One of my best adventures so far has been meeting my new relatives. I was very nervous about meeting them, because I was filled with a mixture of wanting to impress them, fear or “messing up,” and concern about cultural misunderstandings. I was pleasantly surprised. When I first reached Nikafoi’s house, I was welcomed with this view:
I believe the intention of this wording is “Welcome to our home” or something along the lines of “Our home is your home.” Clearly, I was immediately part of the family.
Let me explain something about titles for family members. Aunts and uncles are called certain titles based on the relationship to the child. Father’s sister and her husband are foi and fua, respectively. Father’s brother and wife are kaka and kaki. Mother’s brother and wife are mama and mami, and mother’s sister and husband are masa and masi.
At this point, I was visiting Nikafoi. Sudhafoi just happened to be visiting from Mumbai, and Anilkaka flew in special from Amhedabad. So this was an extra warm welcome. When I arrived, Nikafoi was still at work (she works in the income tax dept. for the government), so Sudhafoi did a special blessing for me. It was a crazy little scene as I was trying to do the right things: take off my shoes, tough my relatives’ feet, greet everyone, etc while Sudhafoi was trying to do the blessing. But it all went well, and I felt very welcome.
Then Nikafoi came home, and this is a photo of us.
She pulled out an old photo album and showed me family pictures, which were lovely to see. I even saw a picture of Sujal from his last visit, 17 years ago. As one can imagine, family would like to see him again. I brought my laptop and we called him on Skype, so he got to practice his Gujarati. This was another level to the visit. Samta and Ekta (Ekta was the first person to welcome me, meeting me at the car) speak good English, as they learned it throughout their schooling. I believe their classes were conducted in English. Anilkaka also speaks good English. Nikaphoi and Sudhaphoi speak some English, though they understand more than they speak. But still, it can make communication tricky. Samta and Ekta translated, yet we still ultimately speak a different dialect, so sometimes there were miscommunications, though nothing egregious.
Finally, they took me to a large mall in Gurgoan and took me to a very nice Punjabi restaurant. Here is a photo of Nikaphoi, Sudhaphoi, and Anilkaka:
And a photo of me, Ekta, and Samta:
Samta and Ekta are lovely young women (both in their early 20’s). Ekta is a dentist, and Samta is studying to be an electrical engineer. They were both very friendly and chatty with me.
I know that I am rather unusual in my bedtime and need for sleep in that I usually am in bed by about 9PM, so getting home after midnight was a very late night for me. I wasn’t at my best, because of this pesky cold I have, but all in all, it was a perfect meeting! I could not have imagined feeling any more welcomed!