Daughter Diaries

Moments

‘There is a boy in my class Appa’, she said. The other night. After we had switched off lights and indulged in some conversation.  It was one of those moments. The mild twirl of the fan and the myriad ways it was distorting the otherwise plain ceiling was our only witness. Her words twisted me awake. I waited for more.

“You know appa, he knows everything. He knows where Alleppey is. He knows all answers to questions even before the teacher completes the questions. I don’t know how he does it Appa”.

I was more awake than awake. She was in a talkative mode. “So what kannamma? So what if he knows everything?”

I had walked away from such inane competition everytime it tried to ensnare me. There was always someone who knew more, scored more marks, drove a better car, lived in a better house and heck, had more visitors on his blog. Endless conversations with wise men and women and a perpetual pipeline of books that aided reflection got my boat moored on other shores. Not to mention the relentless presence of overachievers in every domain I decided to experiment. And I reminded myself that it was not as though I was out of it completely!

The fan’s effortless twirl brought alive memories of the meandering ways of life.

“You know Appa, I really don’t know how he knows everything. I thought Only YOU know EVERYTHING Appa”.

Ah! I thought.

I mean, if there was a conversation that I ever wanted to freeze frame, this would be it. The realisation that one young chap was already altering the notions of my prowess in her head, welcomed me to reality. “I don’t know everything Kannamma”, I told her. There are lots of things that I don’t know. Like I don’t know how Samar knows everything.”

She giggled and then broke into a laugh. The fan continued its slow swirl and that was the only sound that punctuated the night. I thought sleep has enveloped her whilst I was my awake self.

Time’s swirl staggers memory and it becomes like distant planets that need a telescope to view. It is fascinating that a quiet comment or a simple nudge can do the job of a well-made telescope. For an odd comment can propel you to reflect and help you see the universe in full, long after you have traversed the orbits of distant planets.

I wondered what races I ran in my mind? And who all I raced with? But before a thought train could take me any further, her hand tugged at mine. She hadn’t slept yet. I realised.

In a chirpy a voice that has never stopped me from bringing a spring to my step, she said, “You know Appa, Samar always says, he knows everything. You say you don’t know everything. I think you are telling the truth.” After a pause, she added, “That is good Appa”.

I am still in the race, I told myself. Even whilst wondering why is she so much in love with the truth and such stuff that the modern world has a lesser fondness for.

It was then that it hit me.  That I was racing a young chap called Samar in my mind! Against the backdrop of an even more transient trophy: my daughter’s attention. I let go of a silent laugh.

She was asleep in a bit. I woke up for a glass of water and couldn’t help switching on the night light to see her. She was fast asleep. Perhaps lulled by the peace that she had applied the balm as well. I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know.

The moment and the night to be thankful for was enough. The fan swirled my smile forward. We slept holding each other’s hands.

Picking on memory

Books have a way of growing on you. Sometimes when you read an old book again, you see new things. It is but obvious that the book is the same but you are new. Some books evoke memories like most others don’t far they embed themselves deep into the mind. Here is one: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I remember them from school. My school life resurfaces every time I chance upon someone with a name Tom or with a chance reference to anything remotely connected to the fascinating novel. A white fence is one of them.

The incident about the white fence goes something like this. Tom skips school and is meted out a punishment: paint a fence white. He goes about enlisting a bunch of friends to partake some of their prized possessions to be allowed the privilege of the fence. It is a fascinating read and over the years ‘Paint Fence White’ has stood in for several things as I moved roles, managers and teams:).

What is exciting to one is a chore to another. With skill and some luck, you can make what is exciting look like a chore. And with some imagination and a sense of play, it can indeed be so!

We went Strawberry picking in somewhere close to the Bay Area. The little miss had a giant whale of a time. Yes.
Giant. Whale. Of. A. Time.

The set up is simple.
You drive to the farm.
You pick boxes.
You pick the produce.
You put the produce in the box.
You bring it back. ( You eat a few as well)
You weigh the produce.
You do the math of how much you need to pay.
You swipe your card.
You pack your stuff.
You leave in joy.
And then, when you come home, you ask for more.

I mean, isn’t this awesome.

Sure, strawberry picking is not something that you do daily and it is one of those things that you do once in a while. To seek different experiences and tell stories to ourselves ( and to the world) about those experiences make our lives. Or so I think.

And as the Pacific Ocean’s blustery moods rearranged the clouds above us in a hurry, kids punctuated the moves with shrieks of joy. Strawberries were the bright red trophies to take home along with a fresh coat of pride on tired parents.

Speaking of parents, I remember running about amongst paddy and sugarcane fields with my dad just letting me and my brother be. We didn’t have anything to pick those days except a fight or two between us. I recall the sweltering heat and the odd steady rain. We were free to do as we liked. Even as I wonder why we did precious little, I realise, we grew up.

Or so I think.

The Pink Pony

Days turn into nights. And nights lead to day. The repetitive patterns that lead to the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year form a beautiful facade that keeps in obscurity the years that speed by.

Then the years reveal themselves. Sometimes the mirror tells the story.  As a stray strand of grey morphs into a lock of plentiful grey. When a parent passes away, the realisation is stark. When a friend passes away, it is pronounced.  The parting of the beautiful facade, often comes in a reality check, happening in sorrowful environs.

Sometimes they do in moments of pure joy. Especially, if you have a little daughter like mine.

