Friday, December 29, 2006
The little girl grows up......
It was just yesterday, it would seem, that I was in, what passed for a garden, outside, our four-apartment building. The lake opposite our building , although struggling under the weight of the daily intake of construction silt, retained its illusory green top, which was actually the terribly undesirable water hyacinth, propagating itself with a vengeance.
Evening breezes appeared to add to the charm of a slightly cool early february evening, as a gaggle of small children, excitedly blabbering, turned the corner, gifts clutched anxiously in their hands, secretly wishing it was their own turn to recieve them....
They were welcomed at the house by the impatient birthday child, who couldnt really wait to get started with the games. But first there was the photograph in the garden. The garden was full of rocks, ensuring a teetering child every few square feet; and so they stood, innocent faces glinting in the setting sun, holding on to each other for balance, nudging each other , trying to act grown up, sort of trying to ignore indulgent grandparents asking them to "smile", "look up", "move to the left" and assorted stuff.
And all the while, there was this girl , who stood firmly next to the birthday boy, ensuring that several layers of her multilayered frock wafted in the breeze, giving a blooming effect - just what she wanted.
She was a special childhood friend. She and the birthday boy were less than a month apart in age. Both their mothers worked. (Fathers of course worked, but thats the default; we dont mention that). Whats more, when these two were not at school, they both attended the same creche, where they had the kind of status airlines confer upon their "gold card members". At a fairly young age, both these kids learnt to talk like older people, often amusing those around them , with their unique interpretation and lack of finesse in talking about sensitive topics like bride-groom searches , as they observed the going ons around them.
The boy's birthday plans were avidly discussed by them; she was around when the birthday cake was being iced by the boy's mother, who pretended not to notice, when these two "accidentally" got chocolate icing on their fingers. She even had a special dress for her friend's birthday. She described it in great geometric detail to his parents, till the father of the boy actually ventured to see it on D-day, and brought a beaming smile to the little girl's face by exclaimng that she was wearing 3-3 skirts ! She , of course, revelled , in what she thought was the supreme ignorance of father types, about girls fashions..... 3 skirts indeed.
And one day the boy had one of those illnesses which all parents think is a nuisance and all children think, is a great opportunity , to bunk school and read comics. The little girl's mother was a doctor, and she layed own the ground rules . Rest, medicines, good nutrition. While the little boy busied himself scratching here and there, swallowing medicines, making faces, trying to sleep, and eating what his worried mother offered , his great friend, collected all her comic books together, (current hot sellers on railway stations) with outrageous names and titles, and sent word through her mother, that she knew what the little boy needed were these books. They got you better faster. Her mother was a doctor, but they did not teach this is in medical college......
The boy spent several hours reading, barely able to control his mirth , cracking up at the antics of various cartoon types, as he lay in his bed, taking the mandatory "rest", at an age where human brownian motion was really the norm.
By and by the littlle girl grew up, went to college. In an age where going to engineering school was the most treaded path, she decided to get non-technical. But mathematical. Elders advised otherwise. Peer pressure. Arguments. Tears, Fights. And she won. She enjoyed college, the fests, the new friends, , but she still remained the little girl at heart.
One of her neighbours was another little strong minded girl, who actually needed to learn subtraction (with carry , if you please), but actually thought swimming was a better way of spending time. The age difference between the two was more than ten years. But one day, found the little girl at the older girl's place, sitting with her to learn the tricks of the trade for doing subtraction (with carry), with one eye on the going ons in the kitchen, and one nostril inhaling wonderful aromas. And the older one succeeded . The session ended with some great refreshments, details of which were carried home by the little girl, with great relish and licking of lips. The younger one, today, is probably a sworn enemy of calculus, and geometry, but "subtraction with carry " is what maths is all about :-)
The boy and the girl both went their different ways, learning different things. The girl did her post graduation, and went out into the world. A lot of her contemporaries left India, to learn from new jobs in new cultures, in new languages. But she knew what she wanted. She bided her time. Travelled. Thought of taking some exams, in case further studies appeared as an option on the horizon.
But this only child of her parents found her calling away from her city. She moved to a city about 1000 kilometres away. She enjoyed her job, her life with her roommates, the joy of handling her own problems, tears and all. All the while she remained very connected to the maternal house, through the electronic umbilicus. Everytime she came on a visit home, she looked up and contacted all the friends, including the little boy's folks, although the little boy, not being little any more, was now working and hardly ever home. And they appreciated how well she was doing and how well she had adjusted to her new life. And she made sure, that she looked up her "subtraction (with carry)" student, who was now a teenager, and very much into Warli painting. Sure enough, a day before she left, the younger girl was etching stuff on a white t-shirt , something for the older one to wear, sure to garner comments from her friends . Well , one of a kind t-shirt, did you say? More like one-of-a kind friend. She gave her plain tshirt to the younger kid to paint on, and took it with her when she left.
Today the little girl, who explained the flounces on the layers of her frock , on the boy's birthday, stands on the threshhold of a new life. She excelled at her job. Kudos rained forth. Some part of them sprinkled over to her family, who basked in the satisfaction of their only child settling down well in life.
And then she met him. At work. She was great at her job. He was great at spotting excellence. And all the while, she remained this young, confident, simple, fun loving, but duty conscious, generous hearted girl. It wasnt all fairy tales and fun. There was some suspense. Parents met. Dates were fixed.
We dont see her that often now. Her world has shifted south. But as she readies her self, wrapping herself in the gilt-edged paithanees and kanjivarams and adorning herself, with the shining precious metal, I still hark back, to the day they all stood in the garden for a photograph at the birthday party, and someone yelled "Smile !", and they they all posed, thrilled to bits , and smiled.
She is still smiling. At the guy standing next to her. And just like she smoothed the frills on the layers of her frock 19 years ago, she now , confidently, adjusts her saree pallav, the pleats, falling gracefully , shimmering in the light. And he , in his suit, stands proudly next to her.
Someone will be taking photos. And videos. And the two will be smiling and doing namaskars and greeting everyone. And we will all be there, if not physically then in spirit. And in case you hear someone shouting and saying "Smile !", Its probably Someone Up There smiling down at them, through a cascade of blessings....
With all our blessings too.....