In my hometown, everybody calls everybody aunty or at least, that’s how it appears to me. Now before you attack me from all sides, I will admit that I am exaggerating a bit. For a brief moment, I forgot the uncles. We are a city of uncles and aunties. You don’t even need to be fifty to become an uncle or aunt. You just need to be “older than” or considered “older than” the person who affectionately calls you uncle or aunty.
In spite of knowing that we are a city of uncles and aunties, I was shocked when someone called me “aunty” for the first time in my life. I wasn’t even fifty at that time. I was just around twenty-five and the girl who called me “aunty” was slightly more than twenty. I did not know whether to laugh or cry. You see, I had finally become aunty.
Ten years later, (I was still not fifty at the time) someone invited me to his wedding. All those who have attended a typical Roman Catholic wedding in Mangalore are aware of that long and boring break in the midst of a series of rituals. During this break, the groom’s family leads the bride away and dresses her up. When the “love of his life” is getting all decked up with sari, jewellery, and flowers, the groom goes around asking for blessings. Imagine my surprise when the groom (definitely two years older than me) came up to me and said, “Bless me, Aunty!” I blessed him with all my heart and soul and sent him on his way. Since he was getting married, he must’ve needed those blessings badly.
The fact that my only sibling has chosen to remain unmarried hasn’t prevented me from having lots of nephews and nieces all over Mangalore. Needless to say, many of them are several years older than me. A bit of Internet research tells me that it is quite possible to have nephews and nieces older than you, although it is rare. Some of them are not from Mangalore and I haven’t even set eyes on them. They send me private messages on Facebook, cutely addressing me as “aunty.” And I am still not fifty.
So why do people call me aunty when DNA reports clearly prove that I am not related to them in any way? Believe me, it’s not my fault. I just happen to be born in a place where everybody is everybody’s uncle or aunty. Why say you, my dear nephews and nieces (especially those over fifty)?