My family did not always live in Lucknow. My father’s parents moved in from Balrampur and Basti while my maternal grandparents came in from Bankeganj. Drawn from these tiny towns around Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India (famous for the city Agra and its Taj Mahal), my family finally centred around the sprawling metropolis capital that is Lucknow.
While we grew up in the big city, my parents and grandparents are obviously deeply attached to their roots in the family home. As was the norm then, families were huge, and my paternal grandmother alone was the eldest of eleven siblings! Consequently, my father has 50 first cousins so you can imagine the chaos that reigned with such a massive clan!
But this also means that families were inexplicably bound with strong ties of love, affection, and companionship. When my grandparents moved to Lucknow, they would often play host to relatives from back home who had come to the city to appear for an examination or interview for a job. This is probably why my father remembers growing up with a constant gaggle of cousins, aunts, and uncles, enough to keep them all thoroughly occupied.
Nowadays, even when visiting close relatives, people prefer staying in hotels. The intimacy and sheer joy of staying home with loved ones are getting lost with evolving contemporary families who want their own private space at all times. The communal way of living in smaller cramped houses was common then and is still how my family continues to function. Recently, for my grandmother’s funeral, many relatives simply stayed with us, comforting us in our collective grief.
This may seem like a convenient arrangement purely for the guest, but the practice really stems from the age-old values of community and family we hold dear. We keep our loved ones close, sometimes for years at a stretch – many of my father’s first cousins completed their entire higher education in his house – without a word of complaint from either end. These ideals of communal strength are deeply instilled in my familial DNA, and we are all frequent unannounced visitors in each other’s lives. Joyous occasions are widely celebrated and trying times are weathered together by the entire family, supporting each other every step along the way.
Culturally, Indians rely heavily on the family unit in good times and bad. We draw strength from the people around us and is probably why even in an increasingly materialistic age, we continue to value our family ties, even with its extended members, perhaps much more than some other cultures.
Coming from a family with such cultural ethos, has given me a unique perspective on my international travels, including a wealth of intercultural competence. I view my flatmates with similar deference and see my friends as an extension of the family away from home, and it’s hard to not bond with someone you treat like family.
Last year, academic responsibilities prevented me from going back home for Diwali, the biggest festival in India. Instead of feeling sorry about myself, I decided to co-host a big Diwali party with my flatmates for all our friends and acquaintances in Singapore. There was barely any space to stand in our overcrowded living room, but we had just about enough room in our hearts! From this “unintended” yet joyous event, I realised I have managed to expand my family beyond Lucknow, my home town. This to me, is one of the valuable rewards I get as I embark on my international journey!
Hi, I’m Sabhya. I grew up in Lucknow, India. After a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Lady Shri College of Women at the University of Delhi, I moved to Singapore in 2018 for my yearlong post graduate studies. I graduated with a Master in Management from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. Since young, I’ve been a prolific writer who has travelled extensively across India and has also been a public speaker since the fifth grade. As I navigate and transits through my new life in the little red dot – Singapore, I hope that I can regale you with my anecdotal tales.