My niece


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When my sister and I were small, we used to play these silly games where we would act like neighbours, bumping into each other in a park and talking about our imaginary naughty children. My sister would get angry if I made my child seem naughtier in description than hers. She always wanted the naughtier one. So if there was ever a measure of who was winning in the game, the one who picks sentences like – ‘My son actually rolled in the mud and cane home all drenched and dirty, with a couple of scars, a torn shoe and ripped bag’ – would have the edge.

This was, say, a decade ago. All of it came back to me on December 27, 2015, when my niece was born. I woke up that morning to see a very pink tiny human being’s picture on my cell phone. It was heart warming, like taking a big gulp of hot chocolate. I looked at her short needle-straight hair, pink mouth, and the fur-white cloth wrapped around her. Like a Russian nesting doll. But in a cute way.

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This is how the Russian nesting dolls look. Image courtesy: http://www.etsy.com

The first week, from what I heard from my mom, she did not let anyone sleep. Long spells of wailing, and then brief sessions of slumber. ‘She is crying like someone is hurting her’ – my sister said nervously on call. The next day, I woke up to a miraculous video – she was turning on her stomach, except for her tiny hand, which she couldn’t slip out from underneath her belly. ‘It’s just the fourth day, and she is already turning!’ – my father’s excited voice. I watched that video over five times that day.

She is a US citizen, born in the cold of Ohio. My mother holds her for me in the faint sunlight some mornings, during our Skype sessions. She looks like the swirls in the strawberry softy ice cream. So soft and pink. Two weeks old now. She only smiles in her sleep, but pays attention to claps and loud voices. ‘She is so cranky these days. Sometimes in the night, she suddenly begins crying, and it is almost like she has forgotten how to drink milk.’ My sister is tired, but never gets angry at her. She can’t. ‘She just asks the baby to ‘understand her’,’ laughs my mom.

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Courtesy, the hospital

One day, I told them to keep the video on as they dressed her for her first visit to the pediatrician. Her bed was strewn with a-little-over-palm-size T-shirts, and slacks. Finally, zeroing on a white jacket, my sister slides her tiny hands into each hole of the sleeve. But her hands get lost somewhere mid-way in the over-sized shirt. ‘Every dress is big for her,’ my mom says, taking a neat white thick blanket and wrapping her up. She looked like a momo then.

Sometimes, during the nights, after a long day at work, I wonder what her hair smells like. It just comes like a whisper of thought. Nothing that I dwell upon. Sometimes, even in the middle of work. Just the thought that a little of me, just a little, is in her – almost always cracks a smile on my aunt face. I guess it’s just a family thing.

A Gift to daddy’s liking


 

‘There was a cake, a candle and burnt curtains,’ recalls Nikithaa, 19-year-old student. Last year, on father’s day, she had tiptoed to her parent’s room at the stroke of twelve carrying a baked cheese cake topped with a candle. “I only remember saying ‘Happy’, before my dad sprang out of bed and started waving the curtains frantically, thinking the house was on fire,” she laughs.  Though her cake lay in a puddle alongside burnt curtains, the mere effort, she says, had her dad beaming.

Failed surprises, quickie plans and nearest showrooms have somehow become synonymous to father’s day blast. One gets to know the day’s arrival only when the top five super dads of the year list is out and the Facebook statuses get revised to exhibit ones love for dad. Then comes the rush to the nearest shop to pick from the restricted options – perfumes, wallets, ties and more ties. Finally, a tweet about how you can’t wait for the day.

While the hypocrite in us might have a ball, the pinch is felt when you see the gift left forlorn in a day or two. “My daughter was angry that I did not use her perfume. But, how can I use Tommy Girl?” says Kaushik, 54, embarrassed.

For Rohit George, IT employee, who plans to gift his dad a personalized version of ‘The Man’ with write ups and pictures of friends and family in the inside pages, ‘dads are like popsicles. They might be in different flavours, but have a heart which melts easily.’ Studying the flavor is the next tough job.

While moms can nag you to get that Kanchipuram silk with a palm sized border, dads are implicit in their wants. Look out for cues, candid statements and those casual references to know his flavour. ‘My dad always wanted me to be adventurous. So I planned out a treasure hunt leading to his watch’ says Amritha Ajithkumar. “It went on for an hour and then I realized, probably, I took his advice too literally,” she sighs.

