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Sumati Huber on all the things we should love about our aunties

by Ashima

Where would we be without our aunties?

As I get older and find myself saying things like, “My chai is too cold, I can’t drink this” and “That skirt looks a bit too short” I’ve accepted the truth that I will soon be one more number added to the population of aunties that make up our lovely community. Look for me at the next kitty party, I’ll be the one asking why you’re not married yet.

But for all the quirks that our affectionately termed “aunties” bring to our lives, they also have some unique skills that no one else has mastered. Things like…

They know everything. And not just the gossipy stuff like who was spotted having a sneaky romantic dinner or when the latest Thai-Indian fair is happening, but they have the source for any request you didn’t know you needed.

Suddenly find yourself feeling grown up and in need of a real set of silver spoons and forks? Ask an auntie and they will take you to “the best store” on a street you never knew existed while yelling at their driver for going the wrong way. Once you arrive they will call on the owner and get you an unbeatable price. On the ride home they will teach you the correct way to polish your silver to prepare for all the tea parties complete with mee phad and cheese toast that you will inevitably be hosting for your fellow auntie friends. If you need new recipes they can also give you their secrets, or send their maids who they have taught how to cook their renowned dishes.

If silver isn’t your thing and you’re after the shiny yellow stuff, aunties know their gold shops. You’re not a real woman, especially a married one, if you don’t have a set of gold bangles because leaving your wrists bare is the equivalent of exposing your bosom. The horror!

Call on your best bejewelled auntie who will lecture you for being so plain while whisking you off to a small studio where you will be shown stack after stack of gold bangles on velvet cloth. You will want to choose the simple designs but auntie will make sure you leave with the embossed fancy bangles because shiny is best. Auntie will haggle the price down to nothing while getting the gold shop owner to clean a few of her jewellery pieces that she has brought with her and trade in some of her older sets for even more lavish ones. Who is the smarter one here?

Along with securing material items, aunties have experienced the world enough to give you all their sage advice about how to live. Unlucky in love? It’s every auntie’s dream to introduce you to their sister’s brother-in-law’s nephew’s second cousin as your perfect marriage match. Or perhaps auntie went for a check-up at the hands of a nice doctor gentleman who she knows nothing about except that he’s a doctor! Marry him! Aunties may not know too much about you either or what your type is, but they are aware of who your parents and grandparents are so that’s good enough.

Their intentions are always from the heart. That’s why aunties know you must lose weight or not grow too tall as you will have trouble finding a suitable man, never mind genetics. They know what must be done to make sure you find a partner to give meaning to your life.

If your appearance and health is subpar, call on an auntie for every natural remedy to fix your unacceptably dark skin, your digestion issues, your lacklustre hair, that pain in your neck. If they don’t have the solution themselves they can give you the number for someone who can come home to give you a facial, get you threaded, waxed, massaged, makeup done, hair blow dried, alter your clothes — all from the comfort of your bedroom.

They can help when you’re pregnant — “don’t drink too much tea or the baby will come out dark” — or even tell you when the stars are aligned for the best time to conceive. With years of child rearing under their belt they know how to raise the best baby and ease any disappointment. Their wisdom includes don’t carry the kid too much and don’t expect your husband (probably the same one they introduced you to) for help because he is busy working and has the benefit of being a dude.

At any stage of life, we will never go hungry, be ugly or feel alone when we have our precious aunties! Thank you for all that you do!

 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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