We have a large family…so does my brother in law, Suja. My family is large and close. I have six sisters and one brother and we get together A LOT. I think the fact that on the Bhutan trip, the five of us represented the families of five of the sisters says something about the extended family. Suja’s family come from a very long line of Hindu priests from the temple city of Bhubaneswar, India.

My mum lives in Maitland, Ontario with my sister Nicky, her husband Suja and their two boys. At one time, Alan and I lived with her, from when I was first pregnant with Jacob up until his second birthday. Maitland is like two solitudes. There is most of the time when a small group lives together and things tick along. Then there are the weekends and holidays when the small family is invaded by the extended family and all of a sudden, there are upwards of 30 people in the four bedroom house, eating three large meals a day and sleeping wherever they can. There are stashes of blankets, pillows and foam mattresses in several places throughout the house. The living room often has 10+ people sleeping on couches and the floor. There are belongings and devices strewn all about. Conversations, cooking and games of chance and skill are everywhere. To me it is normal but I suppose it is not for the feint of heart.

Suja’s family lives constantly in the second solitude. They have several families living together under the same roof and the household is always busy. There is always something going on and the kitchen is rarely empty between dawn and dusk. Even though they have so many people there, they were generous enough to give over one of the bedrooms to us on our return to India from Bhutan.

Muni is Suja’s niece. She is a few days older than my daughter, Heather. When we took our kids travelling 8 years ago, Muni and her brother, Shokti joined us on a minibus trip to the Taj Mahal and environs.

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