There aren’t many from my family in Pakistan anymore. In fact, no one from my paternal side, and only a handful from maternal. N only has an aunt and uncle as well. This means that when we visit home, we have only a few people to meet and visit, other than our friends. However, this time, I had decided to keep the meetings to a bare minimum, and politely decline any lunch/dinner invites.
Where I come from, decorum is supreme. If you think I am politically correct, you should meet my mom; I learnt it from the best. So, declining invitations was heavily frowned upon by Mother India. She understood my time constraint but was not ready to make exceptions.
Visiting extended family, when you are in the city for a short visit, can be tough. It’s not like I don’t want to meet them; I do. But I have all of 14 nights, currently split between two homes and a handful of friends. My parents are my priority number one. Everything else follows. And naturally I want to spend as much time with them as possible. But Mother India was not having it, and asked me to ‘think about it’. This particular phrase means anything but a choice in a brown household, just fyi.
I did, and realised something.
We, as expat children, see our parents and family a lot less than we’d like. We are, unfortunately, not there every day, to keep them company, help them out, teach them how to copy a message on WhatsApp to forward it to someone or have Sunday brunch with. We are not there. But they, the extended family, are. They are the ones who pick up the slack, if I can call it that. They visit them every now and then, and have dinners and lunches. They are there, so regardless of however short on time I am, I should at least say thank you. I may not be able to ever return the favour in full (for how do you really decide how much a moment and smile shared is worth?) but I can visit and be there when I can.
So, if you are in a similar position, thinking about whether you really need to go to a dawaat, maybe factor in this detail, and make extra effort/exception for those who are there for your loved ones in your absence. It didn’t matter how strong or weak my own relationship with them (relatives) is; it is solely about my parents and those who were there for them.
Things Mother India teaches me, without even knowing that she’s got her ustaani shoes on.