Considerations On A Hate/Love Relationship
We all have them.
From as far back as we can remember, they descend upon us at every wedding, every funeral, every dinner party, to pinch our cheeks and comment on our growth, point out our most awkward features and press crisp $5 bills into our hands.
As the years pass, we develop strategies to avoid their sparkle and scent and learn to give polite responses to their probing questions:
No, I don’t know why I am not married yet
Yes, I will learn to make biryani like my mother
No, I’m not going to med school
With age, the fog lifts and, as their crushing embraces mellow into warm smiles, we can see them more clearly for the well-wishers, the community-builders and activists they really are. Running around in shalwar kameez and sneakers at the mosque fundraiser or in a sunhat and sari at the community picnic, all the while fervently praying for the success of each endeavour and fretting about “the youth”. Always present, always in motion, always so full of love – even when we couldn’t understand that that’s what it was.
If you haven’t already guessed, they are our Aunties! That frustrating, generous and unique brand of woman, maybe your mothers age, not biologically related to you in any way but completely involved in all your affairs as if she were.
Saturday evening, as I made my way through the Daniel Spectrum Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, I was stopped by the most unexpected but captivating sight. There, before me, in all their colourful splendour, was a gaggle of… Aunties!
Who were these wonderful ladies?! I loved each and every one of them immediately. Each picture so full of vibrance and character! I looked around and quickly learned that these “street style” photos of Aunties are part of an exhibit by artist Meera Sethi appropriately called “Upping The Aunty”.
The artist captures street style photographs of Aunties either herself or through submissions and then interprets each one as a colourful painting oozing with charm and joy:
As I viewed the rest of the exhibition, my mind flooded with memories of my own childhood Aunties, many now elderly but still full of passion, crazy style and unsolicited advice. Looking back, I see how they have been present at every significant moment of my life and together, formed a unique support system I had the privilege of taking for granted.
To them and Aunties everywhere, thank you. Thank you for showing us how to be proud of our heritage and unapologetic about clashing prints and patterns. Thank you for teaching us how to build a flourishing network devoted to the common good. Thank you for your largely unappreciated sacrifices. Thank you for your presence. And thank you for your prayers.
Who knows, one day I may become a bona fide Aunty myself and if I can do it with even half the enthusiasm and sincerity they had (but with a lot less judgement!), then I’ll be proud of it.
All illustrations and street style images by Meera Sethi.