I spent the last few hours at a relative’s house; an uncle I was quite fond of passed away some days ago after years of battling with throat cancer. Several family members attended the final rites as per Hindu customs following the funeral which was held at uncle’s ancestral house. As dad and I walked in, we were warmly greeted in spite of the fact that I barely knew most. Being brought up abroad and having spent the greater part of my life in cities away from home, I recognized none more than the closest set of kin barring the usual array of uncles and aunts who constantly appeared in every social gathering that I happened to attend. Being the “who cares” type of person, my ignorance of relations never seemed to bother me. But the unanticipated welcome brought some sort of tenderness and affection in the awkwardness of being introduced to one’s own folks.
Be it near or distant, family has always brought with it an air of safety and ease that friendship no matter how profound, fails to create. At least that is how it has been in my case. When you think about it in depth, this ease may be contributed by the familiarity which comes from similar systems and customs whereas safety, from the perspective of a skeptic may be the result of binding responsibilities. As I spent hours with senior members of the family indulging in conversations, I realized that some of them having spent their entire childhoods together occasionally met yet their children failed to rightly identify one another. In a world where one is judged by updates and posts on Facebook and Twitter, where popularity depends on number of virtual friends and likes, where everybody is dying to express and impress; half of these “friends” may fade into oblivion past an embarrassing tag; few have real relationships in the real world.
Bragging uncles and pestering aunts may turn into saviors and advisers. Uncool cousins transform into sincere comrades while “cool” friends walk away washing hands in cold indifference during times of need. It is in testing times that one realizes the value of relations. It is for us to decide if we are to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, our families that have grown and developed over generations, meeting far ends of the world have risen from the same roots which can be traced down to a single tree. Families may change in structures from joint and traditional to modern and nuclear but regardless of the ordeals it faces through time, relatives no matter how distant, remain a part of who we are whether we are willing to accept it or not.