Okay, so family is coming out of my ears. I don’t know about you – maybe you have the Karan Johar version, where everyone is dressed in the latest fashion, has perfect hair and can break into peppy songs. Mine is plugged into different devices, monosyllabic and in a permanent state of war. We’d kill each other if it didn't make us look bad. Perhaps Krishna had us in mind when he came up with the Gita to Arjun.
Every five minutes we list the people we’d have liked as our real family members. My list is as follows: me (of course), Obama (having dumped Michelle for me), and that little boy from the Super Deluxe movie. Oh, and I refuse to change my surname, though Barack is begging me to.
We were not always like this. Once upon a time all four of us lived in different corners of the world. We made the mandatory phone calls to each other, carefully avoiding ‘I miss you’. We asked ‘how are you’ just before disconnecting and wished ‘happy birthday’ even if belatedly. But in these coronavirus times, with an apocalypse feel in the air, a matriarch mood took hold of me.
Maternal tantrums on my part ensured that all of us are now trapped under one roof, hissing and spitting. We learn too late that we are actually a bunch of strangers with the same blood group. On the positive side, if there is a stabbing, we can donate blood to each other.
We recommend movies and shows only to have the others put those in their must-avoid list. Ditto with books. I’ve cunningly placed all my favourite reads on everyone’s side table but everyone has cunningly left the book on their side table. What can I say, the trust is gone.
‘No offence’ is what we say before being freely rude. It is like we have to learn to be a family from scratch. Having overdosed on MasterChef, they comment on plating and look for little pink umbrellas in their glass of water. My cooking, I have to admit, is done during amnesia. I go into the kitchen and suffer a blackout, so whatever ends up on the table is as much a surprise to me as to them.
A suggestion to play music on a common stereo system brought us all quickly to boiling point as we were as many DJs as party-goers. So we went from ‘Beqarar karke hamein’ to some obscure symphony of Beethoven’s to some creepy young-adult angsty stuff till the speakers committed suicide. The children went back to hooking their music directly into their veins. At nights I gently remove their headphones and hope for elves to come and repair their eardrums as they sleep.
I go to bed but trying to dream the same dream – running in a park – is getting monotonous. How much longer can Barack whisper to me that my arms are better than Michelle’s? Especially when I black out during my exercise sessions too.Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.