…or Bratinder Singh (Thanks Perakath!)
Five years old. FIVE! It is a big one. You’re a big boy now. Not for me. Never for me. But to the world, a five year old is a human being. Not a cuddly baby. They don’t see the curve of your cheek. The dimples in your hands. They don’t smell the J&J powder off your neck. They don’t wipe drool off your mouth as you sleep. They don’t hear you say ‘Khank you’ for Thank you. They don’t wash your cute little butt. They don’t hold your hand and help it form hindi letters. They don’t stuff your ugly little toes into sneakers and teach you to tie a knot.
Lovey-dovey, you’ve just taken five years of my life and turned them into a moment. And yet, as I tell your father, I can’t remember life before you. There was no void before you came, and yes, it was great to be able to get naughty without locking doors, but if I were to pull you out of the picture, there’d be a great big gaping void.
You see, you bring the magic to our lives. Your father is calm, your sister is vivacious, and I am mad. But you – you bring into our lives, all that is good. You make us believe in fairness and equality and the fact that God is love. When you were born, they called you the Prince of Peace. A little blasphemous no doubt, but I don’t think Jesus will mind. Estranged family members gathered over your crib, breaches mended when you smiled. You brought us hope. Even today as you say your nightly prayers and thank Jesus for the wall, (because if there were no wall, where would the lizards go?!), I smile. I smile at the pure little heart that sees good everywhere.
I’ve always worried about you being bullied because of your gentle nature. Nothing much has changed. You came back from the park a few days ago with a bitemark on your chest. What happened, I asked, hurriedly dabbing the broken skin with antiseptic. ‘A boy bit me,’ you replied, calmly. ‘Did you jhaanp him or not?’ I said angrily. Gone are the days when I used to teach you that we use our words and not our hands. ‘No,’ you said gently, ‘he was a little boy. We can’t hit little children, can we?’
No, no we can’t, I say, laying my head against your sturdy little chest. An ache spreading in mine. How long do you think I can take this hurt? No, we can’t hit little children, but we should hit parents who can’t protect their children. Where do I sign up for a punch in the face? As for you – what can I say? You seem to have made you peace with a violent world.
And that my son, is the beauty of you. You teach us stuff we’ve forgotten. You lay our flaws bare. You smile and you light up the world. It’s a pity that you’re so bloody good looking because most people miss your inherent goodness. I’ll admit you started off an average looking kid and I did think you could do better, but I’m pretty happy withthe way you look now 😉 Visitors look at you and go ‘Oh my God, that is one good looking child,’ or ‘This one’s going to be a heartbreaker..’ and I smile, wondering if it will hurt the Bean’s feelings. I needn’t worry. She’s too self assured to care. And you, who worship her down to her stubby little toes, never let her feel anything but princess-like.
I hold you and croon, ‘Who loves you with all their heart, my soul?’… and you smile back tolerantly and say, ‘You. And dada too.’ Yes, my little prince of peace, my diplomatic child, we all love you. Because you’re one of those few people who are beautiful both inside and out and apart from your father’s sharp good looks, you’ve got this radiance, this goodness that shines out and gives you something more than mere good looks.
I don’t want this to go to your head. But being you, its not even something you absorb. You’re too busy crawling behind caterpillars, chasing butterflies, watching the clouds go by and dreaming beautiful dreams. You have things to do and places to go and it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks of you. May that never change.
This one is your big birthday. Born on 05.05.05… this is your 5th birthday. Did I mention that your name adds up to five? And I was coincidentally allotted room # 5 at the hospital. Oh – and they began to chop me open at 5 pm but you were out only at about 5.35 pm I am told. . But you’re sick today, so no birthday party. You’re burning up with fever and so I have you in bed, watching TV. In a generous mood, I offer you cartoons. You look at me scornfully and say – ‘No! I want Animal Planet. They have some nice snakes on there.’ I smile to myself, wondering how much longer this will last. We’ve had a good run and it’s lasted longer than I thought it would. Which is not to say that you don’t run around the house singing ‘Sluff, eggs aur dhoga.. darling…”(Love Sex aur Dhokha) – and Hey Ya! Just that we hear more about snakes and elephants than anything else.
Your father and I have been running around like headless chickens over the last two years trying to find you a school. We want only the best for you. I know every parent does, but there are children like the Bean who can be thrown in to swim in a snake infested pit and will come out unharmed (in fact, I’d worry about the snakes in there!), and there are children like you who have a special flame we must protect, must not allow to go out. They say you shouldn’t praise your kids. I don’t know about that. Who else will, if we don’t? Besides this isn’t praise. These are the thoughts that run through my head at 3 am when I lie awake just thinking about you two. Doing the mommy thing. Correction – doing the obsessed mommy thing.
I ache and worry about you all the time. Is it a mother of a son thing? Or is it because I am mother of the son who dreams. Who gets bitten at the park even now. Who gets pushed to the floor by an imperious little sister who doesn’t want his hugs. Who carries a world of meaning in his soulful eyes. Who comes up with questions I don’t have answers to. Who forgives me my cranky comebacks. Who kisses my arm tentatively if he sees I am in a bad mood. Who takes comfort in just lying in his G’pa’s arms. Who can’t bear the sight of beggars inspite of growing up in Delhi.
