With or Without Them: What Every Trip to Your Parents’ Home Teaches You

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With or Without Them: What Every Trip to Your Parents’ Home Teaches You

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I

was sailing my yacht through the Strait of Gibraltar with Victoria’s Secret Angels and Led Zeppelin for company, when the sound of an early morning Sudhanshu Maharaj sermon shattered my dreamy slumber. I woke up in the bedroom of my childhood, not a luxury cabin, with a faded Metallica poster instead of Adriana Lima looking at me. I was back at my parents’ house in Coorg, after having spent three years living on my own in the Big City, and I had forgotten all about the mandatory 7 am wake-up call from Aastha TV.

Now that I’m safely back in my Mumbai apartment, where the rent is inversely proportional to the living space, I can begin to recover from the bittersweet ordeal that is the homecoming experience. If the trials stopped at the morning sermons played at full volume, I wouldn’t have been such a wreck. But going back home to live with your parents after you’ve been on your own is like taking a dip in a freezing river. In the middle of winter. In the Russian tundra. You think you know what you were getting into, but the reality shocks you to your very core.

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I’m not even claiming creative licence here; my body actually went into a shock mode after eating dal, roti, sabzi for lunch and dinner for five straight days. After months of my own experimental culinary adventures and McDelivery, healthy meals came with their own share of discomfort. When you live on your own, it’s not uncommon to think of two boiled eggs and a packet of Maggi with ketchup as a balanced meal. So naturally, bhindi and baingan look less like food and more like garnishes on your steak, which you stealthily slide to the corner of your plate. It’s not like you find peace after eating either.

Years of living by yourself makes you develop habits that your parents spent so many years trying to inculcate. Of course, the fact that you ignored them for so long before picking those habits up yourself probably irritates them no end. At least, this is the only theory I can come up with for why I got yelled at for washing my own dishes before Sarita Didi could get to them. Or why I was forcibly stopped from making my own bed, and putting my own clothes for a wash instead of the tireless Sarita Didi.

You are like a prisoner accustomed to a dingy cell and any sunlight makes you uneasy (especially at 7 am when mum draws the curtains).

After all that taunting and scolding, you need some “me time” to unwind aka binge-watch your favourite show. Of course, your years away have spoiled you, and you’ve forgotten your parents’ favourite trick of walking into your room right as a pair of boobs shows up on Game of Thrones. So you slam your laptop down to avoid an awkward conversation and just sit down for some family TV time instead. Unfortunately, you’ve been away too long, and Balika Vadhu has been replaced by Devo ka Dev, Mahadev, and you have no clue what the fuck is going on. The world has moved on from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. to Rick and Morty, but our folks are stuck in a time loop with pathetic CGI.

There’s that much of CGI you can endure before your eyes begin to bleed. Now the only relief you can hope for is the sweet release of drugs. Unfortunately, your grandmum’s habit of getting up to use the bathroom every thirty minutes, from midnight to 6 am puts paid to your hope of a peaceful joint by the window. I would advise you take a trip to the downstairs compound, but when I tried, I ended up bumping into old watchman kaka who recognised me and convinced me to shell out 200 bucks for “chai-paani”. At 2 am.

You’re at the end of your tether and start counting down the days when you can return to the rat race of the city. You are like a prisoner accustomed to a dingy cell and any sunlight makes you uneasy (especially at 7 am when mum draws the curtains). You are convinced that home is where the cubbyhole is and can’t wait to return to Mumbai.

Finally, the big day arrives. All that stands between you and your messy half-bedroom flat is a single plane journey. A car ride with mom and dad to the airport is a ritual and it all starts with mum getting irritated as dad takes the front seat. This is when things start going downhill. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pilot who flies Boeing 737s on a daily basis, but mum and dad will show no faith in your ability to drive the family car. The whole ride to the airport will be spent with you trying desperately to listen to the radio over the sound of your dad criticising your skills at the wheel and your mom grumpily going over the checklist of things that she’s sure you’ve forgotten to pack.

However irritating the experience might be, I have come to admire my folks. Not only have they equipped me with the skills to live by myself at this point, they’ve also pulled off an amazing feat of alchemy. In the span of just a week, they’ve managed to make the myriad woes of staying by myself seem attractive compared to the supposed luxuries of home.

By the time I returned to Mumbai, I had forgotten all about the bevy of models on my dream yacht. The only faces I wanted to see were my quarrelsome maid’s, my meddling landlord’s, and my creepy neighbour’s. Thanks Mom and Dad.

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