There are broadly two types of relatives that people have. Some are gifts of God and some the gift of the Devil. Relatives, graciously termed as extended family, are the permanent fixtures of your lives. You can’t change them or wish them away. They lurk around the corners of your life to suddenly ambush you by springing a very pleasant or unpleasant surprise on you.

The good ones make contact over phone, chat with you about health, other relatives, weather, political climate of the country and the world. If they wish to meet you in person, they seek an appointment. You prepare a wonderful lunch or dinner for them. They turn up with some small token gifts like sweets or fruits and you have a whale of a time together. You are always ready to help them out and to seek help from them. In a nutshell, wavelengths match because perhaps your value systems in life are similar.

Then we have the unpleasant ones. They are people with value systems different from yours. They contact you to extract something. They demand it as a right, almost like a fee that you have to pay because you made the mistake of being born in the same family as theirs.

Their modus operandi is quite interesting. For starters they know you dislike them and if they sought an appointment, you would make an excuse. So, they first develop a good strategy and then ambush you.

I have a relative who was posted in my city earlier and subsequently changed jobs and left. He was a unique individual who always had a few bad words for everyone he came in contact with, and worse, the people he sought favours from. A true believer of Mr. Khushwant Singh’s “With malice to one and all”. Needless to say, he was disliked, and he knew it.

He, or rather I, had two problems. First, he used to have work at his previous employer’s place and would visit our city off and on. The second, he was extremely miser and believed in staying free of cost, partying and lodging at my place. He knew that being a cultured person, I would find it difficult not to entertain his requests. He predated on my reluctance to be “less good”. After all he was my super entitled relative.

The first part of his strategy was entry into my household. He knew any phone call would warn me and I would dodge. So, he believed in surprising me, catching me completely off guard. For that he would select a time when he was sure to catch me in the house. Evenings were the perfect time when I had just landed back from work and was too tired to invent airtight excuses.

The doorbell would ring and there he was with a cloth bag slung over his shoulder and a suitcase. He would guffaw at his victory and would barge in demanding hot tea enroute to the sofa. Post tea he would enquire about the dinner menu and make modifications in it. He was least bothered about our priorities like children’s exams, health or work-related issues. Over the following days would make himself comfortable, typically disappearing everyday post a sumptuous breakfast, only to reappear in the evening. If I picked up the courage to ask him about his return program, he would laugh and say “You know how offices work. They will decide on my return program”.

To add insult to injury, he would visit all my relatives settled in this city and criticize us. The stories would get conveyed back to us in time.

Today the poor guy has aged and is unable to travel. I have no hard feelings for him. He was a spoilt genius, a psychologist who knew how to exploit human goodness. Something like the legendary Natwarlal in his own field of excellence.

I feel like asking him to write a “Book of Strategies” on how to take advantage of relatives and free load. That would be a real work of art.