Best wishes…

All my childhood years, attending a wedding meant tagging behind my mom, behaving myself in front of strangers who were actually related, eating lots of laddus & jangiris & occasionally playing hide and seek with long-lost cousins from distant lands.

But after K’s sister got married, this meaning changed for me. Having just stepped into college, we were all still getting used to being treated like grown-ups.

Now it was all girly fun, where we could all dress up in our mothers’ fineries and prance around, inventing jobs for ourselves or just hang out together, gossip & look around coyly for good-looking boys.

Oh , and it gave us a legit reason to stay out late.

So when K’s cousin’s wedding rolled around a year later, I was all set to have fun. I went across to H’s house the previous day to check out what she was wearing. But she wasn’t attending.

“Why?”

“K did not invite me properly..”

“What? Didn’t she come over to give you an ¬†invite?”

“Yeah, but I felt she did it for formality’s sake. Didn’t say I have to come or anything. After all, we hardly know her cousin.”

“But H! K is sooo close to us! Remember the fun we had at her sister’s wedding? We chatted with this cousin for hours!”

Nothing I said moved her. Now I was in a dilemma. Should I be the patch-up friend here and call K and tell her about this? Or should I just ignore it and go for the wedding with N & B? Or should I call them too and find out if they felt the same? Weren’t we a little too young for such grown up ego-tantrums?

But then, what if K was not very keen on me going too?

To end all the endless questions, I dialed K’s number. When I told her, she was horrified.

“I went over to her place & invited her with a kumkum dabba!” she wailed. “Please explain what she means by ‘inviting properly’? ¬†And hey! I invited you over the phone. Are you also going to ditch saying that was not enough? What will I tell my aunt & uncle? They are so keen to see you all at the wedding!”

I assured her I’ll make it with the other 2 and in fact had a great time at the wedding.

I’m sure this is a unique problem we face only in India.

Anywhere else, either you’re invited or you’re not!

No ‘inviting properly’ or any other hidden power-play at work!

But with us, the inviting and the attending has so many subtle nuances. I suppose it’s because, we’re totally caught between the age-old customs and the evolving westernised concept of giving people their ‘space’.

There were times when we used to land up at a friends’ or reatives’ homes unannounced and never doubt for a minute if you’ll not be welcomed with open arms.

Now we have to call beforehand to check if they’re home and if they’re free to receive you. Heck! even I wouldn’t like it if someone lands up with family for a meal while I’m planning on catching a movie or have anther dinner scheduled!

At the other end, we have the custom of ‘visiting’ an ailing person.

When do you know its the best time to visit someone who’s recuperating/has had a baby/has had a surgery/is in the intensive care?

We hear horror stories of someone who’d underwent a minor surgery, but expired because he’d caught an infection from a visiting relative.

Or about a newborn who had to fight for his life for weeks in the neonatal care, because some visiting relative had forced a pinch of sugar into his mouth which had some bacteria?

When one of my own family members was in the ICU, even we, the immediate family, were given only 5 minutes to visit her, twice a day. Reason: she’s recovering from a serious infection and she does not need any fresh ones. And since she was stable and would require a few more days of intensive care, we were asked to go home at other times. “What’s the point in you guys hanging out in the crowded lobby?” we were asked. “She’s doing well and if there’s an emergency, we’ll call you. You’re fifteen minutes away, anyway.” Reasoned the doctor.

So we trooped back home and hoped for the best. But we kept getting calls every evening from relatives who called us from the hospital lobby, demanding to see her. And were horrified by the family’s absence!

One of them said, “Can one of you be in the hospital, so we can at least see you?” It was like marking their attendance. It only got worse after she was shifted to a room. Every evening we were swarmed by visitors and the patient just wanted to sleep!

Ditto when I delivered my son. I was still getting used to the lack of sleep and all the other discomforts only a new-born can give you, and every evening, I had to grit my teeth and be nice to the hoards that wanted to ooh & ahh the baby…

But when I did refrain from visiting a sick person, fearing infection, I was gently reprimanded for not showing my solidarity to a fellow human being!

God! its all sooo confusing!

The line between giving someone their space and giving your moral support when a person needs your presence has been so smudged that we don’t know when we’re wanted and when we’re not.

After my experiences on both sides for years, now I’ve made rules (at least for me) to follow.

When I need to be on my own, like when I’m ill or taking care of someone, I tell people not to bother visiting. I personally find making small talk when ill is all the more draining.

Sometimes its very irritating when people gape at you as you’re lying in bed, trying to memorise every detail, so they can compare notes with a fellow visitor. And don’t even get me started on the ones who just want to cross you off their list of visits that day!

And I never visit a new-born till they’re back home & well-settled. (except for very sensitive folks who keep a tab!)

But best of all, I like this uncle of a friend, who held his son’s upanayanam at home with just him, his wife & son and later sent a card to all relatives & friends which said,

“My son’s Upananyanam ceremony was held at home on ——. I know you’ll want to be informed and your blessings will always be with him”

It really requires lot of guts to something like that. I’m sure none of his relatives forgave him for depriving them their share of elai sappad and all the gossip they’d have caught up on!

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