And this is not to say you’re not a normal little boy. You are. You so are. With your demands of momos everyday. Wrestling with your father. Fighting with your sister over a bit of string. Begging me for endless cubes of cheese, my little maakhan chor (Any old readers remember that post?!). I see you grow up to have your own little bunch of gopis following you everywhere. Or maybe that is just a fond mother…
From painting the pots with the maali, to sorting the laundry and putting it in the washing machine, adding the washing powder and starting the machine, you already take some of the load off my hands. I don’t want you to. I want you to live your childhood freely. There’s time enough to do the rest, but you take it in your stride. Just as you put your plate away after dinner. And run to get a cold bottle of water for your father when he gets back from office.
It’s been a tough year on you, baby. From the school changing to the trauma to the disability analysis. And you’ve got through it in a way no other child would. For that, and to your resilient spirit, and innate goodness, I bow down and respect you, son.
And for getting us truly enmeshed into this parenthood mess, I give you a swift kick in the pants. If you hadn’t been such a good, lovable, biteable baby, we’d never have thought to have another and been saddled with that monstrous sister of yours. Just kidding, don’t glare at me!
I could go on, but you’re sick and you need me back in bed next to you. So here I come, baby doll. Get well soon and we’ll party it up. Here’s to another year of being the best thing that happened to a young, giddy couple. I thank God for picking you – just you – the most perfect thing to turn us into a family.
I love you,
Here’s a note from your father.
My Dear Lovey-Dovey,
Makes me so sad that you are down with fever on the eve of your 5th birthday. I suspect it has something to do with the devil since it is your 5th birthday which anyway falls on the 5th day of the 5th month (05/05/05)!. Get well soon and we’ll go swimming and buy momos at the market and watch Iron Man 2, spiderman, batman, formula 1, football, Tom & Jerry and fly a helicopter, glider, hot air balloon and ride the cycle and play games on the computer and play in the garden of five senses, deer park, Lodhi garden and get doughnuts from the mall and chase caterpillars in the garden and read about Kurumolagu, Fledolin, Hutoxi and eat burgers, noolen, chicken, parathas and water…… and do everything that makes you happy.
Die for you,
And now, for some pictures of you over the last five years….
The last few minutes of you being inside…
Seconds after you were out…
And back in mama’s arms…or armpit, if you want to be precise!
And then Dada fell in love.
And on.. into Nani’s arms. You grouchy little grump.
Four days old and since we’re young and idiotic and don’t know what to do with you, we tie a nappy on your head and put on sunglasses. We’re sorry. Please don’t put us in a dirty old age home!
You don’t know her, but this woman will funnily be the most important influence in your life, via me. That’s my nani – Bumps. I take great comfort in the knowledge that she held you in her arms even though her Alzheimer’s was too far gone for her to realise you were the great-grandie she’d pestered me to provide.
Your bored mother with her brand new phone, clicking pictures of her week old baby, in the early hours of the morning because he just wouldn’t bloody sleep! The other option involved homicide and suicide.
You at one month. Tasting a bit of chocolate icing.Funny little bald head!
Yes, strangely, Deetto is one of your oldest friends!
Your father, eager to be boisterous with his son!
Sitting at the kitchen door, looking out at the birds while I cook – in our first home as a family – Chennai.
Sitting in the pappazan with Mama while she works and learning to accept that the computer is one of her best friends!
Wondering what you’d look like if you were an old Bong man in Cal
Trekking through the jungle in the rains..
Going to Munnar to see Mama’s old homes…
Visiting the beach and feeling the waves rush up to tickle your toes…
Your first Christmas – in our Delhi home.
The first birthday party he was invited to.. coming home with a bit of the decorations. A wreath of balloons.
A smitten G’pa feeds you chocolate.
Your littlest mama, doting on you
Your first independent steps at 9 months .. and whaddya know, mama was around with her trusty camera phone!
A father-son chat in the winter sun after a hot bath…
Naughty Nani tickles you with a rain flower…
Mama holding up a 7 month old you in the sunlight…
At your first grownup party. I think your parents were the only marrieds there. Thank you for having us, Aunty Natasha…
And ah.. here you are, in her lap!
Six months old, in your playmat….
Your kheer chatai/annaprashan, at six months…
At 11 months – this one’s for you, Roxana! The I-am-evil grin.
At 8 months, in a laundry basket.
This one’s for you, Gentle Whispers! Thank you and Roxy for being with us so long… and caring, and remembering…
And this is when we realised how stubborn you were. The day you fell asleep in your chair, rather than eat your egg.
…and it continued. Yep, this is the day you refused to say your fancy dress lines.
The winter before the Bean came along… You and I would lie on the balcony, me reading, you playing. Sigh… they were peaceful times.
A foolish me lifting you up when I was full term. I guess I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that you were soon going to be one of my babies.. not THE baby.
Incy Wincy spider… at about 20 months…
Shehnaz Herbals – because J&J baby cream wasn’t good enough for his highness…
I don’t know what it is about phones but kids love ’em. I guess they take their cue from the fact that the adults are so attached (literally!) to them.
In the hills again…
Sweatypoo in the mirror…
Your idiotic parents trying to teach you to crawl at 5 months. Me patting… your father beckoning…
The only way to keep you still was to literally squash you…
Falling in love with your newborn sister….
And going on…
And on… trying to keep her warm…
Swimming with G’pa
No greater joy than swinging my sister…
Happy, happies, darling.. get well soon