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Nama-Slay! Love, as shown by Indian parents

by Aiden

Sumati Huber‘s comical take on Indian parents’ unique love language.

Ah February, affectionately dubbed the “month of love” thanks to Valentine’s Day, and because we probably need some comfort now after falling back into old habits after the New Year.

But where can we go for such affection? As Indians, parents don’t traditionally express their love with hugs and kisses or outrageous phrases like “Good job, I’m proud of you.” No, in fact many of us have grown up with a mere pat on the shoulder for our achievements or being told that we could have done better despite our best efforts.

These unresolved insecurities may be what you ramble about to your baffled friends when you’ve had too much to drink, but what if you realised that you are indeed loved?

There may have been a time (or many) when you brought home less than stellar grades from school, much to the dismay of your parents who already cursed their fate that you weren’t a spelling bee champion at the age of three. Your parents unleash their disappointment, telling you that you’ll never get a good job or find a marriage partner and that your life is ruined.

But what you don’t know is while they’re ripping you apart, they’re constantly telling all their aunty and uncle friends about how you’re on the path to becoming a brain surgeon with an engineering degree who works as a lawyer on weekends. Let’s not forget their boast that you will also raise perfect children with a perfect match from the best family in the most prosperous village of Punjab. That’s how much they brag about you and your accomplishments, but they’ll just never admit it to your face.

While their standards may be impossible you won’t have to worry about much as you know you can always stay rent-free under their roof. In fact, they will encourage you to live with them well past the age of 18 or at least build an adjacent house on the same plot of land when you get married so you never go far. That won’t stop them from calling you to keep you updated on weather and traffic conditions for your safety, even if you’re only next door. There’s always a seat for you in the family business as well should you decide to join, showing you what love and comfort is all about.

Keeping you close ensures they can buy you what they think you need, whether you ask for it or not. Your parents didn’t like that flimsy shirt you were wearing last time they saw you? Expect a bagful of mom-approved kurtis to appear in your closet. Your Tupperware and pinto collection is also most certainly supplied by your parents who can’t get enough of worrying about your meals. However don’t even think about using those boxes for newfangled concepts like meal prep or storing leftovers because they don’t believe in eating “old food” or “yesterday’s food”. 

The only meals that count must come from your parents. Remember when you told your mom that you liked the halwa she made at your last family gathering? Suddenly kilos upon kilos of the sweet confection start appearing on the dinner table without warning. Or when you commented about how juicy the mangoes from the new fruit lady were? You can expect the family driver to be unloading boxes of it to your doorstep faster than you can eat it. If that’s not the most considerate display of tenderness that ever was, we don’t know what is.

While you’re busy being overfed with your favourite meals, your parents still spend every waking moment fretting that you may be hungry. Their biggest fear is how you will eat when you go off to college, move away, or on a night when the maid is off. Frantic messages start appearing on your phone such as, “Have you eaten yet?”, “Do you need dinner?”, “Did you eat enough today?” The thought of you having to consume leftovers is enough to keep them up at night. Despite pointing out that you’ve gained a lot of weight when they see you, they continue to show their love in the main way they know how – by offering you more food.

 An unreformed party girl and mother of two, writer, editor and observer Sumati Huber tries to make sense of our unique Thai-Indian society and the aunties that she will one day become.

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