Since J and I are practically neighbors (apart only by a shoddy, dark, rocky lane), I spend many happy hours with her daughter. Because C is only three and I have given up alcohol this birthday, happy hours have got nothing to do with consuming liquor at student-budget prices. A good thing because the Pogo channel needs to be viewed with acute sobriety, else you may completely miss the chump’s motive to woo the serpent. A lot has changed in the animal kingdom since ‘Jungle Book’.
When you spend so much time with a child, who innocently asks you why her mother is working so hard when you are not (an anomaly I hasten to rectify), I wonder what it takes to be a parent.
It’s not what I had imagined – financial security, unreasonable levels of compassion, physical endurance to go without sleep for days, so on and so forth. All this is necessary, but you could have it all and still not be ready for parenthood. I now understand that what is actually required is a thick skin.
Last evening, J was late at work, so I decided to troop over to play with her daughter. Usually I try to read C a story but it’s no fun anymore. She doesn’t focus on the story at all. Instead, what she really wants to know is why the pink elephant is such a loser that it got featured in a book instead of dancing on T.V. And there’s just so many ways you can defend a pachyderm’s career choices – pink or not.
However, last evening, instead of playing hide-and seek with her shadow in the house, C was playing in the building compound. I think she was staging a little dance for the two aunties and was ably supported by another skittish young girl. I expected her to see me and come running with the boundless joy I thought I evoked in her. But she saw me with mild surprise and asked me if her mother was still working. I said yes. ‘You left early?’, she continued. Again, I said yes. Truly, I don’t seem to be working as hard as her mommy.
I wasn’t asked to join in the seemingly complicated sequence. C and her friend would jump from one rock to another, twirl and skip for three steps, and then roll on the grass. One of them would act injured and the other would get all concerned, only to laugh at the other one on the face. It went on like this for 15 minutes.
Well, I did feel a bit ignored. I mean, just the other day I was telling her things about how animals, like people, make career choices and why someone would want to be associated with Puffin Publications instead of Pogo Channel. In fact, I also got eloquent about how there’s no shame in turning down a lucrative option for a more fulfilling one. Not to mention, there was some other semi-autobiographical mush thrown in for good measure. And now it turns out, I’m not good enough to be rolling in the grass with.
But I decided to bide my time. There was a lovely breeze and flowers were gently flaking off trees. There was all this moon-shimmer in the clouds but I couldn’t exactly spot a moon anywhere. It was the perfect setting for a girl on a rock to be looking beautiful – resplendent in the simple beauty of a summer night.
C and her pal looked at me and whispered to each other. Maybe they wanted to play Snow White or something and wanted me to be the lead. I was just getting ready to say yes, when C and A ran towards me shouting ‘Bhooot! Bhooot!’
‘Where?’, I asked.
‘You bhoot!’, said C emphatically.
‘Yes….you!’, giggled her companion, ruling out any possibility of error my ‘in-denial’ mind may think of.
I thought of just turning my face and sulking alone on the rock. But, well, they looked really cheerful. What the heck? May as well join them.
‘So what do I need to do?’, I asked the two twittering girls.
‘Nothing’, said C shaking her head placidly.
Great. So now I was a natural in that role. Why even bother building self-esteem?
They romped around by themselves for a little while. Then they’d go up to some uncle who’d be passing by and point me out excitedly, ‘See uncle, bhoot!’
After the third uncle had squinted at me and commended the kids for the appropriate identification of the after-dead, I told C to come home. She agreed.
Of course, I had half a mind to not read out any stories anymore. My ego was so sore and all, but I couldn’t stay away from C’s storybook. I have begun to feel rather affectionately towards the pink elephant now. I can’t forsake it. It’s so much prettier than that stupid penguin on TV that C likes so much. He really does look creepy.
Anyway, C and I sat down and started looking at pictures. We then decided to sketch.
Sketching with C means that she uncaps ten sketch pens, uses one, and keeps the others out of my reach. I have doodled several Canadian sceneries in royal blue…and only in royal blue.
Anyway, while I was sketching my nth mountain in blue felt pen, I caught my reflection in the window pane. I thought I looked good. I had definitely lost weight – those 30 crunches a day were paying off. The legs looked toned and the face didn’t resemble a soyabean chunk. Hmm. Nice.
I snapped out of my reverie when C jabbed her sketch-pen (green) onto my thigh.
‘Can I sketch you?’, she asked.
Ah! Finally! The child-like adoration.
‘Of course! But tell me, how will sketch me?’, I coo.
She takes a pink sketch pen, thinks intently, and tells me. ‘One round, then another round.’
I’m not ashamed to say that I may have fought back tears then. No point in having flat abs if circles are all one needs to draw me.
And of course, there’s definitely a bit of a wait before I have a daughter.