Nostalgic dads, however, leave no room for doubts. They are the ones who have their kids’ greeting cards neatly stacked up in the cupboard and who would set their alarm an hour early just to be able to skype more. Buy them those mushy worded cards, the personalized mugs and shirts, because they understand sweetness. So when O S Nair, 93, says he still has the bag which his son gifted him with his first salary, you can guess the daddy in him.

Talk about taking the trend to a global level. Adithya Jayakumar, Phd student, donated money to Syrian refugees through World food program in his dad’s name for father’s day. “My dad was shocked. It’s not everyday that you get a Thank you note for a charity you haven’t made,” smiles Adithya.

If you still haven’t decided your dad’s flavour, read on – the ones with the George Clooney look deserve a nice massage package, cuff links or the men grooming products; If you have seen your dad doing the jumping jhapak anytime, know that he is the best company for a stand up comedy show in the city; If he critiques home made food, take him to the best cuisine; If he accompanies you for walks, a new pair of sneakers would make his day; and if you can’t stand his bathroom singing – you know what to do.  

P.S. Keep these away from the idads. Break that piggy, go stand in queue and get that fancy ipad. If that is tough, just go stand anyway.

 

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express – Check out http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1212083

An innocent kill


668..670..672, she muttered to herself , now safe in the darkness of her room. 674..676..678..the sweat drops glistening on her forehead flowed down to her neck and were now forming dark patches on her cotton shirt. 680..682..684..the voices grew closer. There was a thud on the door and then a sharp turn of the handle – Amina shrieked, shivered and swooned.

 

Amina had woken up that morning to the sight of four strange men in suits, looking at her.  Her parents stood in a corner like the curators of a museum where she was the only showpiece.

She scorned at the men while they smiled. She collected her bed cover closer to her body and reclined to the farthest corner possible.

One of the men moved closer, “Hey Kiddo, isn’t it a fine morning?” She inserted her tiny fingers into her ears, deep enough to touch her ear drums.

While the temperature outside dipped, Amina’s body gave in to perspiration. She started counting numbers – multiples of two. This usually calmed her down. “It’s like being back in the womb,” she would say.

The men had now receded. It was the turn of the ‘curators’.

“Relax Ami. They have just come to visit you,” her mom said. Amina hardly paid attention and kept looking at the mosquito which sat on her mother’s wrist. Snap…It now lay smashed in a tiny patch of blood. For a second, she imagined herself in the insect’s place – limbs twisted at odd angles, broken teeth and hair smudged with blood. She quivered.

Amina was just nine – a fact that would appear as a joke to someone who saw her personal library. Stacked on the shelves were works of Srinivasa Ramanujam, Wu Wenjun, Andrew Wiles, Fibonacci and others – a collection that could boil the brains of any ordinary human.

But she was far from ordinary. A child prodigy, she had cracked the code to the most perplexing math and physics paradoxes and was now a research specimen for the biologists. Doctors say she has “savant syndrome” – something which her family read as “being utterly genius” syndrome ignoring the deficiency.

Picture source : tvtropes.org

Picture source : tvtropes.org

Amina was staged before people like a gorilla in chains, while her parents in their prettiest dresses, bowed, gleamed and flaunted their property. The audience sighed with admiration and later sniffed with sympathy.

That morning the cage appeared again – the cage that would take Amina to one of the wretched exposing lawns, where a million eyes would tear through her body to find an answer to why she is unique. She could already feel the bright neon lights blinding her. The applause at the end of it, which would remind her of axes trying to fell a tree.

The mosquito’s blood was now turning into a dark shade of maroon. Wiping it off, her mom said,” Now you should get cleaned too.”

“For what?”

“We have to go, another glorious moment for you.” said her mom, and left to get herself dressed.

Amina followed her. She stared while her mom chose the best of clothes, tried different accessories and rehearsed her laugh, walk and handshake in the mirror.

Surges of hatred consumed her. She took to counting. 2,4,6,8 ….

660, 662, 664, 666… Amina stopped.  Her eyes went to the pesticide near the bedroom window.

“Oh honey…..”

Unable to finish the sentence, her mom fell – unconscious and lifeless.

668..670..672, she muttered to herself , now safe in the darkness of her room. 674..676..678..the sweat drops glistening on her forehead flowed down to her neck and were now forming dark patches on her cotton shirt. 680..682..684..the voices grew closer. There was a thud on the door and then a sharp turn of the handle – Amina shrieked, shivered and swooned.