I love having relatives over. The whole house is humming with chatter, laughter bounces off of every wall, and told and re-told anecdotes bubble into the air as the photo albums are passed around. With thirteen Bengalis under one roof, it’s nothing short of a good time.
When you’re reunited with so many of your own kin, there’s an uplifting sense of togetherness that’s impervious to any post-junior year stress. And in a way, the effect is compounded if your family speaks a language besides English, especially in the middle of America. It feels like my family is an exclusive club.
The intra-family competition and good-humored teasing are the best parts. Backyard badminton matches are heated and last late into the night. When the shoes or sandals come off, you know playtime’s over. As banter bounces from one side of the court to the other, I probably get a better workout laughing on the sidelines than actually playing badminton. Insults are twice as funny in Bangla than they are in English. The language is more colorful.
The only time it quiets down around here is when there’s a chess match in progress. All of us spectate, very much in-tune with the South Asian stereotype of chess fanaticism.
Where there’s family, there’s food. During the week or so before my relatives’ arrival, my mom worked to make every possible traditional Bengali dish imaginable. Kormas, kebabs, and curries—you name it, was on the table. It was one of the few times that our dining table was filled to capacity, both with all the food on it and with all the people around it. And as customary hosts, my parents piled food onto everyone’s plates whether they wanted it or not. In Bangla, “take some more!,” “have some more rice!,” “try this!,” “just take a little bit!,” “hand me your plate!,” and “eat, eat, eat!” drowned out any conversation. It was fun to watch our guests squirm and don fake, full-cheeked smiles as their belts (or saris) grew tight.
We’re all heading out on Lake Minnetonka tomorrow. The first thing that comes to my mind is a potential cinematic masterpiece: Bengalis on a Boat.