You can't pick your relatives--but you can choose to laugh at them.
As that paragon of fatherhood Homer Simpson once told his brood, "Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family." Then again, we've never met a normal family. With that in mind, we invited readers to share hilarious stories about their kith and kin--snoopy aunties, oddball uncles and cheeky parents. After sifting through the many anecdotes, we can honestly say each family is uniquely eccentric.
Ammanni Knows Best!
When Ammanni or my grandmother read about Neil Armstrong and his first step on the moon, she scanned the newspaper photo and nodded disdainfully, "How these people fool the masses. Even educated people fall for it. If Armstrong is the first man to be on the moon, who was the photographer who took his photo?"
Dr Ali Khwaja, Bengaluru
A Little Too Sweet
We lived in a joint family of 22 people in our ancestral home in Calcutta. My great aunt, the matriarch, ruled the household with an iron fist. A younger great aunt resented her dictatorial ways and often paid her back in kind, quietly but fiercely. One of her duties was to serve her eldest sister-in-law tea every evening. The brew had to be just right before it was poured into a fine china cup with two spoonfuls of sugar. However, the matriarch always found fault, sending it back to be prepared all over again. Finally, tired of the older woman's tantrums, my great aunt decided to teach her a lesson. She boiled the tea for 10 minutes, added seven spoons of sugar, stirred it well and presented it to her sister-in-law with a flourish. As expected, all hell broke loose, but much to her delight, the trickster was thereafter banished from the kitchen forever.
Nandita Dhar, Kolkata
A Drama in a Drama
As children, my brother and I would stage plays in our neighbourhood. My brother wrote, produced, directed and acted in them, while I was the dance director. During one such performance, my brother, playing a king, killed his enemy in the battlefield and delivered a rousing victory speech. He was greeted with loud applause. Curious, the boy playing the dead enemy raised his head to look around. Frustrated, my brother whispered: "Arre, don't move. You are supposed to be dead."Unfortunately, he had whispered into the loudspeaker. The audience burst into laughter.
Padmavati K. Mhatre, Mumbai
At Colonel O' Clock
My transition from being a civilian to an army daughter-in-law has been interesting. It can feel like living in an army unit. So, if we had to attend an official party at 8 p.m., Papa would sternly declare at 7 p.m., "It is 20:00 hours, why aren't my soldiers ready yet?" Once he decided to visit us in Suratgarh, Rajasthan, with my gentle mother-in-law, planning everything, reminding us of it through many mails. On the day, he entered his train compartment and was shocked to see 'squatters' on his seat and evicted them forthwith, not allowing a single soul to have a say. His booming voice rocked the bogey, as he beckoned the 'man in black' to settle the matter. The ticket collector scrutinized the ticket. It had been bought in characteristic haste and Papa Colonel was late … by a month.
Saima Khan, Lucknow
A Serious Story
Forty years ago, my brother Ganesan, who was studying in Stanley Medical College, Chennai, was awaiting his MBBS degree results. One morning we received a telegram at our home in Chidambaram: "Ganesan serious". The entire family was worried sick. Our parents rushed to Chennai--only to see my brother looking perfectly healthy, receiving them with a smile. Turns out, the clerk typing the telegram had goofed up. It was meant to be: "Ganesan success".
Once, on our way to Jalandhar, my family decided to stop for a boat ride in Karnal's Karna Lake. My aunt was terrified of water and decided to wait by the shore, while her husband, brother and sister-in-law climbed on to a boat. As they reached the middle of the lake, the boat overturned and everyone fell in. My uncle managed to hold on to the boat and stayed afloat. His sister-in-law was also safe, but her husband drifted away. My uncle somehow managed to reach him and grabbed his hair to pull him out of the water. As he tugged at it, he found himself holding a wig. Startled, he hollered to his wife, "You never told me your brother was bald!" And then, he threw the wig into the water grimly before returning to the shore.
Nikita Sangal, Delhi
A Fiery Tail
Uncles come in many shapes. Of the three I had, the youngest, Neru Ka, had legendary histrionic talents. Once we staged an episode from the Ramayana in our joint family compound to bring the curtain down on Saraswati puja. Neru Ka immediately volunteered to play Hanuman. He said only he could fit the role. The idea of a tail stuck to his massive posterior sounded like an excellent idea to everyone else. On the day of the play, Neru Ka waited for his turn behind a shaggy curtain and figured it was also the perfect place to steal a few forbidden puffs of tobacco. Suddenly, we spotted thick, white rings spiralling out from behind the curtain, followed by a series of howls. We screamed and rushed towards the curtain only to see Neru Ka, hopping frantically while trying to stamp out dense smoke emanating from his cotton tail. The lit bidi had done its job--our Hanuman's tail was on fire.
Ardhendu Nayak, Kolkata