Sunday, September 27, 2009

I knew I looked good in a shalwar kameez, but really

Last night we went to my inlaws' house to celebrate Eid. Whenever we get together with my husband's family, there are a few things we can be sure of:
  1. Nothing will start on time. (At least) one person will be late; therefore whatever we are supposed to be doing will be delayed. At Will's welcoming ceremony, my husband's brother actually left the house to pick up the food at the time the event was supposed to begin.
  2. We will eat, but it will not be until really late. Much later than 2-year-olds should be eating. (Read: bed time.)
  3. We will not leave until late. Very late. Much later than our predetermined "ideal time of departure" and even later than our "absolute latest depature time."
Despite these constants, there are also things we never know until we get there:
  1. What the women will be wearing. This one is stressful for me since I never know whether I should bring Indian clothes.
  2. What we will be eating. My father-in-law's delicious biryani? My sister-in-law's salmon? Take-out from the Chinese restaurant up the street?
  3. Who is actually coming to the event. Often there are cross-border relatives who are held up at customs. Someone who has married into the family may have invited her entire immediate family who live in the same city. At the big events, there is almost always a surprise guest: a cousin who's flown in (or driven all day) with a new baby; a patriarch visiting from India; a new convert who just happens to be marrying someone's daughter.
At dinner last night, my brother-in-law and his family were late, we didn't eat until just before eight, and we couldn't get away until ten.

I brought one of only two Indian suits that I really like, but then received another from my mother-in-law as an Eid gift, so ended up wearing that one. My father-in-law did make an amazing, albeit spicy beef dish that I have no idea how to spell (it sounds like "pa-sun-day"). There were no surprise guests, but we knew ahead of time that my husband's aunt and uncle from India would be there.

The uncle (let's call him "A") is actually my father-in-law's great uncle. My FIL's great-grandfather had a lot of children over a period of at least 50 years. His third wife gave birth to A just a couple of years before my FIL was born - to his granddaughter. Got it? To make things even more confusing, A's wife is my mother-in-law's younger sister. Family relationships in my husband's family are very confusing, to say the least.

So yesterday, we are sitting around the dinner table and uncle/great-uncle A, who is known as both a philosopher and a big talker, announces, "I want to speak to the daughters-in-law."

He points at me and, presumably, my sister-in-law who is sitting nearby.

"Daughter-in-law. How do you spell? D. I. L. You would say that 'dil', daughter-in-law, 'dil'."

Remember that A still lives in India, and speaks with an accent.

"Now in Irdu, what is 'dil'? 'Dil' is 'hot.' Daughter-in-law is hot."

He points at me again.

"To husband. To family. Daughter-in-law is hot. Dil."

I wasn't sure what to say, except "Thank you." I had been worried that my new Indian suit was a bit see-through, but I thought the scarf covered everything. Oh, right. I had taken off the dupatta to eat dinner.

On the car ride home that night, I asked my husband what he thought about the whole exchange.

"Heart." he said. "Dil means 'heart.'"

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