The Indian Quarterly
Family Lore Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly
Family Lore Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly

Family Lore

We tell stories to make sense of ourselves, writes Jerry Pinto. But our origins, the people closest to us, are mysteries that resist explanation.

Jerry Pinto

THIS IS WHERE IT BEGAN: when the human species decided to stand upright. The decision, we are told, brought the birth canal between the pelvic girdle and limited the size of the head of the human foetus. Evolutionary biologists say that every human child is thus born a month premature. And therein lies the secret of the huge amount of time and energy that the human baby requires. The institution of the family was built around the wee form of a child.

You could even say it was built around the idea of immortality, of throwing one’s genes over the fence of time. Thus the family is a construct that deals with the future. Almost everything that is said about the family, within the family, is about the future. Try the following for size:

“You’ll see what I mean when you grow up.”

“You’ll know why I am doing this when you’re older.”

“Just wait until you have children of your own.”

“You don’t have to think about it now but who will look after you when you grow old? That’s when you will regret not getting married and having children of your own.”

That is the ultimate argument offered for starting a family. The assumption is not based on any realistic expectation. Aunty M who tells you that you might regret not marrying because you won’t have any progeny to care for you in your declining years will also say, not even an hour later, “This


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