During our times (and our fathers’ and grandfathers’) it was the done thing to get one’s daughter married to her own maternal uncle, probably to preserve the family property. In fact, it used to be the prerogative of the said uncle. If he were too old for the girl, then his sons would be the next choice. The uncle’s presence at “JAI MALA” was to signify his acquiescence to give the girl outside the family (which would be done after ritually offering the girl to 9 demigods). Likewise, a boy could marry his maternal uncle’s daughter or his paternal aunt’s, without inviting public censure.
All this intra-marrying would give rise to a lot of complicated connections. The most complicated was between Mohan and Jyoti. First Krishnan married Kamala, a distant cousin. Later, Kamala’s brother Venkatesh fell in love with Krishnan’s niece (sister’s daughter) Padma and married her. The daughter of Venkatesh and Padma, named Jyoti (love) married Mohan, a son of Krishnan and Kamala. On painstakingly tracking the relationship by unravelling the tendrils of the family vine, we discovered that Mohan could be his own sons’ cousin! We gave up at this point and did not try to find out how Jyoti was connected to her sons apart from being their mother.
Well, what has been worse was marrying multiple times (of course one wife at a time) as our great grandfathers did! Going back 2-3 generations we are always able to find a link to any member of our community. The computer family tree always compliments me as the most connected member.
Well, if such multi-links happened within families, it was no less when it came to extended families. It started when I married Ramu. Later, my sister Komala married Sathyan. Sathyan’s brother Prasad had already been married to Ramaa, a friend of mine. Couple of years later, Ramu’s sister Geetha married one Mr. Narayan, an elder brother to Ramaa. Since Ramu and Prasad were posted in the same unit, we had a roaring time flummoxing people- “Ramu’s sister has married Mrs. Prasad’s brother and Mrs. Ramu’s sister is married to Prasad’s brother!”
Communitywise also, there were tangles when my friend Sukanya married Ramu’s friend Gopal. The links carried on to the next generation and extended families too, quite clear to us but extremely complicated to outsiders.
The last one I cannot help narrating is a social one , that of Prema.
One day, when I was working in a school, I saw a young lady wanting to meet our Principal regarding a teacher’s post. When my friends saw me talking familiarly to the lady, they asked me “Do you know her?” Well, the young lady was Prema. I let go the litany breathlessly. “Prema’s father and Ramu were classmates. Prema was my daughter’s classmate in college. Prema married my son-in law’s close friend. Prema was a colleague of mine in my previous school in addition to being my friend Malini’s cousin….”. My friends let out a collective groan and put their hands up to stop me from going further expressing their regret for having asked me the simple question.
(Some names have been changed)