But I digress... The fact of the matter is that being called an "uncle" by non-relatives basically conjures up the image of random old people. Uncles and aunts, by definition are people you're supposed to make fun of. (for the record, I know it's bad grammar to end a sentence with a preposition, but the point of my blog is to write in a nice easy-speak manner, something that connects with middle American...or middle India, which geographically speaking would technically be Madhya Pradesh). It is the duty of all kids to label the random uncles that they meet with some incredibly judgmental and partially untrue character generalizations. For instance, how familiar does this hypothetical conversation sound:
Parental Unit: Come on get ready, we're going to Pradeep Uncle's home.Aunties usually don't have broad generalizations attached to them because most interactions with them is limited. Usually when you go over to another Indian person's house the mom's gather in the kitchen or the family room to watch old movies. Every kid knows not to enter these two zones alone. If they do, they will get flooded with questions about school and their personal well-being.
Innocent Desi Kid: Pradeep Uncle? Their place is so boring, plus he always burps whenever he eats chicken.
Parental Unit: (pretending to ignore those comments) ...don't wear your short-pants, try to look decent, and don't wear those big jeans of yours, you look very shabby with them.
Innocent Desi Kid: I think Pradeep Uncle is a racist too. He once said he doesn't like Mexicans
The Uncles on the other hand gather in the living room and discuss a wide range topics. Although the categories are diverse, they are indeed the same ones discussed at every Desi Gathering. It's like watching re-runs of Jeopardy. Every week the contestants are the same and so are the categories. More or less they boil down to this:
- Problems regarding Indian bureaucracy
- Indian Cricketing triumphs! : 1955-1970
- American Presidents: 1988-Present
- Childhood stories revolving around kite festivals
- Hindu/Muslim relations: A retrospective
While the aunts actually care about a child's emotional health, the uncles' main motivation for interaction with kids is profit. "Sooo, I hear you a now playing THE basketball, would you need an agent if you go professional in the N.B. of A?."
Well this is the nature of things in the Indian world with regards to uncles and aunts, and sometimes you feel like things will never change. I too was foolish about this matter until this past weekend. I was locking my front door, minding my own business when I had a rare encounter with my next door neighbor and her adoreable baby girl. I of course said "helloooo" (with multiple "o's") and the mom-person said "Hi, how are you?"
Just when I was about to answer the mom looked at the baby and said the U-word. It's as if my world was closing in around me. The walls were crumbling, the sky ripped open, and the devil could be seen riding on the fiery wings of Mercury... she looked at her baby and said "Say hello to uncle! Say hello to uncle!"
I was labeled an Uncle. For the first time in my life I had been Uncle-fied. It was awful. Suddenly the sunny day seemed sunny no more. I felt the sudden need to only wear brown pants and reject any love for going to the mall for fun. Soon I would stop wearing short-pants altogether. It was like watching Teen-Wolf, when Michael J Fox suddenly starts transforming in front of our eyes for the first time. Only this was worse, far worse. I was Unk'd.
I wonder what my stereotyped idiosyncracies will be according to kids. I wonder what my views on Indian bureaucracy will be. I wonder if I will still like Mexicans. Will I start dismissing all music with a beat as simply being "noise"? I simply don't know, but what I do know is this: there's no going back. As Maya Angelou said, "I know why the caged bird sings, I know why the caged birds sings."