It was a cold, damp night in Jamshedpur. And the time around midnight, was not the one for a 2 year toddler to be awake. Predictably, when clutched in your mother’s arms, you stepped out from the cab which had brought you to our new home from the railway station, you were fast asleep. We had grih-pravesh at our new home and a fair number of people had gathered. Now, sweetheart, at that time you were too young and too sleepy to be the star. Everyone rushed outside to see and greet your parents- my Bhaiya and Bhabhi. And the commotion woke you up. Miffed at not finding yourself the centre of attraction, you started wailing at the top of your voice. And THAT always used to work. Some tried to get you a candy. Some tried to make funny faces at you. Some showed their own faces to you – hoping you will find it either funny or ghastly and stop crying. And not content with all this some started to make different types of sounds, no noises actually as they usually do. Noises which they thought were funny but must have been harrowing for you. In the process you had refused the efforts of your grandparents, my parents, some other brothers and sisters of mine and possibly your own parents as well. I was at the back of the crowd sulking at all the people who had made you wake up and cry so badly. Then through the yellowish gleam of the Petromax lamp with an overused mantle, you somehow saw me at the end, last of the line. I am sure if I were you, I wouldn't have identified myself. But within a few moments there was confusion on your face which stopped the crying. Then shock and finally you smiled. At me.
Now, I have been singled out in the crowd many a times before. Sometimes because somebody thought that I was more intelligent, sometimes more studious, sometimes a better cricketer, sometimes a better TT player but always there was some reason. But there was no reason your smile singled me out on that day. I had done nothing and I had not seen you in almost 3 months now. A third person might say that that was the most pointless smile I have ever received. But for me, I felt as privileged as any manifestation of unconditional love this universe could conspire for me.
A couple of years back from that night, when you were born; I was a guy out of school, having failed to gain admission in the college of his choice, having dropped an year and somewhat losing focus in his life. And you were too tiny and I too distracted for you to be the focal point of my life. And moreover you were busy. Busy; mostly sleeping, finding time to cry and finding occasions to look sweet and cuddly. I too was busy. Sometimes studying but mostly pretending to study. And in between finding time to fret about whether to hold you in my hands for the fear of dropping you and ultimately rejecting the idea. You see, I learnt early to shrug responsibility. But still, slowly we started to find time for each other.
As we grew up, we found stuff about each other. You discovered that Chachoo was one person in the household who could be relied upon to find utter music in your inane acts on a drowsy afternoon when everyone else was asleep. And I started to get to know that you were a curious child. Curiosity, which could even trump your urge to cry. So every time you started to cry, I used to take you to the window on the balcony and balance you there with you clutching the window sills. I still can’t decide what exactly used to make you stop crying but it used to work. Maybe the fascination with the slow, rhythmic glow of the Diwali lights adorning the balcony or that view of the world from a little bit higher and the wonder how you were managing without falling. The simplest answer was that I was behind you without even letting you know about it but in your eyes I found a child’s curiosity which can make us biggest pundits if only we retain it for our lifetimes. The happiness with which your fingers touched those tiny light bulbs when they used to glow after being dim for a while made me want to be a child forever. Some of my friends say that I have been a child ever since. I tried to bottle up some of your innocence, curiosity and happiness inside me but at some level it hasn’t worked well enough. Life caught up and before I could realize, I was too grown up, too cynical. I hope and wish that you do not grow up. Keep that child inside you forever.
Finally to finish and just to make you jealous, I hope you experience the unbridled joy when a 2 year kid recognizes your voice on the loudspeaker phone and goes “Cha…choo” when all she knows are words like “ma,” “pa” and other such monosyllables.
I wish you realise how a small kid can look oh so big when she thinks that it’s a good idea to lie and go asleep on his Chachoo’s growing tummy because beds have gone passé.
I hope when you grow up to what my age presently is, you have someone who tells this to you when you get too busy of work, “Kitne din se aap milne nahi aaye. Kabhi aao na. Itna din ho gaya.”
Till then, keep adding to this list.