I have had the privilege of growing up in a joint family , a 25 member household , a house echoing with sounds of a range of conversations, from serious, soft whispers to high pitched cheerful chatter . There was always something to do, someone to talk to, someone to hang around with , someone we could call a “friend”. Not to mention, one could aspire to enjoy “play dates” , all days of the week , all through the day with siblings and cousins , living under the same roof.
Being the oldest in the generation, the rudimentary understanding of “friend” as a little companion one could play with, would have dawned in me when I was around 3 years old and my sister was around age 1 . Though “playing “ would have mostly meant a silent game of peek-a –boo or something like the repetitive task of putting the pretend lollipop in the doll’s mouth that would make both the dolls(the plastic and the real life) break into ripples of laughter. I would probably have been the only one to have felt a tinge of nervousness on the first day at school . For my sister and younger cousins , there was always one familiar friend from the family to tell them “it will be all right”, alleviating the anxiety of the unfamiliar.
Being a child was different. We had limited privileges in terms of material goods but unlimited moments of fun and happy companionship with siblings and cousins. The mornings started with collective giggles , innocent pranks and a kid’s breakfast at the huge dining table. T.V. as a friend for entertainment during lunch hours or recesses was redundant as we had so many “live” friends right at home . Going to school was a fun ritual and so was practicing school work together , with the confident older siblings and cousins , helping the compliant younger learners with their exercises. Non-compliant exceptions were rare. The outdoor games of hide and seek , hopscotch , freeze tag with my beloved siblings and cousins animated the evenings. Weekends meant customary visits to the fields , orchards or the lake , brothers and sisters in arms . Rainy days were about paper boat competitions and getting drenched in the rain . Without reservations.
Festivals were twice as much fun , despite the fact that my sister and I looked as though we were in uniform , with family members diligently buying matching dresses for us, without fail . Festivals were busy times , packed with practice sessions for the talent show that we, the children , conducted for showcasing our talents to our proud and happy family members . Enjoying the rides and the interesting stalls in the village fair was a special ritual during the festivals.
The bond between the members of my generation was so strong that I couldn’t tell my cousins apart from my siblings. Our shared history , a repository of smiles , giggles , anecdotes , our happy camaraderie , the special moments we have built up together is what makes our bond so unique. Though education, career, marriage has separated us , geographically , we are still an indispensable part of each other’s lives. Thanks to my siblings (and cousins), in order to roll into a child-like giggle, all i need to do is to close my eyes.