The month long visit is over. I am depositing Mummy at O’Hare for her Air France flight back to Mumbai at 3PM this afternoon. I am worn out, mentally and physically exhausted, and yet, I have more mixed feelings than I expected. In many ways, I feel Mummy, Papa and I have made great strides in our relationship over the course of the last 30 days. The one thing I am most proud of, that I will take way, is that I made these people love me for me.
When I married Eddie in Raipur, India in December of 2007, I am not ashamed to admit, I didn’t know myself very well. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was very comfortable in my role as an insecure social chameleon. Because of the rejection and loneliness I endured in my own childhood, I was so eager to become part of a loving family, to finally “belong” somewhere, that I was willing to erase any parts of myself that my new family might not like, in order to make myself more suitable. The end result was that Boop felt like someone’s Barbie doll, a miserable person, unsure who she was anymore, and feeling very much like a fraud.
I have been seeing a great therapist for the last 9 months (who, incidentally, feels I have made so much progress that she’s about to cut me loose) to work out these issues. How would I learn to hold onto the important parts of myself, the very essence of me, and not deal these traits away like a bad hand of cards, depending upon whom I was trying to please? I strategized internally that it would be different when they came to my home in Chicago. I am going to be part of this family for many years, and I just have to be myself. It’s in everyone’s interest in the long term. And for the most part, I have done exactly that.
My in-laws are now not quite sure what to make of me: a girl who wears her mangulsutra every day without fail, but no other jewelry (Jen could also tell you what a big deal ornamentation is in Eastern cultures), a women who feels absolutely fine bumming around the whole day in sweatpants and a ponytail, a lady who doesn’t cook, doesn’t pray daily, and who has these wildly feminist ideas about not being ready to rent her womb out to the next generation. At the same time, I have been kind, flexible, dutiful, attentive. I have cleaned, done laundry, drove them around, run errands, given up my bed. Mummy and Papa have wanted for nothing and have not relaxed so much in many years.
In short, even my in-laws have developed a more complex picture over the last month over what it really means to be a good daughter. It is not only about rituals and traditions. They know very well their son is far from a traditional guy himself. For this, I am proud. I am additionally pleased that I held onto my Boopness. It’s not something I am willing to relinquish anymore.
This visit has made me feel more at ease, about future stays, either them here, or Eddie and I over in Mumbai. That is not to say I don’t need a long break before the next one. But it’s no longer this scary idea, this vaguely threatening prospect that keeps me up for nights in a row (such as I experienced in the lead up to this trip). Mummy and Papa are goodhearted people. I had them up on a pedestal, these perfect and wise people who had the ultimate power to decide my value. I have come to realize that they are learning as much from me, as I from them. Pretty cool actually.