My little niece

We spent last Friday night at my sister’s in Ohio. I slept next to my two-year-old niece. After she was done with a bottle of milk, she told me a story about a tortoise. I understood half, imagined the rest. Later, since she couldn’t sleep, she swiped through multiple rhyme videos on YouTube. At some point, she distanced the phone with a jolt. I looked at the screen, there was a dragon in one of the videos. We had to pacify her and rock her to sleep. Sometime past 3 am, I woke up to find her crying. Bawling, to say the least. She couldn’t catch her breath and wouldn’t let go of her mother. We switched on the light, and walked her to different rooms. My sister (her mom) started a story which she wouldn’t listen. Her grandma handed her a bottle of milk which she wouldn’t drink. She cried like she had just learnt how to. We were powerless. We watched as her cheeks soaked in tears. She wiped them with her hands and wiped her hands on her frock. 15 minutes later, she allowed us to put her in bed. And slowly, the monsters she had seen, vanished. Sleep and exhaustion crawled in, and she lay still for the rest of the night. The next morning, she had no recollection of the episode that had rattled the rest of us. I looked at her as she stood in the patio in her onesie, her eyes staring at nothing in particular. She looked so vulnerable, so tiny. I wanted to bodyguard her dreams, make her believe that life is like the pure white milk she drinks… until she grows up, walks beyond the little patio, and figures it out herself.

The end.


The niece: sketch #14

The cutest muse ever.

I met my niece for the first time when she was three months old. She sat next to me, in the car, while we drove through the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Arkansas. I thought I spotted a hint of excitement on her pink face when we passed a pride of white peacocks and a troop of baboons. But that was just me. She was too little to tell, too new to the world to show any bias.

Two years later, more recently, we took her to the Philly zoo. And there, she sat in her stroller, sucking on a lollipop, and babbling a new song that she had just learnt, as we rode her past a big fat Amur tiger, a waddle of penguins and a flamboyance of tall orange flamingos. Lost in her own world, we might as well be strolling her in a community park.

But then, all of a sudden, as we were heading towards a tower of giraffes, she jerked from her seat, and called out to her mom. I thought I had finally figured what her favorite animal was, until we looked at where her fingers pointed. To a lone sparrow, pecking at the leftover feed that was meant for a kit of pigeons. A sparrow that looked similar to the flutter of sparrows that visited the porch of her house every morning.

An uncaged sparrow, modest and more ordinary looking than any other animals in the zoo,  that to her was a friend, a visitor from miles beyond, and the only animal worth her excitement.