I am 28 years-old, married and this makes me ‘old’ by Indian standards. And women folk (peers)around me ensure that I am aware of my age.
In Mumbai, where people in your building don’t believe in spending time knowing each other because it’s just wastage of time, I too joined the cult of ‘unknown neighbors’ when I moved 2 years back to the city. Having changed by house twice already I (and my husband) are ignorant about other families living on the same floor.
We do run into one of the couples now and then in corridors but there’s no chance to engage in a lengthy introductions since singular lift on the floor (accommodates just 4) ensures that only couples (with their little ones) use the lift by themselves.
But this did not happen on Saturday, when I found myself with a 3-year old Mrigank and his mom (whom I saw closely for the first time; we are separated by a concrete wall). It happened as following:
Me: (in lift, pressed the button to my floor; mentally recalling the veggies I had in my fridge that could go in veg stew)
Just as lift doors are about to shut, this kid hops in and holds the door for his mom who is pants in after him, carrying a sand bucket and toy shovel.
I smile at the kid, my best smile.
Kid: (looks back at mom and chirps) Maammy, aunty is smiling.
My smile dropped at word ‘aunty.’ How dare that runt call me aunty, was the first thought that blazed through my head.
The Maammy looks at me, smiles and tells her kid: Mrigank, say hello to Aunty.
That woman actually encouraged the kid to call me ‘Aunty‘.
Kid: Aunty, what is in the bag? (pointing towards my paper bag that had some latest mags and books)
Me: (recovering from the shock) Err, aa…it has my books. (mentally cursing the lift that seemed to take forever to reach to the 10th floor)
Kid: (turning to his mom) Maammy, is Aunty in school?
Maammy: (clearly enjoying her role) No beta. Aunty goes to office…like Papa.
Ping…the lift reached tenth floor and I jump out.
Kid follows to my door: Aunty, why do you go to school on Saturday?
He had a point! But I didn’t want to be a part of his conversation anymore. I wanted to escape and the key refused to come out of my purse, giving the kid ample time to drill me with questions – all starting with the tag, ‘AUNTY’
No wonder people in Mumbai don’t mingle, as they don’t want to to be told or realise how old or ancient they are becoming while running life’s rat race. I am a part of the Mumbai crowd and I dont want to be told that I am now an ‘Aunty’. My graduation from a ‘didi’ to ‘aunty’ happened in the lift ride!