In my native tongue, the word masi means “mother’s sister.” But it means so much more than the logistical aunt.
Growing up, I often had arguments with my mom like every teenage daughter out there. My mom has 3 sisters and quite often, I would find myself calling them when I couldn’t talk to my mom about whatever it was. I remember in college when a friend faced birth control challenges, I didn’t want to talk to my mom who I feared would possibly judge her. I called my Jayshree masi, (a doctor) who listened and helped by answering our questions. She told us lots of things we didn’t know, like that some contraceptives aren’t 100% effective and that it can vary between types of birth control in how long they take to work. When I was upset about my boyfriend in dental school, my mom was emotional about it, so instead I talked to my Pratima masi who gave me level-headed advice. Even in adulthood when we were wedding shopping and my mom and I argued, I talked to my Urvasi masi who was our buffer between the sari stress. And not to mention my dad’s sisters that lived near and far. They were there for me just as my mother would be for their daughters.
And like they say…it takes a village to raise a child.
Especially a girl in today’s media driven, still male dominated society. While things are changing a lot, and female CEO’s are stepping up, medical schools are 50-50 instead of 95-5 the way it was for my mother, women are embracing breastfeeding in public and even Barbie is looking more realistic…as mothers, we are fully responsible to empower our daughters.
And every bit of masi love helps with that. Plus, there’s something comforting about having a masi, specifically.
When I watch my own daughter with my younger sister, I watch her playful toddler imagination emerge as my sister sings silly panda voices she saves for only her.
I hear my daughter tell her the day’s secrets at bedtime. About playground treasures and her emotional woes. Like handling the newness of her baby brother here.
And when it comes to my little girls toddler moments (aka tantrums) I can trust my sister to handle her with utmost love yet gentle firmness.
But there are certain friends too, that fit this description for my daughter and me…you know who you are.
The ones that bring dinner when times are tough, hand me a Kleenex (and wine glass) before the tears even fall, call me at just the right moment after that crazy day, read my little girl story after story in their lap because they love it…and know it’s a break for me.
Our strong friendship bonds equate sister-ship we shine on together and my daughter picks up on that.
She shares the comfort of masi with you too…The understanding that you are an extension of mommy.
It’s something we must radiate for our girls, our daughters. To teach them of our bonds, the sister threads that make up this blanket of womanhood. The blanket that we warm one another in rather than suffocate with jealousy and pettiness or the one real world problems weave as marginalization but we respond with confidence at.
Every girl needs a masi to show her that in the shadows of her momma’s strength, there are women who stand by her.
That as they themselves navigate in this life, there are women they can turn to for answers and guidance.
As a masi myself to my cousins and best friends’ daughters, and even with my sister in law’s girls, I have learned to shine courage and compassion in moments their family had to face the fear and aftermath of death. I’ve had to bring joy and a helping hand when a mommy got a new job or a baby entered the family…our family.
Because whether she’s really your sister, cousin, or friend…she wears that masi title proudly and you momma, can rest when she’s around. Thank you to all the masis/aunties out there for being in this…together.