I had expected her to be home this evening. But she wasn’t. She’d gone out willfully with her friend who was a solid paragon of obstinacy. The help told me she’d refused to take a nap in the afternoon and had insisted on indulging in gulab jamuns and cream. She wasn’t supposed to have that but with her favorite accomplice in crime to egg her on, it was difficult to stop her.
A few minutes later, she walked in with bright green wrapping paper stuck to her finger. It didn’t matter. Her shiny, plump face broke into a wide happy smile when she saw me. I was the unexpected surprise. She asked me if I wanted to eat something, all the while eyeing the plate of apple cobbler. I tried to pull that away but she slapped my hand and frowned. Next, I tried to talk to her about this and that but she didn’t appreciate the distraction too much. So I patted her head while she chomped on the pie.
Next on the agenda was a conversation on her terms. She wanted to tell me about her day out – each little detail repeated several times over. I tried to reason that she needed to sleep but she threw a little tantrum and insisted that she stay awake past her bedtime. It took a few minutes of saccharine-crusted cajoling to get her to change and brush her teeth.
She looked really adorable in her flannel paisley nightie; like a little church mouse you see illustrated in fairy tale books.
When I tucked her in a few minutes later, she had dozed off in the middle of her story. Her mouth was open (a perfect ‘O’) and her disheveled hair framed a face that looked deceptively serene. There was no trace of that animated tantrum a few minutes back. (It’ll be back tomorrow though, when it’s time for her bitter tonic.) The only indication of that famed stubbornness was probably the way she still held on to my finger before she drifted off.
Just watching her breathe so peacefully always fills me up with a thudding, heart-aching love. My baby.
Every night I kiss Ma goodnight, I think of this – I probably became a mother the day I was born.