I ended up at this funeral on Sunday not really knowing whose funeral it was - not until I got there and saw a photo at least.
The problem with me is that I don't do well with names. Or relationships. So when someone says to me "You know X person right? We'll they're Y person's brother" I draw a blank. This seems to be the way that Indian's keep score of the 2,000 odd people at a wedding. So I'm not Nevyn. I'm "Gulabbhai's son". Actually... I'm never Nevyn at these things (although, when leaving cash, I signed it with "Nevyn". A kind of token rebellious act).
About half way through the funeral, something occurred to me. Given that none of these people have any idea what I do, what I'm like, what I value etc. and yet these are likely the same people who would be at my funeral out of obligation, the thoughts in their head would be quite similar to my own at the time. Too late to get to know this person.
Rather than fret about my own mortality, I'm sitting there fretting about who would do my eulogy. What would people have to say about me? How much of it would sound like the usual "top bloke" dross without any of the sour notes? Just a note here. I would love for people to note my moodiness and sometimes arrogance. Being a devout agnostic, I also wonder if I could get away with a simple funeral with drinks at a garden pub at the end.
It then occurs to me - I would have to have 2 funerals. One for the family who never knew me - i.e. one for Nilesh. And one for the people who always respected me - i.e. one for Nevyn. Or better yet, forget about the family... Obligations be damned. Indian obligations can fill out any space leaving a whole lot less space for the people for which my funeral would mean something to.
Standing next to my brother in law I found out just how little people know me. I found myself misbehaving at times.
The uncle who said to my brother-in-law "you must come and stay" and then realised I was standing there and extended the same offer, grudgingly, to me got a response of "Actually... I'm in Wellington in July". The look on his face was brilliant!
His wife, the one who had pushed me at her daughter's wedding a few years ago, looked daggers at me while saying how much of a pleasure it was to see me (there's a Tui ad in there....).
The cousins who managed a token "hi" for me had all sorts to talk about with my brother in law...
My mother, deity bless her, having read my "Talking to Family" post, started introducing me to people. People who I've pretended to know for years are suddenly being introduced to me. She even managed to miss a few social queues in order to make it a truly mortifying experience.
She was really keen for me to meet her cousin. There's an inferiority thing going on there. I don't think she feels they've ever treated her with respect. This guy's in teaching so I guess it's a context in which he might've heard of Manaiakalani. Of course, he hadn't. And the looking down his nose at her was palpable.
As the day wore on my shoulders became tighter. I left with my sister and brother in law, grabbed a beer at their place and talked to their neighbour for a bit. It was probably my longest conversation all day! Someone I'd only just met...