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Autumn Harvest

Rajesh Oza Email Rajesh Oza
October 2009
Autumn Harvest

Dear PMG:

My Dadaji and Dadiji came to live with us early this summer. While my siblings and I made some initial adjustments, my parents have had to make even more. And it certainly can’t be that easy for my grandparents, since they don’t know anyone outside the family, only speak a handful of English words, and don’t really enjoy American TV shows. In addition to bringing home a weekly Hindi movie or two from the local library, Papa has put in a satellite dish so that we all have something to share. And since we’re a spiritual family, we also share puja time at home and at the community mandir.

But this same spirituality is at the heart of a disagreement: when my grandparents go for walks in our neighborhood, they almost always come home with a handful of lemons and oranges. Since we don’t have any fruit trees in our yard, this citrus bounty must be purloined from a neighbor’s tree (several of which hang over the sidewalk). My grandparents give Mom the lemons and gift the oranges to us kids. While Mom happily uses the lemons in her cooking and our younger brother greedily enjoys the oranges, my sister and I complain that we should not accept the fruit, and we should tell our grandparents to not steal. Papa and Mom tell us that this would not change a thing and only hurt Dadiji and Dadaji’s feelings.

Dear Friend,

“I know no diplomacy save that of truth.” (M. K. Gandhi)   

When confronted by such a conflict, it is important to consider intent and impact (both yours and your grandparents) and then look for a way to focus on the intent and minimize the negative, undesirable impact.

You seem to be a very ethical person who finds theft unacceptable; thus you would like to see a “cease-and-desist” order that would keep your family’s hands citrus-free. Your intent is well-meaning, but it could hurt feelings, or worse still, result in your grandparents refusing to go out for walks.

Your grandparents’ intent may be to be useful; assuming that they do not work, they may want to contribute to the family and demonstrate their love through fruit that might otherwise go to waste. One way of showing love in many cultures is through the offering of food. However, your grandparents’ behavior is clearly making you lose respect for them; another consequence could be the neighbors feeling victimized by the “sweet, old Indian couple.”

In such situations, dialogue is often helpful. You and your parents might consider inviting your neighbors for dinner served with lemonade. Over dessert (kulfi served with fresh orange slices, perhaps?), you can truthfully and diplomatically mention to the neighbors that you would love to share fresh flowers from your garden, since occasionally your grandparents “borrow” fruit from their garden. I do hope this neighborly conversation leaves a sweet aftertaste.


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