“Start getting ready,” your parents say. “What for?”- And then you wince. Dread climbs up your toes as you realise that today is scheduled for the big family get-together.

The bell rings and the first wave hits: hyperbolised grins, welcoming the relatives. Of course, you’re not a veteran at the art of holding trays and the water sloshes around as the glasses are picked up quickly.

 

Second wave: Questions about aspirations and marks. And right when you thought everything was under control? That one aunty chimes in, “Accha? Doctor banna hai? Jab 5 saal ki thi na? Toh truck driver banna chahti thi.” Yep. This will be your legacy after you die. You sigh and try to enjoy the banter.

At this point, the toddlers are starting to throw around their limbs and hitting their parents in the faces, clearly bored and seeking attention. Your mother suggests that you take them to your room.

 

Third wave. No, there are no games on my phone and no, you cannot turn on the PS4 and oh my god, please leave my soft toys alone! Clinking of dinner plates and laughs loud enough to disturb the neighbourhood. And then, finally, it’s over. The door parted slightly, your parents dropping them to the car, being asked to come to their place next time; and you crash to the bed, leaving all the ACs on for just a few minutes.

 

You pick yourself up and start cleaning up before mom shouts at you for being lazy. You’re sure she’s exhausted as well, dealing with the paternal side of the family. You place the glasses along the sink, rinsed and ready to be thrown into the dishwasher. You turn off the lights and change into regular clothes, and feel the bed envelop you from all sides.

It was over at last. Utterly exhausting, right? But a part of you feels it wasn’t so bad. I mean sure, small talk is draining and baby-sitting is testing, but… they are family. It’s kind of odd when you think about it; these random people who live such different lives come together once a year or two and check in on each other, just because they’re blood.

A bond that cannot be conveniently erased by blocking them on social media and deleting all your photos together. Whether for better or for worse, this bond had a permanence to it that serves as an anchor to you, even in the direst of situations. Who were you, if stripped of these relationships?

And interrupting this train of thought, you notice the stuffed toy on your desk that you’ve had since you were five has disappeared. You frantically toss the entire home upside down, when you begin to think back to the toys you had ‘borrowed’ from your elder siblings and cousins as a child. Those toys may have been second-hand and well-worn from use, yet they held a special significance for you. Your worry and anger subside almost just as soon as it arose. It was only fair that you give forward your own toys to the next generation. After all, familial bonds are forged through mutual caring, sharing, and by passing on old traditions and possessions.

Your family sees mere shades of you, but without them––without their nosy interrogation, without hectic family get-togethers, without your roles as a sister, daughter or aunt, without sharing with them and caring for them–– you could never be complete.

 

– Ananya Grover and Kreetik Thakur, Amity International School, Noida

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