My theory of relativity!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jan 2019 12:17:28


By Biraj Dixit,





RELATIVE – quite a term! It is as well-known as is unpredictable. You may feel that you know all about it but its true essence lies is the degree of suspense that it holds. You may feel relaxed at the sound of terms like ‘relative ease’ or ‘relatively comfortable’, but dare not confuse them with ease or comfort. All they mean is unease or discomfort only lesser by degrees. So you see ‘relative’ dwells in the vast ‘comparativeness’ and therein lies its romance, its mystery, its suspense and its shock. ‘Relative’ is quite a term, isn’t it?

Oh but don’t, for a minute, think that I am describing your vast bunch of ‘relatives’ as known but unpredictable, who might bring degrees of unease and discomfort, and who dwell in the vast ‘comparativeness’ adding romance, mystery, suspense and shock to your life. Heavens forbid, No! I would never do that. It’s affront, indeed. But I was just wondering how the two homonyms seem to be derived from the same family of words. Queer, isn’t it?

These Englishmen, when they made same words describe different meanings, did not lack imagination, I suspect. Brexit apart, no one could ever blame Englishmen for lacking in imagination. They are in fact so good at it. I believe they did this mix-up of words on purpose, out of sheer design. Or why would they denounce one’s own kindred as ‘relative?’ One sounds so checking and weighing and comparing and judging while being a relative. As if this is what relatives do!

The Englishmen must have thought that some sentimental Indian like me would, in a fit of thoughtlessness and wanting to come up with some cheeky lines, would use them with flourish and disgust her loved ones. So, in future if I ever come up with some cheeky lines like say, ‘My relatives relate to me only relatively,’ I, of course, am just playing with words and do not mean to say what the words might apparently suggest. To suggest that relatives are judgmental, who would compare and contrast you with the rest of the world, before denouncing you, is, indeed an affront. I am so convinced that, if in case they do it, it is only out of sheer love for you. They expect you to be the best, perfect and are only disappointed to find you ‘relatively’ wanting.

I had a distant aunt who, by the time I had completed the customary touching of feet while remembering her name, would be ready with her report card – “she needs to eat more almonds.” Did she catch me remembering her name? I would tremble at the thought. Although I had put my most confident face and broadest smile, she caught me. Did she? Is it that when one is your kindred all one needs to do is check with one’s gene pool, find matching expressions and cry “bad memory?” How come she was so right? “Her face and hair look so dull,” she announced. Phew! Oh that, Yes, almonds have many benefits. But you see it can only be an aunt to stretch her sentiments towards your dull hair and dull face as far as almonds. The others would just shrug it off as divine rejection. Relatives intervene where even Gods don’t.

I say one must always remember one’s most memorable time and one knows how indebted one is to one’s kindred. Weren’t they the ones who called you by your horrid, repulsive pet name when your college friends first came home? Weren’t they the ones who most affectionately recalled your bed-wetting days and blurted out details of your thumb-sucking habits to your new bride while she was surrounded by your beautiful sisters-in-law? Weren’t they the ones who exploded your tryst with pressure cooker and details of the rice-filled roof to absolutely unnerve your newly gained mother-in-law? Aren’t they the ones who unhesitatingly recall your not-so-proud school days, while you are lecturing your child on importance of education? Undeniably, your kindred are those who present you the most memorable moments of your life. They are what memories are made of. To name people of such eminence as ‘relative’ is an offence.

The Englishmen should have considered their position about naming one’s kindred as ‘relative’ more considerately. But the way they love to mock at relatives, it is abhorable. The other day I was reading Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of being Earnest’, a sad take on relatives, I would say. One of its principal characters had the audacity to denounce his relations thus, “Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die….Relations never lend one any money, and won’t give one credit, even for genius. They are sort of aggravated form of public.”

‘…Aggravated form of public?!?” One’s relatives! Such ruthlessness! You might have admired the British sense of fairplay and lauded their brutal honesty but truth can hardly be a justification for impoliteness especially towards one’s own kin. In reality, the ‘aggravation’ becomes even more acute when you are dealing with relations who wear the suffix of in-laws on their sleeves. They can browbeat you do death and die you should, rather than call them an ‘aggravation’.

One must never forget that this kind-hearted gentry only aims to mend you. For, only they can tell how much you are broken. They are only preparing you for the big bad world, where your greatest joys can fall victim to some coldest reactions, your greatest achievements can be smugly slighted, where the radiance of your smile can be dimmed with a remark on your vanishing cheekbones. They only mean to make your travel in the big bad world ‘relatively’ easy. And don’t you dare ask easy in relation to what. Even the brutal Englishmen will answer that with a certain degree of relative hesitation. One must always remember the saying of the yore. “Everything in this world is relative. Everything, except relatives, for, they are absolute.”