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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sis-in-law and I, two nuts off a tree


The joint family system in my austrian family is the same as in india
Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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Sis-in-law and I, two nuts off a tree Shovana Narayan

Kathak exponent Sis-in-law and I, two nuts off a tree My marriage to Herbert Traxl gave me an extended family – a family whose value system was similar to what I had been brought up in or for that matter what is universal and in all ‘isms’ namely that of honesty, respect et al. I was greeted with joy and as an equal by my two sisters-in-law, Elizabeth and Monika. In fact soon I had become a younger sister to them! We in India are so used to talk in reams about the virtues of a joint family system, yet I found that the same kind of ‘joint family’ system existed in my Austrian family. It is here that the strength of relationships is tested. Relationship is the most brittle commodity for it is based on trust which is extremely fragile. No relationship can be taken for granted whether it is between parent and child, between siblings, between spouses or between friends. Further, for relationships to succeed it should be devoid of expectation, suspicion, lack of respect and ego. Love, respect, space, trust and lack of ego abound in the Traxl household and thus my sisters-in-law and I get along like a house on fire. My sorrow and joys are theirs; their sorrow and joys are mine.

At my church wedding with Herbert in Vienna, it was my brother-in-law (husband of my sister-in-law) on whose arms I walked down the aisle and who ‘gave me away’. Soon after his birth, my son Ishan would be left in Vienna two times a year, each time for a month so that he could be with his grandmother and his two aunts. They were his ‘foster mothers’ as much as my mother and sister in India. The amount of love and affection he received from them that he, as a child, would often say that he has not one but six ‘mothers’! This bond of trust, love and respect was the foundation for Ishan growing up into the ‘responsible’ human being that he is today.

If credit goes to his parents, then equal credit goes to his two aunts for they were the ones who brought him up and looked after him, gave him and me all the ‘motherly’ and ‘sisterly’ affection that is possible. The values that my sisters-in-law along with my husband Herbert and myself tried to inculcate in Ishan, including not falling prey to peer pressure and taking responsibility for one’s own actions became apparent on few occasions too, one of which I cite below.

When he was eight, I was told by my sister-in-law Monika about his reaction to a situation when questioned in his morals class. The question was whether in case of any wrongdoing, Ishan would confide in his parents and elder relatives (in case parents were not there). Apparently, without any hesitation, Ishan said yes that he would in spite of knowing that his misdemeanour would have caused hurt to his parent. His reasoning was that they would want the best for him and that they always encouraged discussing things with him. Monika told me how happy the class teacher was.

My sisters-in-law are my friends and my confidantes. And I hope I am the same for them. If ever I need to sum up my relationship with them, by substituting the word ‘friend’ for sister-in-law, I can think of a poem by Jean MacManus:

“My sisters-in-law are someone I turn to when my spirits need a lift.

My sisters-in-law are someone I treasure for our friendship is a gift.

My sisters-in-law are someone who fills my life with beauty, joy, and grace.

And makes the whole world we live in a better and happier place.”
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017