Last week in January, 2016
Five decades ago (can you believe it?!) this was the cheerful mantra of my Indian teacher friends when faced with incredible amounts of correction work (like, sixty students per class), frequent unexpected school closings, or a strict headmistress's order to forego lessons to prepare for special occasions and visitors. And adjust they did, while I, young and ?perhaps? idealistic, spluttered in the wake of their self-talk, positive-think.
This frequently tested ability to adjust is one source of the incredible resilience evidenced every day among India's diverse population .
Not long after things settle down following the maddening soundscape of our first week here in December, our son calls to see how we are doing. I comment on how freely and frequently family members move among the three brothers' apartments in our almost-new building (Mary Shree, named in memory of my mother-in-law). 'Of course,' I say, 'We can adjust And, at the end of the day, we each have our own separate place, right? "
Are -- you -- kid -- ding .... ?
It is not long before the ability of all of our families, who have lived all of our adult lives separately, to move as a joint family is tested.
A major remodeling of a sister- and brother-in-law's house has stalled; it won't be ready for visitors expected a few days hence. Her daughter and a British colleague, along with his family, are due in ten days for a three and two week stays, including a formal engagement party for the young couple. Where to host them? Time for group-think.
Three brothers and two sisters meet to confer on the most culturally appropriate way to provide comfortable hospitality. Too banal and inconvenient, a nice, nearby hotel is out of the question. Not enough privacy and also inconvenient to disperse the family among apartments of three brothers who already live at Mary Shree and the other sister's apartment a mile away. How about utilizing one of the two vacant Mary Shree apartments? It's a 'no-brainer; the obvious best solution is to host the family in the apartment of one of the two brothers and families still to come, on holiday from the states.
Fine. We can adjust.
There's just one thing: the apartments are unfurnished. Beds? Frig? Curtains and linens? No problem. Move things over from the house under rehab.
There's just one more thing: sister-in-law moves into our own guest room to better be able to direct logistics of cleaning, moving and meal planning. Here she will stay, with her daughter in another
bedroom, for the duration of the run-up-to and including the visitors' stay. Another period of adjustment.
Cooking will occur in our apartment, with additional input from the two brothers already resident in their own apartments in the building. My hubby suggests she take over our cooking planning and supervision, in favor of her guests (and us too).With help: Our driver/cook and cleaning gal, full and part time, respectively, have only agreed to work for the two of us, that too, for only a few months a year. Suddenly they are being pressed into intense service, preparing the dinner and doing doing the laundry for xis m
Every day becomes an exercise in determining and moving furniture, curtains, living room, minimal kitchen utensils, bedroom and bathroom furnishings, some from apartments of three brothers already living in the building, some from her or her sister's houseound music. Frequent conferrings add to the list of what might be wanted or needed. Tea?A hotplate so as to have it ready in the morning? Stocking up on supplies for the duration.
Now, more than ever, you never know who's in which apartment or serving which meal or item to whom. But everyone is behind the project, and it falls into place. I have relatively little to do: just basically stay out of the way. Thinking that the British willare likely to be extremely polite, I check my laid-back mid-western manners, wondering whether I might say something offensive or commit a blunder, whether they'll find our hospitality appropriate or presumptuous.
Suddenly, they are here, our niece a tiny, beaming young woman, her beau tall, shy, and soft spoken.
But it's the parent swho blow us away. They are as casual and unassuming as ever guests could be. Conversations warm up, cameras are at the ready, meals--and shopping--begin.
Each confessing feeling awkward wearing a saree (a change from my youth?!) the young man's mom and I have a practical and sisterly gabfest while shopping for suitable Indian garsabir? to wear to the engagement..I am about to give up when she points out nice features of a Punjabi dress set, which I finally buy. She remains undecided whether to try to dress Indian for the engagement, or just be herself. We relate.
Hubby and I cling to our nap schedule. They do too, but are prompt for tea. Usually. They eat what they are served, happily including stronger spices. They are prompt and proactive for whatever is to come up next on their trip agenda. Never mind, they can adjust.