For the first 22 years of my life, the word Aunty was used for all older women family friends or acquaintance, a tacit honorific used for the social collective of older, usually married, women who vigilantly enforced the community rules. It brought to mind a plump, lipsticked, sari wearing 30-50 year olds gossiping over chai & samosas.

It was the custom among the relatively small #siliconvalley Indian community to invite the new brides for a home cooked meal. It served as an introduction, & after days of isolation at home, the opportunity to finally leave the apartment. I had been well schooled in formal visits, so I insisted we purchase a box of truffles & flowers for the hostess. Mystified, my new husband (A) said he had never done so, but I knew better.

So wearing one of the (many) Indian outfits from my trousseau, with bindi, bangles & sandals (left outside), I stepped into the tiny living room where several men paused in their conversation to greet us. The host called his wife, and all the wives poured out from somewhere inside. Everyone was in casual T-shirts & jeans!! Embarrassed to have so misunderstood the formality of the occasion, I sat down next to A. The conversation resumed. That’s when I realized the aunties had all left the room again. Panicking, I couldn’t figure out if it would be subtler to stand up & find the women, or just stay put. I noticed several packs of feral children running around, but that was a familiar sight.

After what seemed like thousands of hours of conversations about work, cars & #immigration hassles, dinner was announced. Thankfully, I followed A to the table & served myself. It was when I looked for water that it registered only men were serving themselves. The aunties were either bringing more food from the kitchen or had corralled their offspring to hand feed them. I froze again, aware I had made yet another faux pas. Fortunately one of the younger aunties pulled me into the kitchen, where the women partied. The conversation here was mostly commiserating over husbands’ & kids’ antics and recipes. I stuttered my answers because I wasn’t sure how to address them, they were too young to be aunties but they were all older, married & mothers.

After eons the evening ended, I thanked our hostess again for the invitation, & with very obvious relief, stepped out to put on my sandals. Balanced precariously, as I tried to yank them on, a little girl came up to me & sweetly said “Thank you for the chocolates.” I smiled back, still wrestling with the clasp. “Aunty, bye!”

I toppled over when I realized she meant me, I was a #DesiAunty now! Horrified & in pain with a twisted ankle, I gave up on the footwear, and practically ran to the car. I was 23, weighed 90 lbs, was still studying, couldn’t cook, & had a second box of chocolates stashed away for myself. I wasn’t ready for that first “Aunty”!

Glass Bangles:

Image from google

1990s H4 bride: That first “Aunty”
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