Family business. What can I say about it? I ponder for words to describe the situation as my entire life has intertwined with it just like those tangled up necklaces at the bottom drawer of my sister’s closet. How does it feel to grow up around business? I guess the word “differently bittersweet” would do justice. Most of my teen years, I juggled with this lifestyle. I felt misplaced, lost and alienated.
My mom commenced our small retail business in our house way back in the late 80’s with the budget of Rs10,000. Meanwhile, my dad was doing his service abroad. A couple of years later, he also joined the family business and thereby our family business took a turn. From a small chocolate-and-chips-shop, my dad and mom successfully turned it in to an average retail grocery store (which is now half way through the wholesale scale).
That was when my mum got pregnant with me. I had a wonderful childhood. My parents never enrolled me to daycare because they were home all the time. Speak about advantages. So, I spent most of my childhood with my mum, dad, elder sister or my cousins. I never really had to be explained why my mum and dad were always around me.
It’s just the question that never actually struck me until my second grade when we were told to draw our parents donned in official attire and I drew my dad in his joggers and sports shoes or the time when I saw my friend’s parents staying home only on Saturdays. I actually thought something was wrong later realization hit me, smearing “different” all over my face.
The concept of 9-5 working hour and one day holiday each week was strange to me. The daily choir in my house was really hard to explain as if an invisible routine of things floated around the air. I mean the communication was so less, but each one of the adults knew exactly what to do for almost 16 hours a day. At the shop, we’d meet different kinds of people. The days go by with numerous customers that have unusual requests, then there are price fussers, over spenders and sleazy salespersons.
During night times, my mum and dad would go through the paper works while I was tucked warmly on the bed. Most people are usually terrified by the idea of the family business because it makes your family dysfunctional in the most functional way. You need to be professional, a family dinner looks like a business meeting and vacations are a myth.
Growing up in such environment made me loathe our lifestyle. After all we were actually a lot more different than others. My classmates were living in an alternate universe while I used to spend my time helping my mum and dad covered in sweat smelling like an onion. My early teen years were the hardest as I wasn’t coping along with this lifestyle. I would always fail to show up in my dates, whenever I was invited into parties “Maybe I will stop by” was my go-to word.
High school friends aren’t a respite either. They’d boast about their exotic vacations and what not. People say, “Staying with parents murders the idea of living a free life.” But for me family always comes first.
It is just that my ugly dysfunctional family composed with lazy, villains, drunkards and crazies just somehow perfectly define partnership, commitment, loyalty and honesty. We always find a reason to stand by each other not only because we want to but because we have to. This business is everything to us.
I have been living a double life where I am teenaging and adulting for quite a while now. So, if I am to be honest about my lifestyle, I need to talk about the fact that my life dissatisfies me so much. After the farewell party at high school, all my friends went to clubs for an after-party but I returned home because we were running out of employees and I had to help. While my friends were probably getting drunk and having fun, I was in the shop stalking their Snap Chat stories.
The thing that I have learnt from my past 17 years of existence is that no one has to fit in a certain cage or cocoon. If you are different from others then that is a beauty in itself. There is a different beauty on being misplaced, lost and alienated.
Ashim is a student at Saraswati Multiple Campus, Thamel.