So the little miss has been going to school. She enjoys it and has had a great deal of fun thus far. One day in the last week, after a long and tiring day, I creep into bed.  Long after the little miss’s bed time. As the silence beckons me further into slumber, she wakes up. Realising that I have crept in and wakes me up too, demanding that the lights come on.

She is all excited and she wants to show me her ‘Pink Pony’. She opens her palm to reveal a small piece of plastic. I see the effect of her clutching it hard are showing on the palm too. The Pink Pony spread some pink to her palm as well.  She obviously has been waiting to show me. ‘Aryan gave it to me papa’ she said. In sleep soaked excitement. I gave her a bear hug ad asked ‘was it his birthday today?”

PP1

“No Appa”. She says. A tad disappointed and perhaps surprised at an antiquated line of thought.

“He gave it only to me”. She says with emphasis on the ‘only’.

“Ah”. I say.

With curiosity dripping out of every word I ask , ‘That sounds like fun. Tell tell me, tell me more’

“Because I like pink colour Appa”.  And that was that.

With those words she slips back into sleep. Clutching the pink pony and happy that her little secret was no longer just hers. I stare at her for a while and switched off the lights.  Her innocence and joy override my tired mind.

The next morning comes with the precision that is customary.  The missus catches me shooting darts into the clouds. “Thinking of the Pink Pony?”, she asks. “It is some toy that they give out in a Fast Food chain”, she says. I smile. I am thinking of something else.

She knows me well by now. She jumps tracks and joins my train of thought.

“She is no longer the tiny toddler that you carried on the sling” she says. I smile. “She is not the toddler who would purr like a cat to get some milk”.

I nod my head in silence. Even as I soak up the Pink Pony moment, I realise, it was riding away into the inner whorls of memory.  The simplicity of childhood, the sincerity of affection and the joys of watching kids growing up, can be the best way to age gracefully. Even as day turns to night and night to day, children add a rich melodrama to a vague momentum.  And that is precious.

Growth pangs

We sit in the balcony. Me, the missus and the little miss. I stare aimlessly into the sky and swishing the humid air around. She sits with a mild frown. A frown that announces her irritated wondering on why her mother is insistent on her finishing an odd part of a silly thing called ‘idly’. It is part of our routine. The acrobatics and drama that are required to feed her.

The missus’s unwavering resolve to feed her an extra piece of food than the previous time, whenever that was, stays on course. A morsel of rice more. Two pieces of ‘bhindi fry’. A silly portion of a small idly. Whatever. It just had to be more than the record before. Progress is painstakingly slow as you can imagine. Nevertheless, there is a score that is kept meticulously in her mind. A challenge that the missus has worked on with zeal. Like a cricket statistician who will announce in the middle of a dry game, ‘this is the first time two runs have been scored off the third ball, bowled by Mr.X, when the Sun is out and two pieces of cloud dot the sky’. Or something like that.

Today, the little miss is more than the handful that she is usually. With a couple of playful pirrouettes that permeate joy in their silly incoherence she tells the missus, ( in an exacting tone and intonation that I get spoken to several times), ‘Have some patience please’. She then pirrouettes one more time and smiles. That naughty smile that emerges from the corner of her lips give away the fact that it is a calculated strike. Our silence signals to her that her mission is accomplished.

The stunned silence is only interrupted by a muffled chuckle that I would have typed ‘ROTFL’ were I online! The silence returns. Sometimes the future arrives without telling. We always noticed the daughter imitate one of us. A small sigh here. Or a comment there. But this is impeccable.

It announces a few things. That she has a sense of humour. That she is awesome cool in soaking up something and redeploying it someplace else with a telling ease. A few more thoughts flow. It takes a minute more for me to accommodate the thought that she is growing. That she is changing. Change happens in small packages. And then these small packages coalesce like an irreverent assortment of patches of cloud that announce a coming together by thunder and rain! It puts me in a tetchy frame of mind. Growth pangs, if you will.

Like the other day.

We were busy shaping a very pliant assortment of play dough with all our might. Me and the little miss. As the play dough took shapes that an adult would describe as a useless lump of waste material, her imagination flew into another sphere. I tried clambering on to her flight, tossing pressing worries aside and co-navigating vast alleys of her imagination. After about two hours of intense work with the play dough, we had a few more lumps to show. And that was that. But to her, it was the world. Of particular interest to her was a sad red lump of what was intended to be a car. In a matter of minutes her tiny fingers messed around with it for some more time. Before she announced “Appa, look at the boat”.

IMG_20150426_113005

The deformed tyres of the erstwhile car, she announced,  were herself and me.  With seamless ease she belted a story.  “Once upon a time there was a boat”. Immaculate imitation of how I read her, her bedtime stories. I was, in more ways than one, listening to my own voice with the sing song intonation and all that. My ears perked waiting for the next few lines. By then, her mission stood accomplished. ‘That is the end of the story’.

That was two-three weeks ago.

Today, with the threat of the idly safely dispatched, we sit down and say goodbye to the moon. That too is part of our routine. She waves and says, ‘Goodbye moon’ as is our wont. Over the last three years and so many months.

Today, for the first time, she says, ‘Appa I dont like the moon. He is not waving back.’ Its a subtle shift. Or rather a significant subtle shift. That a response is sought from the likes of the moon and a disappointment pervades in the absence of a response.

I stare into the moon and its unblinking radiance, becoming ever so present to how fleeting time is.  Change is inevitable. It signals progress. Growth is good. The slipping of time, like sand through the fingers, causes pangs.