The all-pervasive myopic, silly, interfering and gossipy Aunties seem to have seeped into every nook and corner of desi/deshi humour (Gujarati, Punjabi, Marwari, Bangali, and more) and I must confess, that though Aunty representations may be “spot on” and “perfect” as we like to say, I am finding the Aunty category of continuous jokes rather restricted, repetitive and clichéd.
You see I have had very special relationships with many an Aunty; I have often gravitated towards them in friendship and for support, and felt a great affection for them, often much more than for those in my peer group, and therefore I feel the urge to present the positive aspects of Aunties that humour conveniently ignores.
Let me start by saying that Aunties have style. Sorry, but the prevalent Bollywoodisation(and the Bollywood interpreted Westernisation) that many in my generation seem to have adopted overnight, followed by the bombardment of photoshopped images on social media, does not solicit awe or inspiration. Distaste, actually.
Aunties, on the other hand, have so much class. Even if some like to overdress, somehow, they can pull it off with aplomb, while others have been so confident as to reject fashion. I wonder if that is because Aunties have a stronger sense of self than we do?
I often feel that some of us are just desperate mimicries of technologically altered images of women on screens and in magazines, that we are pathologically addicted to creating and curating false lives because we are so empty.
I have never felt any emptiness emanating from Aunties though. Is that because they can engage with us when we cannot even connect to one another? Even if they say what we do not wish to hear, they are still more vocal and articulate than many of us younger lot.
And therefore, they are far more skilled at conversation too. Look at some of us at social events…either continuously looking into our phones, or showing off our recent acquisitions, or posing away; sadly, some of us are unable to utter any intelligent phrase in any language whatsoever.
And so insecure that we need constant validation and reassurance, and chamchagiri too! Credit to the Aunties I say, who are far tougher and not afraid to express their opinions, whether we agree with them or not, and who are not looking to be feted at every instance.
Aunties not only have substance, but they are better mannered too. Unlike many of us, they confirm or regret invitations, do not glide into dawats late and full of self - importance, and do not selectively forget names and relationships.
And they make terrific hostesses themselves. The ‘Beta, what would you like to eat?’ is inevitably followed by a plethora of our favourite dishes served with love and care. Aunties do not just do table arrangements with ‘spreads’ for social media affirmation. They genuinely love to host and feed.
Aunties take a sincere interest in our health, they are most excited when we marry and have children they remind us of the rites and rituals of society, and most significantly, they hold on to the sweet childhood memories that we ourselves were too young to remember or have forgotten.
So yes, the Aunty jokes are hilarious, and there is no harm in enjoying the humour, but I feel we ought to show the due respect to the women in our lives who really care about us.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.