Sunday, 21 June 2015

My middle-class values.

So, what is wrong with saying Namastay to your older folks at a function, wedding or gathering. My parents taught me to say namastay to every uncle or aunty whenever i saw them -  as a sign of respect and that's what i have grown up with. That's not it. When i was young,my mom used to make me put my hands together and seek blessings if we passed by any temple, mosque or church. Once, i put my hands together to seek blessings from a building that looked like a temple..turned out it was a government office in Delhi!  I felt like an idiot.
 It used to be ok though to say namastey to aunties and uncles! Absolutely fine! Suddenly, the society decides its not. Apparently, its uncool to say namastay nowadays. Just say HELLO aunty or Uncle and the next statement you might hear is  - "Don't call me aunty..just call me by name!". That itself is such an aunty thing to say! If you are 20 years older to me…i'll call you aunty alright! Especially if you are Asian! With white folks, don't you dare call them aunty or uncle cos that's not their culture and its perfectly fine! It's not something they have grown up with. Every taxi uncle in Singapore is uncle and every lady is aunty.. this is just a sign of respect.

I am from a middle class family. We are brought up in a certain way and those values or teachings stick with us for life. Mainly also cos the values were taught using a stick. I am from the ' Don't sit on the sofa with your legs on them' and 'don't ever eat the last samosa on the plate' generation. Family functions at our place used to such an interesting affair. Every once in 6 months, all the middle class families would gather at one of the family's house. So if the gathering is at our place..the following would be checklist.

1. Ethnic bedcovers for each bed set in the house and once the beds have been tucked in with these dust exuding but colorful bedcovers, none of the children of the house could sit on the bed till guests have arrived and seen that we are a clean family!
2. 'Corning Corelle 'crockery out of the cupboard only after 6 months especially for family functions cos god forbid any of us ate in those 'crystal plates' and broke them
3. 5 Main Dishes with Basmati Rice cos Basmati rice meant you were rich and an oval salad plate decorated with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Daikon Radish (mooli), Lemon and Onions. It was our duty as kids to decorate this salad plate so we stay distracted and don't sit on the neatly tucked in beds.
4.  A tray with 4 goodies to be served with tea or soft drinks placed on the sofa table.

Families would trickle in with their little gifts which would range from our brand of middle class chocolates also known as - "ferrero rocher" and the one gift all the families had chipped in for - ANOTHER 'Corning corelle' crockery set.

As children, we would be obliged to bring the other kids in our rooms and sit around talking about redundant shit while our parents would sit outside talking about stuff that didn't matter. The fellow kids would be dressed in their best outfits that they were  forced into by their parents and obviously had a crying match as the material was too prickly and they felt like they were attending a child marriage or worse - were the child getting married.

Once dinner was announced, the kids would have the privilege to have their food first and moms would join along acting like they were feeding the kids but at the same stuffing their own mouths as they were tired from all the bragging about their child's talents and grades. While that would be going on at the ladies and children section, fathers would be busy with their whiskey-soda,non- veg platter and salad..occasionally getting nudged or eye-balled by their wives so that they don't get drunk and start behaving unruly. The fathers were usually forced by their wives to eat their dinner as soon as possible using their children as an excuse with statements like - "Bunty has art-class tomorrow morning..we'll have to leave soon..have your dinner."  Bunty, on the other hand, was busy having a pillow fight in the room with the other kids and has no idea he has been used as a pawn to get this father to eat."

Once the men started with their dinner, the dance and song segment started where the children were told to entertain the "crowds" by dancing to bollywood or Michael Jackon songs. This was usually done so that the ladies could have their fair share of dancing without looking like they wanted to do it. So basically, the kids were the first-to-be-on-the-dancefloor losers so that the cooler people could join in later!

Once dinner-dance was done, families would start trickling out of the house as it was too late while the nicely tucked ethnic bed covers were on the floor cos the kids had a pillow fight and the sink was filled with crockery waiting to be washed. Once everyone had left, a very drunk father would be sitting on the sofa watching the late night hindi movie and mum would be making the tired kids pose for pictures using the kodak camera. These pictures were usually taken against a flower pot or a mirror for that double effect. After this was done, mum would bring out the gifts given by the other families in hope that one of the gifts would be for her…but alas - the corning corelle crockery would appear and she would put it away to use after 6 months. We, the children, didn't bother cos we could sit with dad and watch a late-night movie for once without being told to go back into our rooms.

The one thing common in all these parties was that every kid said Namastey to each other's parents when they came in and before they left the house and till today these now grown up kids say namestay to my parents when they meet them. I do the same to their parents. Mutual respect.

So hey, Namestay.
Yup, you too aunty.
Live with it.


Sharul Channa

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