In case it isn't clear yet, I love my family. They are generous, good looking, compassionate and down right hilarious. Like charming Setrawa, my house is a matriarch run by the food preparing goddess, Pushpa. Her husband is a strikingly good looking man with salt and pepper hair.
Their eldest children are teenage boys, one a slightly smaller version of the other. Pushpa and her sons spend much time talking and smiling together. The next oldest is my lifeline, Rakhi. She is beautifully mature for her age (13 years) and her household responsibilities suggest she is next in line to run the family. Her laugh is internationally contagious and often stimulated by the youngest child, Soonu. At ten years of age, Soonu is a bit of a runt but her small size suits her mischief making. Always sucking or chewing on a treat she is a tremendously happy girl.
Family is extremely important to Indians and they're typically eager to explain how they are related to one another, no matter how complicated. In Hindi, there's twice as many words for describing relatives to assist in such explanations.
When my host parents left for twelve days to the other side of the subcontinent to attend a ceremony of dying, it was for a cousin brother. The children honored him by fasting. When I expressed my surprise in honoring such a distant relative, not even a cousin, but a brother of a cousin, I was assured it was a close cousin brother.
I remained confused about how close a cousin brother living 3 days away can be until I met two young girls at a wedding in Jodhpur. They were identical and inseparable. When I asked if they were sisters they laughed and replied in perfect Indian-English that they were cousin sisters. It turns out one uses the term to describe a friend who is also a relative.
Some of our cousins live in the lean-to of our house and the next house over. Pushpa is a foster parent to the three motherless children in the lean-to. The first will follow her older siblings with an arranged marriage set for the fall. The second is stunning (and tall) enough to be a model. She is my best Indian friend. The youngest is a marvelously affectionate boy of 10 years.
The cousins in the next house over are the proud keepers of baby Kuishy and her two older brothers. The youngest of which is a definitional brat and the elder is my dear Hindi tutor. I see most of them everyday and watch them share everything from food to the responsibility of parenting. The treat each other ambiguous of which home they are from and I'm not sure they would even draw the line at sharing breast milk as I saw my mum teasingly bring out her nipple to entertain hungry Kuishy.