The Speech That Never Was..

I had written earlier on how much I am dreading a family get together that is being planned and for which my attendance is almost mandatory - no, make that mandatory with a big M ! I was seriously toying with the idea of giving a speech in said get together - however, considering the highly disastrous potential outcomes, I decided to refrain from said act of blasphemy. The urge to write is like the urge to give birth - I mean the physical urge when you are in labour - no one can stop it...and so here it is, without any further ado...the speech, that never was !!!

"Hello everyone. I am sure everyone who has gathered here will name this occasion as a family get together. I have been spending a large amount of time wondering what is the purpose of this. Yea, I am totally Vela, you see. Or maybe you don't see. I am sure several members gathered here won't even know the names of my kids. How many know how many siblings I have? My mom's name? Dad? Not many ! Well, I don't know said attributes about anyone here too...and I am not ashamed to admit it. 'cos I believe in what Richard Bach famously said and I quote The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

So, does a function like this help to augment respect and joy in each other's lives? I don't think so. I have been married into this family for close to ten years now. We meet ever so often in social gatherings, smile, exchange small talk and leave. We don't know what drives and motivates each other - our dreams, aspirations, our daily struggles - nothing. Forget all that, I don't even know how each of you prefer to spend a Sunday evening - nor do you know that about me. Isn't information about the other party  the first step of building a family ? I believe so. 

Starting today, let us try to know each other a little better. A lot of you crib about how emails, FB, Whatsapp and so on have taken away the warmth from face to face interactions. But these can be amazing tools. Let us use them to keep in touch and exchange information. That is step 1. Telephone and face to face communications are good too, but in a fast paced world, this can be bothersome, so please don't judge ! The means of communication is not what is important, it is what is being exchanged. Deep meaningful conversations can be had in an online channel too !

The next step is, what do you do with said information? That brings me to joy - let us truly celebrate each others victories - no, not by throwing another party all the while seething within as to why you couldn't get it. Celebrate in your heart. Thank God or whichever power you believe in that good things have happened to family. This world has enough for everyone's needs! Among this highly privileged group, there is enough and more for future generations' needs too...So, let's stop needless bitching.  

Now that we have taken care of joy, do we want to be a family of fair weather friends ? Absolutely not ! Let us try to be there in times of need - not because of social norms of 14 days of mourning or compulsory attendance in a Sanjayanam. Let us understand the grief. Let us help take care of the practical things that need to be sorted out. Let us be a family who are together in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, in joy and sorrow. That does not mean everyone just gathers in the house of a sick person and gossips again...Let us each figure out how we want to help. A good cook, can cook a meal.  I still remember Mr Venu who gave me idlis the day I gave birth to Siddhu. That was such a relief when both me and mom were stuck in hospital. He didn't jus offer a vague "Let me know if you need anything" - he jus brought the food and left it in my room - perceptively knowing what 'help' means. There are other ways of helping too..Someone else may help financially - believe me, money too is important. Yet again, someone else may offer their professional services or their time. Let us not judge which is a superior way to help. Let us jus each give what we are capable of giving at that moment in time. After all, we are all running our personal marathons too ! 

That is joy and sorrow taken care of. Let us come to respect. Well, respect does not mean falling on your feet every time you see an elder. Or getting up from your seat. Or nodding your head silently to every word you say. These are outward indicators - but can be easily fibbed.  They may or may not signify respect or a lack of it. True respect is earned. And it is fluid. I may respect you today, but not respect you tomorrow - it is dependent on your actions as well as my experience and what I consider worth respecting !  Respect is when you strive to emulate some aspect of a person in your own life. As they say, imitation is the one true form of flattery ! Let us each strive to earn respect by the way we conduct ourselves. And let us respect people for who they are - give them space and don't insist on a certain way of life - unless they are stepping on your toes. Live and let live ! 

Now, I can hear at least a bunch of voices which wonder why I didn't practice what I preach. Well, here is the deal. A new member into a family is like a new born - you don't harshly criticise a new born every time he/she tries to walk and falls down. In fact, you patiently wait for her first step and celebrate that ! Same with the first words - you don't say that he 'doesn't know what to say', you wait till you can understand his language.

In fact, its a bit more complex than that - unlike a new born, a new member comes with his/her share of baggage. Trying to erase that and prepare a clean slate is NOT what family does - it values that baggage and understands that those are what make the new comer who he/she is. Family is a growing organism - it evolves.  Be more open to new ideas  - what you consider mistakes maybe their way of doing it the right way !  Let them be comfortable in their own skin - and before you know it they would have evolved adopting certain characteristics of the new family and giving a part of their identity to the now bigger and better family ! I have been guilty too - maybe I gave up trying to be a part of the family way too soon !  But, let us always keep 'knowing the other person' as a higher priority item than insisting on 'this is how we tango !' Give respect and take respect ! 

Once there is joy and respect in each other's lives, we may or may not want to meet like this - but at least the ones among us who want to meet, will find it an enriching experience and not just another 'dinner' ! 

And for heaven's sake, screw those social norms. Let's not make it a huge issue if someone doesn't want to do this. Different people have different ways of being a part of family. Let's accept that...Let's spread the love...that's what moves the world forward !

Thank you.

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