As a psychology student in college, we went deep into the “nature v/s nurture” (genes v/s socialization) debate and never came out with any conclusive winner. Now, as I have created my own little specimen who I can evaluate through my psychological microscope, I have to say that nature accounts for a lot.
I call BabyA (my 3 year old) my “little Marwari Sethani” because that’s exactly what she is! She seems to have taken her looks from my side but her nature wholly resembles my husband’s side. She can out-eat any spicy-blooded Bikaneri in a Bhujiya or Papad eating competition, and every time she comes out of Music Class, she can never leave without ordering a paan from the paanwala who sits outside, as I crumble in shame in front of the other mommies who are probably judging me: how crass is a pawn-chewing toddler? What can I say? She’s got Maru genes! I can just see her, a year or two later, standing on Marine Drive and telling the paanwala, “Ek Chotti Baby ka paan banana” (Make my usual).
We haven’t made her eat bhujiya, papad or paan but she has naturally gravitated to these things, even though we avoid having them lying at home due to health reasons. And her innate Maruness never ceases to surprise me. Even the way she needs things to be organized, or else you will find her bordering on a nervous breakdown, is completely reflective of my husband’s family. My mom is Punjabi and her house is very clean on the outside but her cupboards and drawers are a mess- as are mine! I grew up seeing my dadi (who’s mostly Marwari- we’re a majorly hybrid family) spending an hour every morning, cleaning her 6 cupboards! I always pondered over the futility of this chore because how dirty could the cupboards have gotten in a day? And then I got married into a house where distant relatives would come home and ask me, “Tumhara cupboard dekhao- tum kaise rakhti ho?”(Show me your cupboard. I want to see how neatly do you maintain it?) I would open my cupboards, and as my clothes and bags would shower down upon us (the shower of shame, as I call it), I knew that I had failed the “Marwari Sethani Acid Test” (Marwari daughter-in-law Acid Test).
Aranya has gone on her Dadi and Grand-Dadi (and most of the 9 other family members that l live with): She needs order outside for her to feel comfortable on the inside. The frames in her room must be positioned at right angles on the wall, her crayons must be kept top to bottom in a very long vertical line when she colours and her twin- elephant cushions must stand on her bed, trunks entwined, facing each other. When I enter the house, if I stand around a minute too long in my shoes, in MY room, she asks me repeatedly to remove my shoes and put them in the drawer, and finally pushes me out of them and puts them in herself! And at the age of 2, she has thrown her beloved dadi out of her room for having the gall to step inside with her home slippers!
I know she may see people being fastidious at home, but I am her primary care-giver as no one spends as much time as I do with her. I know she looks up to me, but I’m not Bikaneri by blood or heart. I love Lijjat’s Garlic papad, Haldiram aloo Bhujiya (which the Bikaneris do not even acknowledge as Bhujiya and disregard by categorizing as a measly food accessory: “sev”), commercially available “Mother’s” pickle and I don’t have a neat bone in my body: all the things that would make any Bikaneri flinch. Yet, she is nothing like me in her habits (besides her love for books and overactive imagination)! Just the way sticking out her tongue when she’s concentrating on something, like her dad, is genetically programmed into her, God seems to have set this maniacal neatness and discerning, fiery taste-buds into her DNA, to make my in laws and hubby happy, and to completely mess with my cluttered, (mostly) Punjabi brain!