On Aunts and Uncles

by Ramesh Mahadevan

From: sbhide@mentor.com (Sandhi Bhide)
Subject: Why don't you do something more productive ha ??
Date: 23 Aug 89 01:25:25 GMT
Organization: engr

Fret not, Mr. Bhide. I will respond to your post. True, I did ignore your post the first time. But not this time around. I am not qualified to repsond to every aspect your post, but I will respond to just one issue you raised. You wrote:

3. I travel quite a bit for pleasure. Living in the USA, our children
do not have an idea of the relationships like uncle, aunt (maternal
and paternal) etc.. like the way we do, since we came from there.
If there was a pool of people spread around in the US who would be

directly to that person. This is the way you just created an
uncle/ aunt relationship. Next time, you could take the lead
..........more stuff..................................
Ah, the Indian concept of an 'uncle'- that ubiquitous beast - called fondly as an 'uncal' or with deference as 'uncalji' in the north of India and as 'Ankkil' in most parts of south India. Theoretically, any male is an 'uncal' to anyone younger than him. Some of the 'uncals' are so far removed from your family tree that you have to go all the way to Adam to establish a relationship. Your next door neighbor, your father's colleague, a passer-by on the street who happens to wear a watch just when you needed to know what time it is, and of course your blood-uncles - each one of them is a bonafide uncle in his own right. India probably has the largest number of uncles per capita in the world. That's why ethnosociologists have a field day studying this institution. However, it confuses the hell out of them as to why an Indian uncle is 'adverbed' - it is always Mathur uncle, never uncle Arvind. Also, 'uncleness' is not associative, mathematically speaking. Your uncle's uncle could be your own father. QED. Figure it out yourself.

Indian uncle, once the identity is established, is a man of wonderful charm. He is always planning on how else to be nice to you. He treats you to a free ticket to visit him, wherever he lives, which is usually out in the boondocks, be it in India or the USA. He smokes the most expensive cigarettes and drinks the most exotic form of alcohol. Some of your first time experience of tasting finer things in life was due to your uncle. He always does a thing or two that impresses you so much that you boast about it to your friends. ("His house is about as large as the Grand Canyon") The next time around, your friends and your two roommates visit him with you and then he becomes an uncle to everyone involved and so on. Then it even becomes personal like his being referred to as Mathur Uncle etc.

Occassionally uncles can be a pain and can cause an anxiety attack. For example, they might actually decide to visit you. Then you have to be cautious that your beer gang is nowhere in sight. You might actually have to mop your bathroom. You will have to hide your collection of Penthouses. You may be ashamed that your apartment will not meet the lofty standards of your uncle's. Their kids might play frisbee with your compact discs.

Uncles of the opposite sex are called aunties. They are usually appendices to the uncles. They smile a lot, talk a lot and spend most of their useful lives in preparing copious amounts of good food. They perpetually insist on "Must come - get your friends also and drive down. Bloomington, Montana is a very nice place. We have four bedrooms. I will make your favorite apple ka achar". Just the last time, she brought a huge jar of broccoli achar which would see you through three or four lifetimes. Aunties usually carry a terror kid with them wherever they go. The brat is perched atop auntie's spacious torso. Occassionally, auntie would poke the kid in the ribs and beseech it to 'say hello to uncle', at which point, the kid either ignores its mother and continue to stare at plus infinity or would pretend to be very shy and bend its body into a pretzel and scream out a loud 'no'.

The most harrowing experience of growing up is when you realize one day that you too have suddenly become an uncle to a Sanju or Munna. At first you try to deny it. But, the way Indians copulate and populate, no one is immune to this. Once you become an uncle, your lifestyle changes and now you have to be more responsible and uncly.

Yes, I am fully supportive of Mr. Bhide's idea of teaching the second generation Americans of Indian origin about 'Uncles'. Who knows, in a few years the idea might catch on and they may have an Uncle's day, somewhere between the Mother's day and Second cousin's day. Bumper stickers might quiz you if you hugged your uncle today. They may even have a Mr. Uncle contest, a la Miss America, including the swimsuit part. There will be Uncles Against Drunk Driving chapters all over the place and yes, some perverted social psychologists might be scared by the whole new social movement and would start Uncles Anonymous. Finally, some American of Indian origin (Mr. Bhide himself ?) will have his name etched in history when he replaces Uncle Sam as the All American Uncle.