Exactly one week ago, Hindus around the world observed the significance of what is commonly known as the festival of lights. For me, Diwali offers a space to rejoice, with my family.
And by family, I do not just mean my parents and sister. No, in fact, the troop is much larger.
Significant to this celebration is a gesture of the burning of lamps in one’s home, where you are acknowledging the light over darkness, which translates into the victory of good over evil.
Moreover, there is food. Lots of food. It is a time to come together as a family and rejoice over this sentiment.
Merriment made in such a momentous occasion such as Diwali with not just one, but at least 20 other family members (and counting) can only be considered blissful.
Blissful in the sense that with the coming together of one’s extended family, you feel whole – protected and unconditionally loved by the ten-fold. There can be nothing wrong with that.
Extended families in this day, however, are sadly becoming a thing of the past. As economic situations change, better for some, and worse for others, so do family dynamics.
You see, in the past extended families stuck together, sharing with each other all that one possessed. This assured that everyone was seen to.
Education for many was paid for by a working uncle or aunt, if one’s parents could not afford it. And you were not expected to pay it back. All your family wanted is to see you prosper. They wanted you to do them proud. That was all the repayment they needed.
Most of all, while South Africa’s historical situation forced families to live by extension in order to survive, as opposed to the nuclear family consisting of mum, dad, sister and brother – it too had its rewards.
Being surrounded by a host of aunts and uncles who spoiled you, grandparents who offered you their perpetual wisdom, cousins who were also your siblings that helped shape you and parents that trusted you were still being raised right while they worked hard to support you, is the greatest gift one could have been given.
When I am asked how many people are in my family, the answer often is: “How much time do you have?”
I mean, how is it that you leave out the aunt that taught you to read, another who taught you to dance, one who would babysit you by taking you to her lecture while in college, and the uncle responsible for fetching you from primary school and getting you home in time for lunch.
How do you neglect to mention the grandmother, who although had her arm hurt one time, still whipped up your favourite food.
Worth mentioning was her soft pillowy roti, and simple yet indulgent yellow potato fry.
And when there was just one car to be used, the grandfather, who travelled with you and your sister by minibus taxi during cold winter mornings at the start of high school to ensure you arrived safe, repeating the process at 2.30pm. You simply can’t help but mention them all.
My parents, you see, were happy and comforted to expose us to the extended family structure I know today.
For it has instilled us with the values and lessons that can only be imparted by all the teachers in our home back then.