Being a Woman
It was my birthday a couple of months back, and to my utter delight I received two gifts that were the most perfect I could ever hope to get. One was from my teen and the other from my 12 yr old.
My teenager gave me a letter that moved me to tears, although I valiantly held them back rather than embarrass the life out of the poor child. The contents shall remain strictly between us, but suffice to say that I have a new found respect for her, combined with a feeling of wonder that all those advice and lectures that I’ve been delivering over the years have not fallen on deaf ears after all. It’s quite an emotional moment when we realize that the babies whose hands we held constantly lest they fall, have now grown wings and are soaring into the sky. I realized that in the blink of an eye my lil scruffy moppet has become a young person who thinks so profoundly and with such clarity. But before I could get completely maudlin and sentimental, she brought me back to earth, by climbing onto my lap and almost strangling me to death in her efforts to cuddle up !
Before moving onto my lil one’s gift, I need to provide some crucial background info or as they say in Bollywood movies, it’s time for a flashback. Here goes.
Three years ago, I had written about my efforts to get my younger daughter to read books. She was 9 at the time and the only books she read were Archie comics and Tinkle, and that too not very assiduously. Mr.A, my teen and I are ardent readers and we like nothing better than to bury our noses in books and not surface for ages. So imagine my dismay when the lil one showed a marked tendency to stay away from words. She is the resident wraith of our abode, lost in her own world and quite content to be by herself and her thoughts.
Due to a massive dose of guilt, I had tried my best to lure her into my world. Unfortunately the wraith proved too elusive and always managed to slip from my grasp. At first I tried gently pointing her towards books that I thought she would enjoy. When the gentleness didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to, I changed my tactics and bought glossy books to entice her. To my consternation, I realised that I was the one who ended up reading them with gusto, while she would be engrossed in creating complicated things with gum and wire and twine and things that are usually found in birds’ nests. And some days she did remind me of a lil owl, happily ensconced in the midst of innumerable items of what I can only politely label as ‘Junk’.
But I wasn’t ready to be beaten by a little owl! After long and careful consideration, I craftily formulated a strategy to take the words to my child. I embarked on a ‘Read-Aloud’ campaign, starting with bed-time stories, and what better tales than the ones from our rich mythology. So with a lot of anticipation I acquired C Rajagopalachari’s Ramayana and Mahabharata. I’ve golden memories of reading these two books as a child and getting lost in the world of kings and queens and battles. I preferred the colourful, varied canvas of The Mahabharata to the slightly tamer world of Lord Rama. So, naturally I began our story telling sessions with The Mahabharata and both the children and I had a tremendous amount of fun with those stories. Unfortunately, the strategy failed miserably on different counts. On one hand, the stories were so adventurous and fun that the kids lost all traces of sleep after listening to them, and on the other hand, my lil owl decided that she preferred listening to stories rather than reading them.
Anyway, after my daughter effortlessly quashed all my brilliant strategizing, I fell back on the last resort, and that was to leave her alone. And as any self-respecting parent will tell you, this particular line of action somehow seems to work, but only if used as a last resort ! So the owl tentatively started digging into books and I took great care to ensure that I didn’t even look her away while she was thus engaged, lest I scare her away. Over the years, she got more interested in reading, though not as much as I would have liked her to. Being a true-blue Taurean, she would patiently listen to my ramblings on reading and children’s books, and then quietly proceed to do what she was planning to do anyway. A recent sighting of Harry Potter in her hands gave me much cause for jubilation, though I managed to restrict myself to a grin rather than the full-blown war cry that was gathering momentum within me.
Keeping all this in mind, imagine my utter shock when my lil one wrote a poem for me as a b’day gift ! It was titled ‘Mom’ and starts like this –
‘When the new born baby cries all day
The mom prays “Please keep her safe
From all the devils that want to prey
On the beautiful baby today”
That’s what my mom would say.’
It further goes on to explain all that a mother does as seen from the eyes of a child. This poem categorically put an end to all my efforts to bring my lil one and books together. I realized that only somebody who is at home with words would attempt a poem. It was quite a thrilling moment for me, one that I will treasure forever.
Now she seems to be catching up on lost time. Currently she’s immersed in The Hunger Games and quite caught up in the deeds of Katniss Everdeen. I’m sure I’ll be hearing a lot of Katniss in the coming days. Yesterday I saw the lil one gulping down water, and for a moment I was quite happy that I didn’t have to badger her to do that as I usually do. After finishing half the bottle, she looks over at my goggly eyed expression and declared that she was dehydrated. That’s not all, she turned back after a taking a couple of steps to her room and proclaimed “Katniss also drinks a lot of water when she gets dehydrated.”
I only hope I don’t have to start wearing protective gear when Katniss takes part in combat !