This is absolutely maddening. I travel 10,000 miles and Bhaiya’s freaking driver leaves me at the end of the lane saying he is not allowed to get any closer to my other cousin’s house. I am sure this is Bhabhi’s doing. Making sure I am punished for disobeying her, for demanding to see someone she does not like. But who is she to decide who I can and cannot see in my own family?
I get out of the car and carefully, in three-inch heels not made for uneven Indian roads, I hobble down the street. If I sprain my ankle so help me God I am going to scratch Bhabhi’s eyes out. Chokidhar, the night watchman, sees me and smiles. I have been coming here for years so begins unlocking the gate at the sight of me. As he locks the gate a concerned look comes across his eyes and he asks how I got here. New Delhi is not a place for an American desi who speaks pigeon Hindi to roam about freely. While my direction sense is good, it is not good enough for Delhi. “No no, the car is at the end of the lane.” Chokidhar nods, he is all too well versed in my family’s division. He ushers me into the house and upstairs. This cousin is the elder brother to the one I’m staying with. I am greeted warmly by Elder Bhabhi and we sit down in the drawing room. “You look great,” she says. “You have lost so much weight!” she gushes.
When Elder Bhabhi was young, she was beautiful with fair skin, subtle features and slim waist. She is also much more eloquent and educated than her sister-in-law, Younger Bhabhi. I am not sure what led to the rift between my cousins, but I know I lost respect for Younger Bhabhi when I learned, with her daughters Sweet and Feisty, at her side; she dumped a full dust bin of garbage on Elder Bhabhi’s head.
“You know it hurts us that your dad no longer speaks to us,” she says. “And we don’t know what we have done to upset him that he won’t even call us when he comes to India. Now that my father-in-law is gone, your dad is the closest thing we would have to a father and to be ignored like this…” her voice drifts away so she doesn’t choke on emotion. “But, how great is God, your mother never fails to meet us. Either do you…” she says and tears pool in the corners of her eyes.
Ugh. So gross. I, too, don’t really know why Dad aligns with one cousin and not the other. I feel pretty confident that is has something to do with a $1,000 check Dad sent to Elder Bhaiya some eight years ago where Dad wrote “gift” in the memo space. Unsurprisingly Elder Bhaiya and Bhabhi took the check and cashed it, which enraged Dad. To this day I cannot get a straight answer out of anyone regarding the intended use of that money. But this is the problem with Dad’s family. They insist on operating in a state of smoke and mirrors, everyone lying and telling half-truths. So different than Mom’s emotionally incestuous family where knows everything about everyone. I don’t know what is better --- deceit or full disclosure.