The ‘Daugts’

In Fond Memory of my Beloved Uncle

“My daugts! Having fun, huh!”

Those doting words full of love and affection still ring in my ears loud and clear, even though it’s been close to a decade now.

I grew up in a joint family where the concept of family is not just limited to parents and siblings. Besides parents, my family constituted my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins – a total of 17 people. Uncles here are my father’s brothers and aunts, their wives. We lived together under one roof sharing common bathrooms, toilets and a common kitchen.

Subsequently, as we grew up the family progressively became smaller due to various reasons. Contributing events include an uncle being transferred to another city and moving out with his family; another uncle moving out to a different house with his wife after he got married; grandparents passing away.

Most of these events however happened after I had completed school and had stepped into college. As a result I have experienced the adventure and fun of being in a large family for a significant part of my life. Life is all ironies given that I live all alone now – not something I had even remotely anticipated.

And, with my generation of the family moving out and settling with jobs in other parts of the country, there are just four people living in our house in Shillong – my parents, an uncle and an aunt. The rest of us are reduced to being just occasional visitors.

A direct consequence of living together has been the bond that we cousins share – the five girls of the family are like own sisters rather than cousins. Circumstances in the past few years have brought in a little distance between us as we don’t get to catch up often. However, in our heart of hearts our love for each other remains the same.

The best memories of our cousins together are those that we have spent in Kolkata. My uncle had retired from his job and settled down with his family – my aunt and two cousins – in an apartment in the South of Kolkata. At the same time, I had also moved to Kolkata with a job and lived with my sister in the North of Kolkata. The youngest cousin was doing her MBA from an institute in Kolkata and she stayed with us too.

So, three of us stayed in the North and two of them stayed in the South.  Notwithstanding the 23 Km. between us, the five of us would spend a considerable amount of time together. Much of that was spent in my uncle’s house. Living at two ends of the metropolis hardly bothered us. The five of us together meant the world to us. We would cancel our meetings with friends and other engagements to just be together because being together used to be the greatest fun of all.

 This is the only picture I have of us with a nephew, me missing in the frame though as I was clicking. Those were pre-digital days and tonnes of printed pictures are safely stored back home.

Those years were fantastic and definitely belong to the bucket where I store the best days of my life. It was all about mindless conversations and incessant laughter; about making fun of the idiosyncrasies of other family members, giving them names; and endless repetitions of the same gossips running late into the nights. The five of us would cuddle together in one big bed and spend the night together even if that meant being uncomfortably sandwiched with each other.

Our laughter was contagious and my uncle would sporadically make his appearance saying the same thing in various ways.

“My daughts…enjoying huh!”

Daughts is what he would lovingly call us, meaning daughters. And we would laugh even more seeing him peeping into the room every now and then.

One of the cousins loved cooking and we were her guinea pigs whether we liked it or not. On the days of her experiments, my uncle would be seen making several trips to the local market to get all the special ingredients.

Often, we would go on long drives in the car that belonged to one of us much to the amusement of Kuddus, our driver, who enjoyed just as much, though he had no choice whatsoever.

Then there were festivals, especially Durga Pujas. The Durga Pujas that we spent together were the best! No other Durga Puja before or after that has been the same. Dressing up and pandal hopping all over Kolkata ignoring the profuse sweating in the tropical humid weather or walking the muddy lanes when it rained. Then coming back to the apartment and enjoying the gala celebrations of song and dance all night long from the privacy of our very own balcony.  My uncle’s flat was the only one that would always fall within the closed enclosure of the apartment Durga Puja Pandal, much to the envy of all the neighbours.

Those days are clearly some of the best days of my life!

My uncle passed away nearly a decade back and ever since the daughts haven’t been the same anymore.

(And, I realized that in the absence of digital pictures, I don’t have a single picture of my uncle.)

Thought Provoking Rants

The hurt isn’t going away. It’s been more than a year but it keeps coming back, often provoked by some random happening – a photograph, a memory on Facebook, some mention of them by someone, and so on. Probably we were too close, perhaps more than we should have been.

Their behavior and the choices they made hurt me so much that I wish we were never part of each other’s lives. I wish I could erase all the memories. Most importantly, I wish I could get over this feeling of hurt. And this age of social media doesn’t allow things to be forgotten.

Surely they have their reasons and one hand cannot clap so there has surely been misses at my end too. Life is short. Why does it become so difficult to let bygones be bygones and move on fresh and anew? Human relationships are complicated and as they say once there’s a scratch, it will heal but the mark will remain.

I am trying to be a more spiritually oriented person. If that’s the path I want to follow why is this getting so difficult for me? Is this my ego? I am not sure, as the pain I feel is real. It keeps coming back to me how alienated I had felt; how I was pushed to one corner when I needed them the most.

I thought we were very close friends, so much so that they were part of me….but they didn’t care….they were ruthlessly insensitive and displayed no empathy. They judged me, judged everything I said….blamed me of unnecessary whining when I shared my feelings of desolation and loneliness. They even tried to associate a negative psychological condition with my state of affairs.

I thought I was sharing my intimate feelings with my very close friends. Aren’t you supposed to share such kind of things with friends? Aren’t you supposed to support your friend even at times when they are not very likable – if at all that was the case? Perhaps being an open book is not a good idea, even if it’s with your closest friends. It just makes you vulnerable.

Why did we allow things to go disarray? When things went so wrong why did they resort to chat-messages? What stopped them from giving me call and clearing things upfront? Why did they gang up and resort to Social Media instead? We’ve had disagreements many times in the past but it was just a matter of time before things would settle down without a trace. However, this one was different.

I am a very social person and have a couple of other close friends. So, ideally I shouldn’t miss them but I do. I remember them often, both in good and bad times. They have left a dent in my heart, a deep one that I am unable to heal. Today they connect with me to talk, again through text messages, about mundane things, perhaps in an effort to fix things. Not sure if they realize the hurt is really deep and I am still not able to overcome it. I respond whenever they connect while consciously maintaining a distance, sometimes just answering what they ask. I cannot be myself with them ever again. I can’t share my intimate thoughts and feelings with them anymore.

At the same time, I tell myself why can’t I?  We are not here forever and friendships are precious. But again a contradictory thought strikes – perhaps it’s better to move away from people who let you down and who have no regard for your feelings, especially when they have been your close friends who you have loved so dearly.

Yet one question haunts me – Why did we let our decade-long relationship collapse?

All said, time is the biggest healer so I am hopeful!