Acceptance

Coming home had always been something I’d stubbornly avoided for as long as I could remember. The thought of living under restrictions, surviving with my parents constantly barking around my ears and having uncomfortable conversations with relatives you didn’t even know existed always frightened me. As you grow older, you tend to overcomplicate things as well. You carry more baggage, more secrets, more lies. You learn to hide these secrets and lies effectively over time. You only let these secrets out based on how comfortable you are with the people around you. When it comes to my family and I, well it’s easy to say that we’re not the closest.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. They’re a crazy bunch who would do anything to make me happy. It’s just that now that I’m older and more confident in who I am as a person, my body won’t let me go back to be that shy kid who continually obeyed anything and everything my family told me to do; even if it was wrong.

My thoughts were clouded with these unwanted disputes as I nervously fiddled with my boarding pass at the boarding gate to my flight. I was hoping my flight would get delayed just to string the ‘reunion’ a little further away, but to my utter surprise, it had been preponed. How exciting.

You must be wondering why I was so pessimistic about just going home. You see, I’ve been hiding a big secret from them for the past few years. A secret which I know my family would heavily frown upon. Revealing the secret may either result in my family being completely torn apart, or me losing everything I loved and cared for so dearly. There was no ‘win-win’ situation in any possible path I chose. You would think that residing in a country where the word ‘freedom’ was tossed out like confetti from a piñata, my family would be more understanding and accepting for the man I had become and how I lead my life.

As I sat down in my flight, my girlfriend clutched my hand and gave me a look of understanding. “It’s gonna be okay,” she muttered as I typed out a text to my mom informing her of my flight’s departure. I immediately got a text back saying “That’s amazing! Have a safe flight hun! The entire family is here to meet you!” They wouldn’t just be meeting me now, would they? I switched my phone off at that point and tried to make myself get some rest. A long week lay ahead of us.

The few hours after our arrival at Michigan city went by in a blur, all the while my tummy getting more and more restless as the minutes went by. I purposely insisted my family not to pick me up from the airport (which to my surprise, they actually agreed to), hence we booked an Uber to my parent’s home. Throughout the journey my palms were sweaty, my face flushed as I kept fidgeting from side to side. My girlfriend felt my quivering nerves and tried to hug me out of it, but it was all an exercise in futility. I could feel my stomach doing backflips continuously, and by the time I could calm myself down, we had arrived at our destination.

I paid the driver and helped ourselves up to the veranda of my house. I rang the doorbell thrice like I usually did, and prepared myself for the worst. Well here goes nothing.

The door swung open to my parents exuberant faces. They looked me up and down before diving into a bear hug, all the while planting kisses all over my face (still grosses me out to this day). They let go of me after 10 long minutes of cooing and telling me how much I’d changed, before stepping back and realising that there was another human being standing right next to me. They analysed her with confusion on their faces, before asking me about who she was. I gulped nervously.

“I just want you to hear me out before you guys say anything okay? Just don’t freak out.” They nodded in unison.

“Uh, this is my girlfriend, Hannah. We’ve been dating for 3 years now.” The confusion on their faces started to dissolve into a frown. “I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about her ever since we met, but I know how you guys view relationships in general. So, I stopped myself because I didn’t want there to be unnecessary drama when we already had enough on our plates. I just want you to accept her, accept us and give us your blessing.”

There was an awkward silence for about 5 minutes before my mom, holding a poker face, moved to the side and made way for us to enter their house. Not a word was uttered by my parents as we walked inside, just the sound of our footsteps echoing through the hallway. Curious stares were shared between my relatives, some in surprise, some in awe and some in disappointment, as Hannah and I made our way upstairs. Boy had we upset them.

We came downstairs a few hours later, gathering by the fireplace at the centre of the house. The room, filled with all of my relatives, was eerily quiet as we sat down. Hannah looked nervous for the first time in forever, looking around the place like a deer caught in the headlights. Boy had she handled all this like a champ. I’m just glad she hadn’t run away as soon as we got here. My mum and dad walked in soon after, serving us drinks. My mum called for a toast, catching everyone’s attention.

