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Every few months my aunt would find reasons to pick a fight with my mom and often added me in the mix with some complaint or the other, mostly trivial and inconsequential.
We are a small family. My mom has only one sister who has three daughters. Growing up my brother and I spent almost all our summer vacations in their hometown – and enjoyed our time with our cousins. All relationships in the family were largely alright until we had to uproot ourselves from the North and relocate down south after my dad passed away suddenly. Mom thought it best she stayed in the same city as her family – my grandparents and my aunt and uncle.
While the intention to come here was for support things took an ugly turn as the years went by. All of this mostly due to my aunt’s meddlesome nature.
We had moved cities right after college and I started working pretty much a few months after my dad passed away. Despite the trauma, I had to rebuild not only my life in a new city but also a career without a central male figure in my life. My dad had always encouraged me to be career minded and financially independent as a woman, something I am eternally grateful for. I went on to pursue journalism from a prestigious college and then soon after started working with some of the biggest media houses in the country.
And this is where the problems and comparisons started by my aunt who was secretly burning inside.
Her youngest daughter too wanted to pursue journalism in one of Delhi’s most premiere colleges but was not “allowed to” by her father who felt that the city was unsafe for a girl to live alone. A law graduate himself, he pushed her to pursue the same path. While she did get admission in a reputed college -a reason for celebration – in her family, my cousin’s life was never the same after.
A five year degree was a struggle, she often failed exams and had to give them again. Her first job in a corporate law firm was the defining moment. Her health took a turn for the worse, and the stress of living alone with flat-mates who did not have her back and other things created permanent damage. To say the least, she is not the same person anymore, and after working for a few years could not really rise in her professional life. Today she is married with no career.
On a parallel trajectory, my aunt saw me go on the path her daughter could have been on – I had studied in the same college she had wanted in Delhi, where I did my bachelors and then later pursued my PG diploma in journalism. The more she saw me rise, the more she started finding fault with me, nitpicking and turning non-issues into issues.
My aunt, a woman with a fragile psyche and loads of pride always needed to be the center of attention everywhere. Every few months she would find reasons to pick a fight with my mom and often added me in the mix with some complaint or the other, mostly trivial and inconsequential. My aunt never spared my deceased dad either, bringing up issues she had with him to my widowed mother. All this despite being a ‘spiritual, ritualistic person’. The same person who goes for Gita classes and Satsangs, thought it OK to talk negatively about a person who was not in the room to defend himself.
For years I never intervened, questioned or complained – I maintained relationships with my cousins, aunt and uncle – even though she always spoke negatively about me to my mom. I never understood why till I was older and able to put pieces of the puzzle together.
She was jealous – of my career path, my independent nature, my appearance ( as was one of her twins!) and more. She also judged me in many ways, and in a time of trauma not being sensitive to the fact that I was grieving the loss of a parent inside. As a 21 year old you are not equipped to deal with such emotions and build a life / career – instead of supporting me she found fault with silly things!
For years these ups and downs went on, till a decade ago when my aunt decided to intervene in our property and financial matters. A conversation that could have ended amicably ended up in a huge argument where I lost my cool. Having seen so many of her outbursts at home, my bubble burst this time.
Of course for my aunt it was a golden opportunity to tarnish my image yet again – she misrepresented facts to my cousins, never spoke of her mis-doings over the years and victimized herself. What she attempted to do was shut the world around me. I was asked why I interfered in issues between my mom and her! The reality was she had interfered in our financial matters! Things have never been the same after.
Unfortunately, she lost her husband and mother recently, in a span of two months. The pain of losing a loved one was double for her, and while I am not really gloating, I feel that karma played its part. Her daughter’s health and life are at status quo. I have only risen above in all respects.
Image source: a still from the film Haseen Dilruba
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When I was in Grade 10, I flunked my first preliminary examination in Mathematics. My mother was in a panic. An aunt recommended the Maths classes conducted by the Maths sir she knew personally. It was a much sought-after class, one of those classes that you signed up for when you were in the ninth grade itself back then, all those decades ago. My aunt kindly requested him to take me on in the middle of the term, despite my marks in the subject, and he did so as a favour.
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