Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dog and Pony Show

The term "dog and pony show" is used by the US military to indicate a time when everyone has to show up and act their best for the senior officers. This is also the best way I know how to describe what goes on when relatives visit an Indian family. At least for me anyway. I really dread these episodes and I've voiced my irritation with them on too many occasions. It doesn't mean I don't participate because I know it's selfish and rotten to not go. Let me describe a typical visit for you. Please keep in mind this is from a foreigners perspective though I don't see too much being different from an Indian perspective (if they were my age, etc.).

  1. Relative calls to say they are on their way and are already driving (this isn't always typical but we have one set of relatives that always do this...many families in India don't call first they just show up.) They say they will be here in an hour
  2. Two hours go by and they finally arrive.
  3. MIL, as the senior wife in the family, serves them tea and snacks and they all sit down to chat. Everyone in the house MUST show up and play nice.
  4. Relative offers blessings from the temple they visited along the way (this doesn't always happen either but you better be prepared). Each person cups their two hands together to receive the offering. You don't have to eat it but most do. I don't know what it is and no one explains it to me so I don't eat it. Not to mention my attitude is allergic to eating food straight from someone's purse - that's right, a purse is a bag so why would they wrap it up?
  5. Relatives spend a minute or two saying hello to everyone, including the foreigner who doesn't speak their language well. I do give them credit they speak to me in English for those first few moments. English they learned specifically to speak to me. 
  6. Once we've all said hello, how are you then everyone else starts talking way too fast in Punjabi and the first 5-10 minutes is about me. I know this from the stares, glances, head nods, etc. No one is translating, including my husband who will most definitely hear about why that is wrong later. 
  7. Uncle ji decides that since no one is talking directly to him or the other uncle who is visiting they should turn on the TV (in the same room...everyone sitting on the same bed) and start watching videos of our recent excursions around town and to Haridwar and Rishikesh. The kids tune into that and then the aunties notice and turn and start laughing at my husband who is the one on the video tape acting crazy because I was winning the fireworks sparkler battle and shivering because the Ganges was cold (not at the same time, but the video's progressed lol). 
  8. Bored adult children (aka me and hubby) get up and leave the room to go see the new car that the visitors had purchased and brought here to show off. (This reminded me it's now been over a year since I drove and I did put the key in the ignition and thought about driving it since I was being taunted to do so and then realizing this is India - so HELL NO! I am not about to wreck someones car trying to avoid some random crazy scooter driver or worse bicycle rider who tries to run over motorcycles.) All the neighbors gathered less than 5 feet from the back of the car to watch me sit in the drivers seat. I'm sure they were thinking that since I'm so spoiled that the family bought me a new car....hahahahahaha....I'ma star!
  9. Bored adult children bypass the visitors in order to return to their room and everyone is finally happy. 
So this is how it normally goes. I can't say that I rushed down the stairs because I just get irritated when they expect me to be there and then I'm not even part of the conversation. If someone would translate (yep, he'll hear about that soon coz right now he's entertaining the guests again) then I wouldn't hate it so bad. This leads me to an apology I need to make.

To all those people in the US who told me they hated when someone spoke a foreign language around them and I told you not to stress so bad because they weren't talking about you - I am sorry! Though they probably weren't talking about you I can now understand your frustration. Especially since I have sit 3 foot away from people who were talking about me and I knew it but had no clue what they were saying. I will from this point keep my mouth shut or try to be more helpful the next time someone says that to me lol.

Of course in this instance they are all talking about when I'm going to make a baby. Well, let's see...I can't go in the kitchen and whip one up and last I checked there is no lego facility available to put one together (and I don't think they make purple lego's anyway...I would want purple of course)...so I guess they are just going to have to get over the "she didn't get pregnant on the wedding night" drama. Literally 2 days after I got married they started talking about when I would have "news." News is code word around here for getting pregnant apparently. It's the only time I hear the word used. I will have news when I'm good and ready to have news and not a moment sooner.

And for any of you out there who are being hounded about your news, the reality of the situation is that many Indian couples don't get pregnant immediately. Literally none of hubby's friends had a baby in the first year of marriage. Several of them didn't have one until their second year and we have one friend who's been married 4 years and no news yet. Don't let any old auntie try and make you believe you should have "news" right away lol.


  1. We just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary and the "good news" questions have begun. I used to get irritated but now I respond with the weirdest things so the opposite person has no idea what to say. Eg: "Kids are expensive. I'll be left with no money for shoes." OR "I've heard you can only have kids if you do it missionary style. I don't like that." OR "I love my flat stomach. I love it more than I love my future offspring."

  2. Lol, too funny! I'm not in any kind of emotional state to get pregnant right now and on top of that my thyroid numbers have been so bad I couldn't have gotten pregnant if I was trying. Last I checked though God had the final say as to when babies come, not the in-laws so I guess we are all just stuck waiting no matter what.

  3. Oh gosh I can relate, and I laughed at the "news" part, because the aunties in my old neighbourhood must have wondered for ages whenI would start bulging, we moved into the place before being married, but to the best of the knowledge of the neighbourhood we were, and I know some aunties kept wondering why we were not with child.
    The next thing you know is that you bring home a healthy baby girl and 6 months later you have aunties asking when you will try again...for a boy!
    I actually shocked my landlord's wife saying that if we have another, I want a girl again, she couldn;t comprehend me not wanting a son LOL I admit this is silly but wishing for girls is my act of rebellion in a country obcessed with sons :)
    Since she insisted on knowing when we would try, I told her I had no plans, and then asked why I wanted another girl I just told her "See I have all these girl toys and girl clothes, it would be a shame not to get to use them again" :)

  4. Everyone loves babies, married couples in any country will be discussed as to when the baby will arrive. in india you may be asked to your face but you its not the only country that will do that. but it is part and parcel of marrying a desi guy and its not a bad thing surely

  5. I love your responses to the aunties lol. I'm only going to be pregnant once. That's it for me and I do want a girl...because they have long hair and wear bangles and are more fun to play with lol. I'm lucky though because this family loves girls and wishes there were more girls in the family so I am safe no matter what it turns out to be. Rohit and I do have to have serious conversations though about why it needs to be our decision and not the neighbors when we have a child (this is for my peace of mind lol).

  6. It's not bad, just funny. And you're right, my family has chimed in a few times wanting to know if there would be any "news" lol. I think in western cultures though it is less likely you feel pushed or rushed. I just find it so odd that neighbors would be so concerned about my "news" too because it doesn't really have any bearing on their lives. That takes some getting used to and some serious mouth restraint. My western nature wants to say "what is it to you," "why would you care," or "it's none of their business if I'm making babies or not!" I don't think those kind of statements would be respectful or well appreciated here lol. I think this subject is very personal and discussing it is almost implying what you're doing in the confines of the marital bedroom which is not something I think should be discussed lol. It's uncomfortable enough with family, much less the neighbors!! (This is what background noise and turning up the TV are for - so no one would know right?? lol)