“Greetings everyone. Thank you all for gathering at our place this Christmas Eve. I’d like to share a toast in honour of our returning and new guests here. As we all know, the past few years haven’t been easy, with Andrew moving out, his sister getting married and what not. Whatever came, we faced it with our heads held high and kept ourselves happy throughout it all. And as we all know; our happiness lies in the happiness of our children.” The crowd hummed, and murmurs of agreement were heard from across the room.

“I would like to start the evening by sharing a quote said by Leo Tolstoy, ‘The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself, like a spider, in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes.” Was she saying what I think she was saying? Hannah and I exchanged shocked glances.

“With that said, I would like to give a warm welcome to Hannah, my would-be daughter-in-law to the Anderson family. We love you both with all our hearts, and we hope to see little grandkids running around the house very soon.” I rolled my eyes at that one, while Hannah blushed beside me.

“Merry Christmas everyone! Cheers!” The entire room filled with uproars of joy and excitement, as they hustled over to clink their glasses. Hannah was still processing what just happened, while I scooped her up into a bear hug and shared a light kiss. The family cheered in unison before they all started hugging us one by one, congratulating us on our relationship I couldn’t believe it. It felt amazing to finally let the people who I’ve loved the longest coexist with the person I loved the most. I guess the saying is true, the love and acceptance of a family is Life’s greatest blessing.

By Oeindrila Bairagi

Advertisements

OF LIGHTS, SMOKES & CHILDREN

With Diwali rounding up, there is a spirit of festivity, celebration and rejoice everywhere. Undoubtedly, when one speaks of the festival of lights, the first things that come to mind are- crackers, sweets, family and friends. As any other festival, Diwali is primarily about spreading happiness. In the modern day, the story of Rama’s home-coming might not hold relevance, howsoever, people of all caste, creed and religion come together and celebrate inspite of the endless problems persistent in today’s world.

It has expectedly kicked off debates upon the usage of crackers with each side putting across strong points to defend their stand. The call of the hour is moderation. We must inculcate the habit of questioning, reasoning and then coming upon a conclusion. Though the tradition of fireworks is not old but it is now a vital part of Diwali celebration and thus be it kids, youngsters or adults, everyone enjoys them equally. Thus, today Diwali without fireworks is unimaginable. There is a belief that lighting firecrackers is a symbol of prosperity, good health and fun. But this happiness is paid by the children who have their involvement in making of these firecrackers. In addition to it these crackers have also been a major source of pollution.

In a small town of Tamil Nadu called Sivakasi, exists a major firework industry of India. They cater to approximately ninety percent of the demand. In Sivakasi, poverty and lack of farm produce are the main reason for child labour. The employers also prefer children because of ease in management, discipline and lack of labour unions. The children in these industries suffer from back ache, neck ache, tuberculosis, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, dermatitis, respiratory disorders, over-exhaustion, burn injuries and waterborne diseases due to exposure to harmful chemicals in the work environment. To add to it, there have been numerous cases of accidents due to negligence, hazardous work conditions, over-stocking and so on.

It’s high time we wake up from our reverie and realise the enormity of the problems caused by pollution. It causes discomfort and serious health issues to patients suffering especially with respiratory problems, infants, animals and birds.

Pollutants take days to clear up. In Kolkata, in 2014 the level of pollutants was dangerously high causing long lasting health problems to numerous. During the Diwali festivities, 12 people were admitted within three hours to the city’s Fortis Hospital with severe breathing problems. Among those admitted here during Diwali, 80 percent were asthma patients, but the rest had no history of breathing complications. This is a scenario of one hospital, in one city, of one state in India. We can do the math and understand that the figures will be strikingly high.

As the traditional question goes, ‘If not now, when? If not us, who?’ Answer these and the next step becomes clear. We all are aware of climate change, global warming, human rights and other such terms. We talk about them. We want to fight for them. We want things to change. We can be that change, but do we want to? The choice is ours. We are our own saviours after all.

– Vasudha Harlalka