Giving birth is like taking the biggest poop of your life. Speaking of poop, my toddler yells “mumma” the moment I step into the washroom for my morning rituals and keeps knocking until I don’t come out. If this isn’t effective bladder control, I don’t know what is. My husband has grown accustomed to my mismatched clothing and seldom-combed hair, though this was the case before I had the baby too.
At six months, my daughter learned how to press her palms together and do “Namaste” (as we fondly call ‘Jai Jai’). It’s a simple greeting that essentially conveys a powerful message – “I acknowledge the divine in you.”
In her daily walks to the park, she loves doing “Jai Jai” to passersby, but most importantly to the house-helps, watchman, and the old man who collects garbage from our colony. Those folks are the reason why we are able to live so comfortably in our homes.
The first time the garbage pickup man saw my daughter greeting him, he was taken aback, for he’s not accustomed to being accorded with such respect by the residents he routinely serves. A smile formed on his wrinkled face and he blessed her with his palm facing her. My daughter may be too tiny to fathom the meaning behind such gestures, but she is big enough to regard everyone in equal measure; a concept most grownups still seem to grapple with.
My daughter’s keenness to Indian mores doesn’t end here. Every morning, she accompanies her father and Dada in the puja room for their morning prayer. They light a cotton wick inside a brass diya and take the blessings of the array of god and goddess idols by touching their feet.
These puja sessions have inspired her to touch the feet of any photo or figurine that appears to depict the million or so manifestations of Hindu deities. At times, she goes the extra mile by taking blessings from a Laughing Buddha, tea-lights on diffusers, and oddly shaped paperweights that appear to be shivalings in peoples’ homes.
We teach her new words and gestures, but she doesn’t cease to surprise me with something new every now and then. In my room, I keep a photo of my late father. When my daughter first pointed to the man in the frame, I told her that’s her ‘Nana.’ She gently touched the photo and then her forehead, as if she were taking the blessings of her late grandfather. Even today, she points to her ‘Nana’ and takes his ‘aashirwad’, as if she has some kind of a yesteryear bond with him.
Of course, there are moments when she absorbs more than we hoped for. Our family cook, whom Meera lovingly calls “kaka” once shooed a barking dog by yelling “Hatt” in her presence. My toddler has extrapolated that into her everyday vocabulary. So the next time you try to come in the way of her playtime at the swings, or stop her from snacking on her papa’s aloo bhujiya or her mother’s dark chocolate, she will mumble “Hatt” to you.
My daughter, in all her preserved innocence, has an uncanny way of refreshing my perspective of the world. She is awed by things that seem most ordinary to us, like rain, planes moving in the sky, and even the mini shopping mall that is the offerings of books, balloons, and toys by roadside sellers at every red light. Each day, she rummages through my drawer for packets of bindi, some of which find their way on her forehead and some on random cabinet doors and walls. Aunties who hold her at parties often reach home to find that their bindi is missing.
By her mere presence, she is able to uplift the mood of any home she visits. She plays connect-the-dots with the black ‘tils’ on my face, and gives me kisses despite the many postpartum zits that pop up on my cheeks, reminding me that my imperfections are meaningless to her.
In the one hour that she sleeps during the day, I aim to accomplish many tasks, but ultimately spend it on listening to music that requires the least mental stimulation (por ejemplo: Lambergini and Move to Miami). When she’s asleep, I let her be surrounded by noise because this is India; where sabziwallas and doodhwalas come strolling into your lane in wee hours of the morning, and strays bark till late, and the bell rings plenty times a day, for a guest, dhobi, or an employed delivery boy.
I try to be discreet when she is playing in another room, but she still manages to detect my location more accurately than any roaming satellite, and comes clinging onto my leg like the cute little zombie she is.
On the nights I want to write stories such as these, I entrust my hubby with the task of putting her to sleep, and the spouse dozes off to his own lullaby even before the offspring finishes her first yawn.
And like a true cinematic thriller, I reach the bed and my daughter is nowhere to be found. A muffled giggle reveals that little human is hiding close by, ready to say ‘boo’ much like how I scare her during the day.
Every night, I ask Alexa to play “If I Were a Boy” which has become her favorite bedtime song. Of all the Baby Mozart and Rockabye Baby lullabies, it is ultimately Beyonce who puts her to sleep. (though I’m still disappointed by the lady who empowered us with “I can find another you in a minute” in Irreplaceable, yet chooses to stay with a cheating Jay-Z. Ah, I digress.)
When folks ask me about my latest taste in music, I tell them about “Skidamarink” and how I can rap to the extended lyrics of “Jack and Jill.” (p.s. whoever wrote the ‘Mr Muffet Man’ song was one creative genius. Do check out the lyrics.)
Motherhood isn’t always rewarding. Sometimes, the only gift you’ll bag are the ones under your eyes. In my sixteen months of being a mother, I have come to terms with the nature of my full-time employment, wherein my daughter is the boss, overtime is a joke, and leave is seldom granted.
Regardless of what our occupations may be, we can only try to find balance in the pendulum motion of our gloomy and bloomy life experiences.
As for me, in those carefree moments of the pendulum motion of the park swing, as I hold my daughter close, her heart beating close to mine, I am at peace.
And as I endeavor to teach her new things, she has already taught me so much.