Chai and Indian families are partners like numbers and needles. Just like we keep boiling the chai in the pan till the colour is cream brown. In life, we keep making our families work till our breath allows. We have chai with biscuits, cookies, cakes for pleasure. Similarly, we also give families societal brownie points like respect, governmental benefits and the state of fulfilment so as to alienate people who seek individuality and singlehood. If you notice, we do not throw bad or undercooked or overcooked chai. We simply frown and take it with a gulp of hope that next time we shall remember to be careful. Drawing a parallel, we also do not abandon our families at the first sight of toxicity and hope that next time we are careful.
Indian families are interwoven with threads of misogynistic love, calculated care and righteous commitment. Well, this might be different than all the other definitions you have heard of families. Love is not looked at as a bond or trust between two people. Indian society looks at it as a fixed deposit. The currency of the same are familial responsibility and economic investments. These relationships are built on a see-saw of expectations which paint the future and carry the clutter of the past. No wonder, the ride is almost always bumpy and never comfortable. The absence of a safe haven can also project itself onto our adulthood. Insecurities, need for constant validation, reverberating anxiety and imposter syndrome are often symbols of disturbed families.
However in India, there are notions that do not understand the complexity of families and reduce them to simplified terms of unconditional love and trust.
This word has been frequently abused by Indian families. Just like in every occasion, on birth or death, deep sorrow or euphoria, chai always accompanies every table, so does “adjustment”.
This word has not been defined and therefore its limits are unknown. Does it mean you have to adjust your sleep schedule? Or adjust your political and religious philosophy? Or both? Maybe none? Who knows! In Indian families, this word means everything from deciding who will cook to who will tolerate sexual abuse. The purview of adjustment is dark and gruelling. It can be sweet, but the extremes might just burn you. Quite literally. Just like chai.
Here is another word, which is swallowed like a pill to dissolve the fever of conflicts. Is there anything in this capitalistic society which is unconditional? Parents essentially give birth to children for societal respect and so that they have a support system in their retirement. The continuation of genes also plays a huge role in this series of expectations. They expect their children to be photocopies of their mindset and ideologies. Children are also the safest mutual funds for a comfortable retirement. There is definitely psychological attachment and care. However, the notion that it is unconditional is not possible. Just like the acceptance of Chai-latte in Indian hearts.
The families we are born into are because of pure chance. Those who are agnostic or atheists shall believe it is because of pure luck over which no one has any control. Those who are religious shall attribute it to their own man-made fiction. Those spiritual believers shall reserve their own ideas. However, we tend to over-romanticise these relations and believe they form a part of a bigger rosy picture whereas they do not. We give them a higher status, just like chai is more important than any other drink for Indians.
Though we tend to put them on a godly pedestal, we must understand that “blood is thicker than water” does not stand true always.
Our chosen families- are friends, lovers, neighbours, colleagues and caretakers on the other hand form a more integral part of our well-being.
Families do not have to be perfect but they sure have to be healthy and conducive for them to be given a status so high in the eyes of the society. We must admit how dysfunctional Indian families are and speak up about the same. The discussions and honest conversations in our house should let the unresolved issues slide by like “malai”. Rather, we need to be upfront and not be hesitant to add more sugar in the tea when it is something we have to commit to the rest of our life to. Lastly, the option of replacing this drink with coffee and a more functional system of living should also be available.