How To Survive a Long-Distance Relationship with Your Parents

Modern Family

How To Survive a Long-Distance Relationship with Your Parents

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

When I left home for the first time, my parents showered me with parting gifts and proudly told their friends and colleagues that the same useless child they’d threatened with a belan one too many times, was now a functional adult ready for independent life.

Except it’s not really adulting when your mother gives you a wake-up call every day at 7.30 am. “Goood morning, Shreya,” chirps my mom, reminding me of Vidya Balan’s annoying greeting from Lage Raho Munnabhai.

My mother puts up a great act of having some work or the other every morning – sometimes it is a reminder about a cousin’s birthday or some irrelevant gossip about a neighbour – but I know she is basically checking if I’m sticking to my resolve of waking up at 6 am and exercising. This is followed by a lecture on how early to bed and early rise is not just a phrase they teach in school, but one meant to be implemented. As the day goes on, she calls me to ask if I’ve had lunch; dad, in another pretence at being fake-casual cool, pings to find out what am I up to after work. The final phone call comes late at night to interrogate why I was “last seen” on WhatsApp at an ungodly hour the previous day. To my parents, who begin counting sheep at 10 pm, sleeping at 3 am is the equivalent of losing their daughter to drugs.

Nobody told me that moving out of the house would mean enduring a long-distance relationship with an extremely inquisitive set of folks. It’s a lot like maintaining a diary of your life… and then reading it to someone like Rohit every day. Remember Rohit? That totally uncool boyfriend of Preity Zinta’s in Dil Chahta Hai – the jealous sort who not only asks you details about your lunch date and the name of the restaurant you went to, but what the two of you ate and how many pieces of chicken were on each plate.

My parents are a lot like Rohit. Totally uncool.

Every person who has ever lived out of home, knows that the first thing to do is find a convincing answer to the mother of all questions: “Khaana khaaya? Kya khaaya?” The first two times I told my mom I skipped breakfast, it was greeted with the kind of silence that is reserved for someone who’d horse-trade with the BJP in Karnataka. With time, I became a professional chef in the field of imaginary meals, making my lunch and dinner menu sound more like a fare at a Punjabi wedding.

The first two times I told my mom I skipped breakfast, it was greeted with the kind of silence that is reserved for someone who’d horse-trade with the BJP in Karnataka.

When I went off to do my MBA at 21, in a restriction-free, co-educational campus, my farewell at home was less of a cry fest and more of a moral science class on the type of boys on campus, my parents felt I should definitely not be hanging out with. Their insecurities increased with my newfound freedom, and “Why are you not picking up my call?” and “Where are you going? We have the right to know” became the background score to my life.  I told you… just like Rohit.

But like all long-distance relationships, the beauty lies in the fact that despite the constant round of questioning, distance does make the heart grow fonder.

Before moving out, I would be at the receiving end of futile orders like “Drink green tea” and savage remarks like “You are getting fat, drink honey and lemon,” but now I’m only complimented about how pretty I look in my pictures and how much weight I have lost. My father, with whom conversation has always been to the point, sends me photos of him running marathons, with exhortations to join him. Without the distance, we would still be sitting across the dining table in complete silence or debating my “terrible career choices”.

Many of my friends still stay with their parents, and work late into the night to avoid going home. They’ve even muted family WhatsApp groups, but I love the jokes that fill my family group, the regular updates on the weather in their part of the world, and the pictures they send from holidays and dinner dates with captions such as “You would have enjoyed if you were here”, “We miss you”. My once barely affectionate awkward family has transformed into the This Is Us sort of fam, where we talk about our emotions, interests, and ambitions without feeling embarrassed.

As I grow older and make peace with the isolation that comes with moving out, I count the days to my next home-cooked sambar rice and my tu-tu-main-main with dad about my messy room. But most importantly, I simply can’t wait to give them a hug.

For now, I’ll make do with the wonders of technology and loads of hug emojis. My mother will naturally use it to investigate if I ate Maggi for dinner again.