Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bad Genes

I'm down in Wellington for a family wedding. I can't say I've ever really enjoyed Wellington all that much.

As a smoker, it's hell - you can buy cigarettes. You can put them in your mouth. You just can't light the damn things. It's a bit of a look but don't touch or touch but don't saviour sort of a deal.

Wellington does have it's good points. The public transport system is great. However, this is counteracted for the fact that it's got quite a large Indian community. This in itself isn't such a bad thing. They're a fairly strong community. The problem with that though, being of Indian descent myself, and that they all seem to know each other, I have the problem that they have a tendency to stare as if trying to work out where I'm from.

This trip has had it's good points. I took a bottle of whiskey along to my Uncle's hotel room and drank the night away with him and his partner. I don't really know him. My sisters only see him in a negative light. He did some prison time which seems to have mellowed him out a little. I haven't really had the opportunity before this weekend to get to know him and for him to learn something about me.

That's kind of where the good points stopped though. I was at the wedding and it occurred to me that I really shouldn't be there. The bride lives a suburb away from my parents and I but only acknowledges our existence if:
  1. She has to out of obligation (such as a wedding).
  2. She's dropping something off for my sister or they've arranged to meet up at my parents place.
Indian weddings seem to be ALL about obligation. An Auckland wedding has a couple of thousand people there. The bride and groom probably know about a quarter of them and the rest are there out of obligation or the free food.

The most interesting part is that they tend to make it a fairly unpleasant experience. The ceremony's long. There are lots of breaks where nothing is happening. There's no drink. The food is the same mass cooked lumpy green stuff that they serve at every wedding. There are some ceremonies that although they have meaning in India, that meaning is somewhat lost in New Zealand let there are still tears and the like. And then there are the family photos...

In Auckland, they make you pose for a photo then hold that pose while they pan across slowly with a video camera. And they do every possible combination of genders and families. This all takes a couple of hours.

This wedding was different. They were a well oiled machine. They had lists and schedules and had doled out responsibilities and had contingencies. Of course, any general would know that any plan goes out the window when the battle starts. In this case, the bride was 15 minutes late in the morning.

So the mother of the bride was actually actively snobbing me. I don't know whether to be flattered, that she would actually go through that much effort to snob me, or insulted. Either which way it didn't really feel worth the effort to come down to Wellington. I could have spent a few more days in New Plymouth with Ian and Mrs. Cream or gone back to Auckland and gear up for the new year.

But back to schedules and photos... The dreaded time came around. Being an immediate cousin I knew I'd have to be in at least one photo. There was no avoiding it. Only, instead of saying "You're up for a photo now", an auntie puts her hands on my shoulders and starts shoving me.

She looked taken aback when I turned around and said "take your hands off me". Her hands didn't move though. They stayed on my shoulders. I had to repeat myself several times while she sat there insisting that I had to go up for a photo. First things first.... "Take your damn hands off me".

Her mannish hands finally released me and I started up to the stage. Only, everyone was milling around a tad confused. Where were they supposed to go? Another auntie, the mother of the bride shoved me. I turned around and snapped. "Get your damn hands off me. If you want me to do something talk to me. Don't you dare think you can just shove me". She was insistent that we only had 15 minutes for family photos and we needed to hurry up.

That felt pretty crap. Snapping at the mother of the bride. However, I wasn't apologising. Treat people like people and you get much better results than just herding them into a general area and not giving them a clue about where they're supposed to be (Men at the back standing? Women in the chairs?).

About apologies:

That first auntie - she's a bit of a drunk. Ever since her husband died some 20 odd years ago, she's been in mourning. For Hindu woman, this means not wearing bangles and those decorative dots on their heads. They have to be vegetarian. There are probably a hundred other rules. But really... 20 odd years.

When I was in my late teens I was asked to go and help her out in the shop. This was a huge inconvenience for me. Spending my Saturdays going out to Howick to work in a dairy.

The whole experience was unpleasant. She complained about my clothes (jeans and a t-shirt even though I was out the back stacking boxes for the most part and it was, after all, just a dairy). But the bit that's really galling. She accused me of stealing money. A review of the video cameras showed that she had taken the money and put it away. But there was no apology. No acknowledgement at all of what had happened. I only found out about the review of the video footage from someone else.

So past experience tells me that there will not be an apology coming any time soon. Not from her.

The other auntie I admittedly don't know terribly well. Her and my mother have been engaged in a battle of sibling rivalry for as long as I can remember. She makes every effort to make my mother feel stupid.

So I don't hold high hopes there either.

But the most galling bit - if I had pulled that sort of stunt with the children at Pt England or any other school, I would be justifiably made to leave at the very least. So I'm being treated as less than a little person yet alone as a 31 year old man.

So along with those characters, on my mother's side of the family there's also:

The auntie who "suffers" Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If my family ever visit they go to the service station before hand to use the toilet - because as soon as they're in the door, the furniture is rearranged so as to block off the toilet door. She's never really been called up on it. The family peace has to be maintained no matter the problems...

The auntie who introduces my grandfather to people. He died when I was 7.

With the various weird behaviours of my mother's side of the family, I find myself questioning my own genes. What chance have I got? I'm hoping that the act of questioning my genes has to be a good sign... right?

There's another ceremony tonight. I'm stubbornly refusing to go. I guess this is really just Nilesh finally being declared dead. I will choose how I'm treated and will not take that disrespect or rudeness any more. Family obligations be damned.


  1. Why did you go? You could have saved yourself the aggravation cause families will not change, no matter how much you rant and rave at them. You could have just stayed in New Plymouth. So why did you go?

  2. I didn't know it was going to be quite as aggravating as it was.

    But it has lead to some positives:

    1. I know now that I'm not going to put up with this sort of thing anymore. The Nilesh vs. Nevyn thing can be considered dead as I really just need to concentrate on being the person I need to be rather than trying to keep people happy. Sod the lot of 'em if they can't see that.

    2. They now know I won't put up with that sort of bollocks.

    3. It's going to make for an awesome birthday if I'm able to afford to change my name legally. Imagine it - going and doing some mundane paperwork but walking out feeling.... almost reborn. Of course, I need to consider the other little bits and pieces - passport, mailing lists etc. But I imagine it won't be any worse than a married person changing their surname.

    4. It's told me something about myself and that should never be sniffed at.