Every time I go to a family gathering, my brain goes on over drive. I frantically try to jog the memories I formed in my head when I was 3 years old. I smile and pretend to know everybody. If I fail to smile at someone, they will come up to me and ask,
“Ariyo?” (Do you know me?) - Malayalam
When someone asks me this question, I act all offended that they even thought of asking me such a question after all the good times (I assume) I spent with them in the past. This is what you should do if you don’t have the slightest clue who you are talking to. If you fail to answer or deflect the previous question you will be asked the next question from which there is no escape
“Njan aara?” (“Who am I?”)
Unlike the first question, there is no way to deflect this one. I will have to hear them describe my family tree, which has more branches and leaves and roots than any other tree in the planet. It is so big that there is a high probability you are one of the leaves in my family tree. Even if you are Chinese, or Punjabi, my relatives would have married someone from there.
The ones who bore you describing the family tree are not that bad when you meet, the ones who love drama. The other day I met this lady
Aunty: Njan aara ariyo? (Do you know who I am?)
Me: *stupid grin on my face implying I have no idea*
Aunty: You forgot me didn’t you?
Me: Sorry aunty. I know your face so well. I just can’t recall your name now.
Aunty: You used to come to me saying Binduamma binduamma as a kid.
Me: Oh now I remember your name :D Sorry binduamma. Pettanu maranu poi (Sorry Bindu Aunty. I forgot your name, when you asked me all of a sudden.)
Aunty: You remember the toy train I got you when you were a kid?
(Me: What train?)
Me: Uh hmmm.
Aunty: You don’t remember the train do you? You have forgotten me completely.
(Me: Hey lady, wait a minute. It’s not like you got me a xbox)
Me: Aunty my grandmother there just called me. I will go and come back in one min.
(And I disappear forever)
Later that day, back home.
Grand Mother: I saw you talking to Bindu.
Me: Yeah. I got out when it started turning into a nightmare.
Grand Mother: What did she say? Last time she saw you, you were three years old.
Me: WHAT! Did I have the verbal ability to run around saying Binduamma Binduamma when I was three?
Grand Mother: What are you talking about?
Me: You will never believe what happened.
So when I say that some of my relatives expect me to have the memory of an autistic savant, I am not exaggerating one bit. I thought this CIA like interrogation happens only when I go out of the house to meet my relatives. But the other day when I logged into facebook I get this friends request from a strange looking old man along with a message, “Guess who I am? I saw you today. You are wearing a blue shirt. Aren’t you?” Scenes from the horror movie, “I know what you did last summer” flashes in my head. Is this a psycho serial killer? Am I going to die? Then I did a quick translation of “Guess who I am?” in Malayalam and I realized that when translated it becomes, “Njan aara?” Next thing I do is search for the report abuse button. A friends request has never creeped me out this much.
There have been a few developments in the past six months. I have gained 9 kilos staying at home. I have reached a personal record of my highest ever weight of 57 Kilos. Though still very far away from being overweight, I fear the worst if I stick with the current gluttonous diet pattern. My relatives however don’t seem to think so. Before this, I have NEVER crossed 50 kilos in my life. 50 was my personal best in high school. The last four years I spent in college made me look like a kid from Sudan. So I cannot stress enough of how much “not thin” I am now. But when a relative of mine sees me, they have only one thing to say:
“YOU HAVE BECOME SO THIN!!”
What shocks me is that, they always say it with such shock. Their own children are starved because their mothers fear cholesterol and obesity. The other day I was at my cousins place:
Cousin: Amma, it is evening. Make me some tea.
Aunt: Do you really need to drink tea now? No need. Drink some water.
Yet in the name of love, they try to stuff everything that there is, into MY mouth. What can you do with these people, especially when you love them? I just sit and make false mental promises of going to the gym as I gobble down the fourth round of payasam that they made "just of me".
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