As an Indian your life revolves mostly around family and food. Throw in some cricket and politics and the picture is complete. Family is central to our being. Those who do not fall into the categories of immediate and extended family are huddled under the epithet ‘like/almost family’, and they are hardly loved any less. A Venn diagram would probably do justice in explaining these seemingly confusing and multitude relationships we form during our lifetime. It would make for a colorful picture of intersecting circles of people who are a part of and touch our lives to different degrees.
Growing up in India with modern albeit not always correct ideas of independence, I have occasionally complained about familial interference. This type of interference usually entails the close involvement and self-interest of a large number of people in one’s life. We are Indians after all, and even perfect strangers who are above a certain age are our uncles and auntys , kakas and Mamas, Matajis and Masijis. If anything we are the masters of forming relationships and living by them.
Distance does put a lot of things into perspective. Living far away from my family has taught me more than just their place in my life. The family as an institution, and the importance of strong family values, is central to the Indian Diaspora everywhere. It is one of our biggest strengths because it lends strength and integrity to our character, and it makes our relationships with the wider community more positive and meaningful. The respect and love we have for more than just those who are related to us by blood is mirrored in the way we behave and function as an ethnic community.
Life in the UK has also shown me the truth behind Leo Tolstoy’s words in Anna Karenina, that all happy families are alike. I can draw parallels between family values across race, culture and religion. The family ties which bind us are similar. The love that holds us together speaks a universal language.
For the last two and a half years, I have worked with the British Red Cross, in the International Family Tracing, reuniting family members who have been separated because of armed conflict, natural or man made disaster, migration or other situations of humanitarian need. This service is part of a bigger Restoring Family Links program of both International and National Societies of Red Cross. I have had people of different nationalities, languages, race and culture tell me repeatedly that family is the most important thing in their lives. They seek to be reunited because families are neither left behind nor forgotten. And this sentiment is foreign to none. It belongs to all, irrespective of colour, class or creed.
My faith also shapes the way I look at the world. Vasudev Kutumbkam which means ‘the world is one family’ is one of the guiding principles of the Vedic philosophy. It seeks from me aachaar or a behaviour which reflects this vichaar/thought.
For my family and yours my hope and prayer is Sarvetra Sukhina Santu Sarve Santu Niramayah ; Sarve Bhadraani Pashyantu Ma Kvashchit Dukhmapunyat.
May everyone be happy here. May everyone be rid of all sorrow. May everybody see good. May no Human suffer.