The Self-Proclaimed Critic of Brown Girls Everywhere

There’s a feeling every Indian girl knows a little too well: the sense of slight fear, sceptical anticipation and all-around dread in the moment just before an auntytm begins to deliver her judgment.

An auntytm, for those lucky enough not to have any, is an adult woman with married children (mostly) and way too much time on her hands. She may or may not be directly related to the individual in question, but will almost always attempt to influence key aspects of their life. She can actually be someone who is completely unknown to the family, but who just wants to share their wisdom and opinions. An auntytm is an official source of gossip and part of the ‘network of auntiestm ’: a database where all information related to any persons of interest (in other words, any unmarried member of the community) is collected, dissected and analysed for later discussion.

After just a quick visual body scan, skim of her mental database and speedy consideration of recent gossip, an auntytm can be ready to tell you more about your own life than even you knew. Having perfected the art of snap judgments, she is always more than willing to help you make big decisions, give you life advice, or offer critiques on every single one of your choices within three seconds of meeting you. In most cases, her opinions are unwanted, but nonetheless given anyway. She will also usually stick around to see you follow through with her advice (which, let’s be honest, you probably won’t).

My firsthand experience with auntiestm has ranged from discussions about marriage, to study, to marriage again; this basically accounts for all the topics they consider conversation-worthy. This was never more apparent than during my trip home last December, when I was flooded with questions about my degree and relationship status. To make matters worse (or better, if you look at it from their point of view), I was home for the social event of the season: my cousin’s wedding. And so, marriage was in the air, and therefore, an unavoidable topic of conversation. This was primetime for the ‘network of auntiestm’ and most single people were interrogated thoroughly and pitched to suitable prospects.

Matching-making is a game every auntytm loved to play, but is one that is tedious for us reluctant pawns.

The meddling of an auntytm doesn’t end at social gatherings either. She will find a way to permeate into all other aspects of your life. Their network runs as wide as it does deep, making it no surprise when your neighbour’s aunt’s sister knows you went shopping for a dress on Friday. Nor is it a surprise that your mum’s cousin’s best friend thinks that the dress would have looked better in red.

Going on a date without anyone knowing is a feat very few have ever achieved, but most teenagers learn quickly how to pretend you were not holding hands just a second ago.

A nosy auntytm (well, actually, that’s a useless descriptor because I don’t think they let you join the guild unless prying is one of your major personality traits) is the bane of young adults everywhere. Her reach is far and wide, her whisper in every ear and hand in every thali. She is somehow always there when you do not need her, and always there on the rare occasion you do.

It’s a slow process, but realising the network of auntiestm will always be a part of your life (well, at least until you get married) is something you eventually come to terms with.

But in the meantime, before the wedding proposals come flooding in, go forth and live a life that gives your designated auntytm lots to gossip about.