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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

W(h)ither Social Life

When we were in school- and I assure you it was not very long time back (!) we never had dearth of places to visit. Coming from a township, staying in a city close to native city we had a large share of relatives and friends where we could spend an entire evening. We were not bound by the day of the week – so not just weekends but even week days could be spent at a friend’s/ relative’s place. I can’t fathom why, somehow the siblings and I were never less than thrilled at the prospect of a drive till and spending a few hours there listening to the gossip or flipping through a magazine. Off course the major attraction used to be the goodies served for our benefit. The point is we were quite social, we always welcomed the opportunity of having guests over and all the pot luck dinners used to happen invariably at our place due to the sheer size of our home and my mom’s willingness to have people over. I don’t remember any diwali or holi or dussehra spent without the visits to relatives and friends. Post diwali until 2 weeks or more we could visit or expect people to drop in for the pending diwali visit. And the concept of phone call before coming was unheard of. Today if someone visits without advance notice, I would go crazy. I would scramble to set the house right (hint hint -twin trouble), and raid the fridge or kitchen for something edible to offer them. Even a 30 minute advance notice is good enough to get these 2 basic stuffs in place- snacks and clearing up the place to seat the guests.
Times have changed. In a city so big with many classmates and colleagues living here, we have no place to go. This weekend we racked our brains really hard on whom to visit, criteria being distance, being able to reach their place before indecent hours and a place where both of us could enjoy, hence leaving very few options on hand. And when we finally decided, got the kids ready after forcing them unsuccessfully to shit and drove for about 5 minutes, one of the kids decided to bless the diaper. Back to pavilion for the change and mutiny on hands at being summarily forced back into the house (as if it was my fault) and finally we were off to an embarrassing evening at a friend’s place with the kids trying to mangle a prized soft toy and mess the entire living room and beyond with the potato chips served.
Honestly, for the first time in my life in Chennai I am bored. I don’t want to do anymore exhibitions and aimless trips to Spencer’s or Lifestyle or the movies. There is no place to go, no proper conversation to hold. The only company I have are MIL or sons, several wavelengths away. Close friends don’t live close by and friends living close are not so close friends. And more often than not they are out during the weekends. I have not been invited for a party since a long time and neither have I called people over for dinner- something which I was doing on a monthly basis. Simply put we don’t have time or inclination or energy to do it.
If there is an invitation to a wedding, honestly it is not fun. The khao-piyo-khisko (eat-drink-leave) routine is not fun. At the risk of offending certain segments, it is really not fun to go decked up and then eating down-to-earth normal food served on rickety, messy tables in the dreary wedding hall to be reached negotiating through patches of wet floor and spent, trampled jasmine flowers. For me weddings are naach gana (dance, song), late nights, prolonged catching up with friends and to top it all, a really grand feast.
The festivals are hard work. For someone who is not good at cooking delicacies, it is a torture. You want to make a tradition of doing things so that the kids have a happy memory of festivals but don’t have the wherewithal to do it. So rely on Mom or MIL to supply the goodies. I don’t know for how long I can get away with this. Once the kids are old enough, they will spot me faking through the festivals! I have till now not made an effort to visit people on festivals nor have called people to my place. To me, perhaps the definition of a festival is wither one working day less or one lost holiday if it falls on a week end.
We used to have this concept of visiting “native place” or relatives during vacations. I am not sure it exists anymore. Either you visit your parents’ house for a long vacation or go on a paid holiday. Otherwise you don’t meet your cousins. I don’t want my kids to be deprived of happy memories with loads of cousins. I don’t want them to be deprived of the bonding among cousins; time spent in childhood which blossoms into a friendly relationship through adulthood. I don’t want them to be alien to the concept of extended family. In today’s times we don’t have the patience or time for extended stays. You juggle leaves, meetings and working days to spend time with the guests. Beyond a week you may not be welcome especially with more and more women working in places other than school or colleges, we miss out on having people over for extended stay. The few times I have had people over, I get an outside caterer, which itself is a deviation from what used to be done. We let them hire a car or lend our car so that the guests could go for shopping when we are away in office, though I would rather be freaking out with them. Though I don’t want to wallow in the past- compare what used to be and what is now, there were merits of the old situation which is not there today and I am sorry for missing out on those. Well, sometimes, I really want a "life that is full of care and don't want to just stand and stare"

8 comments:

WhatsInAName said...

Oh well!
I am completely with you on this. Is it the price we are paying for the boom of all kinds - Economy, technology?

lumi said...

Welcome to the US my dear. Unfortunately through the wonders of globalization not only do you get the benefits of the economic gains but the drawbacks of two wage earners in a house, a more mobile society, one that is more structured in regards to time, etc.

Frankly I really don't mind because I live in a small flat, I'm tired when I get home, want to cook a simple meal or eat what my daughter prepared, I want to sit on the sofa in my pajamas and watch what I want on tv, don't want to play chauffeur or tour guide, etc. Generally if I/we do meet up with friends it's usually outside the house for a dinner or lunch or kid friendly.

The Kid said...

wow! This post was hard hitting. I was recently in Chennai and funny enough I had lots of fun. However, (here is the catch) it was my vacation, but very few of my friends were in Chennai. Others have moved to distant places. The city was different. Then ofcourse, I have lots and lots of relatives. And so in the end it was fun. :D

Sue said...

I know what you mean. My cousins and I grew up like a joint family since we all lived close by and visited almost every day. But those same people hardly meet twice a month now.

Lost Poet said...

yes, it does feel pretty bad. But then again, if that was good about your generation, something else might be good about our generation. Who knows. Once we go with the flow, nature comes up with a way.

As for the little ones, they will find their own memories to treasure. We all do in the end. No matter what under what circumstances we grow up, we always do. That is what I believe.

apu said...

interesting post. i am a little ambivalent about it. ofcourse, the old way of life had tremendous benefits, but a lot of it could only be sustained by approachings things as a "unit", not by what individuals wanted to do. to that extent, i feel it allowed much lesser space, though ofcourse, as children, it offered great fun!

Collection Of Stars said...

Me too...me too :) I feel the same. And know what, your writing is amazing and so thought provoking (I think I have already left the exact same words on another post of yours) :)

Moppet's Mom said...

I know what you're saying. It's about a social circle - be that friends or family or both - that you would be comfortable with.

I enjoyed the time I spent in Chennai because we had a great circle of friends. I had a nice circle in Bombay also, but when I went back to visit this time it was all so different, because I'm the only one with a kid. The lifestyles are so different that it's hard to relate any more...