building, new building, school friends, creche friends; at one point, K had a special invitation pad on which he filled in the name, and he carried it to the dentist (when we went to yank a crowding milk tooth), and ended up inviting our dentist too. He had a son, a bit older than K, I urged him to come with his whole family. It was not unknown to have 40-50 folks attending.

Everything that was eaten was made at home, and it was almost like a meal, with puranpolis, batatavadas, spouts misal, idli, and a custom designed home made cake (which was always cut in the midst of chaos so no one could criticise my art abilities which were found severely wanting).

One of my sisters-in-law came from another suburb, and was a bit flummoxed by the new construction happening then on campus . The last time she was here, her husband, our alumni, simply drove her to the house since he knew all the nooks and crannies of the place. This time she came alone by rickshaw, and the driver, inspired by the sudden open roads, lack of chaotic crowds, greenery, and ability to speed, had driven her way beyond the turn off that led to the house.

Our campus extends from a crowded main road (often cursed in my posts), through lots of wooded areas, to a lake on one side, a hill on the other. It also severely lacked then, (probably even now), some good signage. By the time she stopped to ask someone the address and/or the name, she was way near the hill. Our house fronted the lake, way to the west. She let go of the rickshaw , when some misguided soul, told her that the place she was looking for was just a little walk away.

This lady is actually a very beautiful person in a very classical traditional way. And young. And it probably explained why people gave her erroneous advice and offered to walk with her and show her the house. She literally covered hill and dale, academic corridors, lawns and woods, all in the wrong part of campus.

She'd ask K's father's name and get pointed to all sorts of areas. After an hour of what was compulsory sight seeing, she saw a sliver of light shining on water through a gap in the trees, and ran into a little chap, on his tricycle, trying to ride roughshod , at various speeds, over a tree branch that he had arranged , neatly across the road. He seemed to go back and forth across the branch with a thump and a smile, and finally noticed her .

"Hi ! Do you know where Prof D. stays ? " and she mentioned the apartment number .

The fellow looked up, decided she was OK, then shook his head. No. He did not.

He did one more turn over the branch. Then he stopped. Something rang a vague bell. The name. Maybe that was, his best-friend-K's father. Who knows. But the lady was a nice person, and he would ask her the details.

"You mean K's father ? Are you looking for K's house ? "

She could have sat down right there out of sheer relief.

" Yes ! I am his aunt, and its his birthday . I am probably late ...would you take me there ?"

His face lit up .

"Actually, the games and prizes are over. But I know the place. Follow me."

The fellow, immediately took an expert turn on his tricycle, and rode it alongside her, pedaling away busily, escorting her in five minutes to our house. After a few folks berated her for coming so late, she told us about this massive tour she did before landing up at our place.

She relaxed and then enjoyed her visit with the birthday boy, and his friends, and spent some time with the older folks. On the way back, she ribbed the boy's father good naturedly.

"Isn't it surprising ? You live here, you work here, you may do earth shattering research, but your best identity is K's father. "

.....Its OK. I've heard stranger stuff.

When K's younger sister P was around 6, she was inordinately fond of a golden dog who would walk on a leash every evening with his master. A whole bunch of children would stop and pet him and talk to him, till they realized it was a her, and answered to the name Lassie.

Lassie's master was a prominent and highly respected person, and occupied a position of great authority and responsibility. We were once driving by with the children when P noticed Lassie, and stuck her hand out of the car. While Lassie gave her a look like a Diva , shook her drooping ears, and continued, her master nodded his head and smiled at P.

We asked her if she knew who it was.

She looked at us like we were a bunch of ignorant types.

"Lassie's father, of course"....

K and P are now both much older, and when we attend their contemporaries' wedding receptions, we still get recognized as K and P's parents.

Which is just fine and wonderful.

Every identity has a time of its own.

And this one is permanent.....!


  1. I'm late on this, but still. Congratulations on winning the Best Humanities Indiblog. Your blog is deserving of being called so.

    Wish you a happy new year 2010.

  2. In our condo, my husband and I are known as our daughter M's parents...The guards know where she lives...Once, we had guests who had forgotten our apt. no. so asked the guard at the gate where M lived - they promptly got the no.!

  3. In my old home... everyone knows me as my Mom's son... she is a teacher and quite famous... even when I give people directions to my house... i tell them to ask near this so and so mandir where does Kokila Teacher live and bingo !!!!

    here in Indore... thanks to my wife's friendly and mixing nature she knows everyone while I and my brother only know computer games... !!! Everyone knows us as Bhabhiji's family wala's !!!

    :P :P

  4. Nice story! And you're right- this happens particularly when the children are young. They are usually so much more well known to people than their parents!

  5. That does happen :) I am already known as my daughter's mum in so many circles :) Loads of people I meet almost everyday just refer to me as A's mum :)

    And that incident with Lassie 0 my brother once did something similar :) He used to call one of our family friends' dad 'Doggie-dad' :)

  6. Great insight again! I do this often myself without thinking.
    And our identities are ever changing. I like that idea..

  7. I've worked for my father since I was 12 years old. For a long time, I was known as "Lester Jr" (running joke). When I was going to school, I was either "the teacher's daughter" or "Robert's sister." That's Ok. Family is family and it's a good thing to be known by :)

  8. What an interesting post and its true all over the world isnt it? Moreso for women its true. Every identity has a time of its own - mmm I like that. I have missed your writing! Des says hello, he is 83 today. In and out of hospital of late but ok and looking forward to birthday cake.

  9. Anil P Thank you. Coming from you, one is doubly honored. And a very happy 2010 to you too....

    ramblingsbybones I guess we really need to feel honored for being known so....blessings to M !

    HW I am not totally surprised by the fact that you owe your identity completely to Kokilaben and then Bhabhiji. Wait till you are known as Hridays dad. ...

    Manju I wonder if things were the same when we were kids ...

    wordsndreamz LOL Doggie-dad !

    LouThank you...

    Aleta You couldn't have said it better ...."Family is family and it's a good thing to be known by.."

    Lilly I am so delighted you are back. And thank you for the comments. I hope Des has a wonderful birthday, and please do wish him on my behalf...I send him by respects.

  10. We too are known as Gabbar Singh and Mutt's parents amongst the kids and as Brat Number one's (since she is the extrovert) parents/family amongst all adults :)