Someone once said that it is very hard to settle back in a culture and a family if you have been out of it for a very long time, as I have been.
I was so out of my extended family from the age of about eight or nine years of age. Before that I do remember both sets of grand fathers, both my maternal grand mothers died before I was born. Both men were remarkable, learned,upright and principled. I also remember my aunts from both sides. My mother was the oldest of five sisters,and all my maternal aunts are still alive. My father was the youngest and the only boy in a family of four. So all the cousins from my paternal aunts were much older than me,as all of my fathers sisters were married long before my father was.
All the cousins from my maternal aunts were younger than me,as my mother was the first to be married in her family. I played with some of them occasionally as a child. And then we moved away as my fathers job took me all across India. And my upbringing was western and secular, as opposed to the orthodox Muslim the rest of the family were. And if you have been reading my memories, you will know that I left home at a very early age, and faced life on my own, so when in the early 1960s ,when my parents came back to their native city , and I at last joined them , it was a struggle.
First of all one doesn’t know, I didn’t know what the extended family has been told about you, the black sheep of the family,and what is expected of you! So you are constantly on tenter hooks, in case you say or do the wrong thing. That is not the stuff to base any relationship. And of course the relatives “feel” for you! So they are constantly trying to improve your lot by being sanctimonious about it, urging you to be more religious and righteous, presumable as they are!
So you never ever feel at one with that family, you remain the outsider looking in, and they see you as a case study, for the want of a better word!!
I think relationships, especially the blood variety are a bit too over rated.One doesn’t have to blood ties to be loving ,loyal and supportive. Friends are all those things. So it was a blessing for me to move to England,start fresh and be who I wanted to be. Without being judged, interfered with or criticised. Some have been my friends for the last 30-40 years. And we share so much of our lives,without being judged. Something I have at least never got from my family.
I have learnt as I have grown older, that the way to be kind to yourself is to just let it go.Just not hanker or lament that you don’t have “blood” relationships. Forgiving others and moving on is the way to go!
And I did have a lot to forgive and forget. When You are derided by your own parents, when they don’t want you to even stay in one of their and your relatives house,and tell stories simply to prove their point, then it leaves indelible scar .
I thought and did forgive everything, I was there for them in their hour of need, I supported them in every way when they needed it. But I find i am having to do it again.As am getting older, the burden of those injustices and bad treatment keeps coming back to me. Writing is down; is my way of healing myself.
I will do the same with my children,am just happy to think that I was a good parent to them,to the best of my ability and knowledge. And they are free to think what they want. But they are loving and caring and perhaps that means I have not failed them. I think.
May be the fact that I have loved the UK and its people,is due to the fact that I wanted to make my own life, and this country allowed me to be who or what I am.
To be continued!