As we were taking a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia in Scotland while listening to the audio guide, we were fascinated by the spacious and exquisitely furnished family room. The commentator said the Royal family got together here whenever they sailed to different parts of the world. At the end of the tour I wrote in the visitors book exactly what I had thought of the Royal family – what it was and what it has come to. The incident set me thinking, not so much about the existence of family rooms in bygone houses back home, where the family members would meet and chat, but about the concept of “family” itself and its meaning.
I wondered whether the term continued to have any significance at all in these days, when traditional values, beliefs and relationships are being questioned. The other day, one of my friends who had come from London called me over to dinner to celebrate the Day of the Families. (Thanks to The UN which has declared this in 1994)
Wondering why she had invited me for a family get together which was meant for immediate family and probably extended families, all the same I went to her place eagerly looking forward to meeting her husband and her two children who, I remembered, were making their first trip to India.
My friend greeted me with a warm hug and a kiss on my cheek, so did her mother. She introduced me to a few other friends who were already present there. Since I found her husband and children nowhere around, nor any other members of the family circle, Iwished to know whether they would join us later.
Shaking her head, she said, “If you have to meet my family, I’m afraid you have to come to London. I didn’t intend inviting any of my relatives for obvious reasons.”
Seeing me disappointed and also looking a little puzzled, she said, I know you must be wondering why my family is not here to celebrate today. But I couldn’t help it. You see, I wanted to spend time with my mother to celebrate Mother’s Day and it is physically impossible for me to be in two places, especially when they are so much geographically apart, she said.
So, it means your children would have missed you on Mother’s Day and your husband and children will miss you on Day of the families , Won’t they? I said.
May be, she said.
Dinner over, I thanked her for inviting me and while bidding goodbye said the next occasion for her was the celebration of Siblings’ Day which was a couple of months away.
What is that? she asked ignorance writ large on her face.
Are you not aware of ‘Naga Panchami’, also known as ‘Garuda Panchami’, the day that is celebrated in significance of the relationship between brothers and sisters and prayers are offered by them to the Snake God for the welfare of their siblings?
Seeing that no reply came from her I added with a note of sarcasm, “I think the time has come for The UN to declare an International Siblings’ Day as well for ‘us’ to celebrate.”
Not a bad idea at all, she said in all seriousness.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao