The large circle of relatives on my father and mother's side looks somewhat like the spirograph here. There are circles within, and circles outside circles. Some small circles overlap large circles, some large ones overlap smaller ones; some make loops with others, which in turn make loops with some others. As the family grew by loops and bounds, the spirograph grew in circumference and complexity, and would be a challenge for any mathematician. Some circles get knotted with others and become an unentangle-able mess, much like maanja and thread on the floor of the terrace if you don't wind the charka quickly enough after losing a kite!
The innermost circle comprises our immediate family--my father, mother, my brother and his family and me and mine. The next circle consists of my father's 9 siblings and my mother's 6 siblings, their spouses and my 30 first cousins. These people are very close to me, and I try my best to keep in touch with them (when time and distance become an issue, there's Facebook). We even ran a family magazine called Chatty Chitti at a time when we realised that half the family was moving to the US. The magazine wanted to turn into a novel after a few years, and we gave up...
Now my cousins have grown up and have their own spouses, children and in-laws, thus either adding new circles or crisscrossing existing ones. At last count, the family--on my father's and my mother's side--stood at a handsome 108!
My grandmother was the oldest and passed away early this year, at 90. The oldest living person now, in one of the closer circles is at a healthy 99. She is my father's sister's husband's mother...not too far from the innermost circle! (one secret if anyone's interested...she has been eating fruit for dinner the last 60 years...easy thing to do?)
And then there are my father's cousins and their children and my mother's cousins and their children who we used to meet, mostly at weddings. Some were Very Important People with jobs in high places, some were learned and awe-inspiring, some were simpletons. Some I admired, some I liked, some I ignored, and of some I was terrified. With none of them, unfortunately, I could be myself, and most of them really do not know who the real me is.
These circles look like the spirograph here.
AND, when I married Vijay, a few more circles were added to my spirograph (as newly weds, we spent a few weeks studying each other's family jungles). While his father's side has comparatively few people, his mother has 9 siblngs, with one of them having had nine children! Add to this, their families. I have never counted the number of people on Vijay's side, but I bet they don't beat us at the numbers game!
As time goes by, the spirograph of my family is beginning to look somewhat like this.
Sometimes I get dizzy just thinking of all these people in my life. Sometimes I love the fact that I belong to this HUMONGOUS group of people...it makes me feel humble. I often get invites to weddings, engagements, cradle ceremonies, birthdays, wedding anniversaries...25th, then 50th; sashtipoorthis and sahasra chandra darsanam birthdays (80th). As the family ages, there are funerals to attend, then 13th day ceremonies, and then once a year, death anniversaries. I cannot attend all of them. I honour invites from the innermost circles, and those of others with whom I have some childhood connection.
To all those whose invites I have not honoured---thank you for including me in your list. I am touched that you thought of me and my family. I did not mean to be disrespectful; I did not come because even though there is a lot of space in my heart, there are only 24 hours to my day, and I have to draw a line (circle?) somewhere...