Everyone in India is your brother or sister and are treated just as so. At times it can be confusing when my family refer to my elder sister, as I don't have one. They are actually referring to a female elder relative, which could mean anyone since family's are massive in India. After visiting all my extended relatives during my stay in India, I was left feeling like I was related to the whole state of Punjab!
Whilst this might seem overwhelming I find it comforting knowing that I have so many people I can call family. I have written about daily life amongst the general public whereby people treat me with fear and disdain, however daily life amongst family and friends is a vastly different picture. Everyone is very welcoming and always eager to help a lending hand, which also means that everyone knows everyone's business. However I personally don't mind too much since I don't keep much to myself, but it can be a little intrusive at times. It can be a surprise when you first meet someone and they already know so much about you.
Family's also tend to live close by to one another, so you are likely to find family's who live in the same street, neighbourhood or suburb. In my family's instance they live next door to my father in laws youngest brother and two doors down from his eldest brother. So whenever you are home alone and need company, you just walk down the road. Or better yet, you can easily just pop your head around the corner and see what's for dinner when you can't eat what's made at home, or when you miss out because your brother in law was hungry that day. Thankfully they are only too happy to oblige.
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When I first arrived in India, family came to visit me from far and near to welcome me into the family. It's completely normal for the women to greet you with a big warm bone crushing hug. When I didn't reciprocate to one of my relatives bear hugs, she told me that's not how you hug, this is how you hug. As she threw both her arms wide open and wrapped them around me ever so tightly and squeezed me into her bosom. It was a great icebreaker moment and now whenever I see her we laugh about it.
Punjabi parents are known as some of the most doting parents as they will support their children till the day they are married, and usually beyond. It is the bride that will leave her parent's home to live with her husband's family. Since the eldest son will inherit the parent's fortunes once they pass, it is his responsibility to care for his aging parents until such time. Should he have any sisters, it is also his responsibility to care for them should they be unmarried. Parents will also pay for their children's weddings, which can be quite cumbersome given weddings are such an auspicious occasion for Punjabi People.
Depending on the family, most children are encouraged to live their dreams with their parents financial and emotional support. My in laws have supported everything that my husband has chosen to do in life thus far, such as move to Australia to gain residency, and marry a foreign bride.
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You will find that most Punjabi people are extremely passionate and wear their heart on their sleeves. This can lead to a lot of laughter and good times, but also a lot of heated arguments. Which is certainly to be expected when you live in the same neighbourhood as your family, a scene that I can fondly recall happening quite often when I lived with my in laws. The entire neighbourhood would come to see what all the commotion was about and loiter out the front of our houses trying to listen in on what was being said. Should I venture outside for some peace and quiet, everyone would approach me and try to find out what was the commotion about. As I said, everyone knows everyone's business.
Considering much of the general public treated me fear and disdain in many circumstances, it is the polar opposite with family life In India. I have been embraced with open arms by all my friends and family. Even when I haven't been the best version of myself around them, since life in Punjab can be a challenge to adapt to after living an independent lifestyle. There's been many times that I've snapped at my in laws for no real good reason yet they always continue to be supportive and understanding.
Nevertheless 'This is India' and it has many ups and downs.
Do you have a good relationship with your Punjabi family?
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