Saturday, November 11, 2006

Family Gathering 2006

Family tradition was maintained. All my siblings, all ten of us and our families have, for the past 24 years, gathered for dinner on the third day of Shawal at a hall or a restaurant big enough to hold all of us. Over the years the big family has expanded, and there are now four generations of us with my mum, of course, as the ‘head honcho’ or ‘le Pedron” or Big Chief!! We have to set 12 round dinner tables of 10 to accommodate everyone. It’s a big do and everyone, especially the kids, look forward to the occasion.

Apart from dinner, the kids will perform for the crowd whatever stage performance they fancy and play games amongst themselves with presents as the attraction. In the early days, organization of the gatherings were coordinated by one of my siblings, taking turn amongst ourselves annually, but since some years ago the third generation has taken over organizing the gathering, and they too rotate amongst themselves. They form organizing committees to take care of the details such that the activities for the night went on smoothly. 24 years of organizing and event management experience have proven useful for the young ones. I noticed that the elders of the fourth generation are already ‘learning’ from their uncles and granduncles the ‘ropes’ in organizing the event. Looks like in one or two years time my siblings and I can just sit back and allow our grand nephews and nieces (the fourth generation) to take over guided by our own children. We certainly have a succession process and it is working well.

The last gathering went well. It was held on the third day of Shawal as usual, in a large restaurant where the upper dining floor was dedicated solely for our use that night. Attendance that night however was not 100% as one niece and her family is in the UK doing her doctorate and another in Japan doing her first degree. We had a group photograph taken, an introductory address by this year’s organizing host, an advisory address by le Pedron (she is 85 and still going strong) before savoring dinner. Ram and I were fasting during the day and hence when dinner was served it was something we really looked forward to!! There were also awards to those who excelled in school and also recognition of outstanding achievements of family members. One sibling obtained his doctorate recently, another was awarded high achievements in the national girl-guides’ movement and yet another who headed a school that obtained the best results nationwide. Hopefully these achievements will spur the others and the younger ones to work harder in their own undertakings.

Mum’s speech, advisory one as her speeches often were, was this year a little lopsided I thought. A number of my siblings also had the same thoughts. She had concentrated only on one family and also just one family issue and had no mention of others at all. I asked her what happened when I met her again the next day and she said she had not prepared her speech and that it was impromptu. She was just feeling overwhelmed. She just said what came to her mind just as she stood on stage. It was unlike her. She had always been forceful and so determined that her speech this night was just not hers. Maybe she had mellowed, or maybe she was tired as she looked so that night. As part of tradition and by default, being the eldest, I had to give a closing speech followed by prayers and supplications to the Almighty. So, to make up and to make an impact on the young minds in our family I laced my speech that night with motivational and inspirational matters and topics apart from reminding everyone on their personal obligations to the big family. Talking to some of my elder siblings later we agreed that from now on we should guide mum well before the occasion on the topics that she should address. By doing so, she can at least attune her mind to relevant issues and address them at the gathering.

This year there was an extension to the gathering. On the next day a bowling game was held for the whole family. 10 lanes were reserved for our use. Everyone had fun. Ram and I did not bowl but I was there to join in the fun. The younger ones of course enjoyed the most.

My mum is happy that the family is ‘together’ and integrated. All night she was just smiling and watching the antics of her grandchildren and great grandchildren on and off the stage. I was observing her and I wondered what went on in her mind. She did not concentrate on us, me and my siblings, but more on the third and fourth generation. I am sure she has all of us in her daily prayers, and I am sure too that she is satisfied and pleased that the Almighty has in some ways answered her prayers. May the Almighty be pleased and may He bestow upon her and also to all of us good health and livelihood, long life, and peace of mind to carry on our obligations to Him. Amin ya Rabbul Al’Amin….

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