Back To The Village | Kids! Who needs them? Adults do

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Maya realises that for all the inconvenience, annoyance and distraction that a child threatens to bring its minders, its blue-eyed presence is solace for its hollow-eyed parents.

For a jolt of glucose into your tired system, bite into a biscuit, or bear a child. Either way.

Dear Amma and Appa,

Happy Parents’ Day. Hats off to you for birthing this daughter of yours, and for raising her into a reasonably good human being. For smiling through her many tantrums, for always supporting her choices in life no matter how outlandish, for wiping her tears, laughing at her silly jokes and loving her infinitely.

The actual Parents’ Day is on July 26 and celebrated only in South Korea and the U.S.A. But I am experiencing an overwhelming rush of gratitude for you today. Such emotions MUST be expressed. I used to get annoyed with those wise-asses who’d refuse to acknowledge Women’s Day with their standard stupid dialogue of “Every day is women’s day”. Well, I’m just adding a twist to their logic and actually making it meaningful. I might be sounding self-important, but I can only be this way with you. You’re not allowed to judge ;-)

Over these three decades, I have looked at the Ammas and Appas of this world through several glasses — myopic, hypermetropic, rose-tinted and poop-tinted. Whenever I met a well-mannered child in the supermarket, I would feel immense respect for the good parenting they were receiving. When babies cried during movies, I wondered if the exasperated parents pinched their little ones at just the right moment, a petty vengeance against the rest of us non-parents in the theatre.

During late afternoons when I saw mothers and fathers waiting at school gates, I imagined a fairy sprinkling SuperParent dust on these tireless mothers and fathers. Once an Auto anna spoke about how he worked 18 hours a day. “Pasangala nallaa padika vekkanum, ma.”

Imagine that! 18 hours a day, seven days a week, driving around the bumpy, pothole-ridden lanes of Chennai, to put his two girls through college. That Auto anna is not an exception.

Ok, so some Appas might not have to work six straight months in faraway factories, and some Ammas might not have to work three different jobs to pay their kids’ school fees. But it’s a rough life for all of you — having to deal with dirty diapers, meaningless tantrums, adolescent moods and utter lack of gratefulness. How you do it, I’ll never know.

There were times in my past when I thought parents were stupid — why would they want to waste away their blood, sweat, hard-earned money and limited earthbound time on another human being whose Annoyance: Happiness ratio is way too high. Was it to satisfy society? To ensure they had ‘homegrown’ nurses for their old age? Or just another example of the herd going foolish?

And even though I have been brought up by two very wonderful parents, I failed to understand the real reason we offspring exist.

Why all this? Because of yesterday.

Here’s what happened.

Time: 4 p.m.

Place: Prayer Dome

Mood: Tired from a long day of dusting the library

Backdrop: Me leaning against the wall, eyes closed, taking deep breaths, wanting to take a bath but contemplating it because taking a bath would involve moving my body from this extremely comfortable stationary spot.

Outside, exceptionally sunny for a winter’s day.

Inside, sultry due to lack of breeze.

In my head, a vacuum.

Enter Sabari and Ashok. “Maya Akka, Parungaa…” they say, and thrust a palm-sized plastic box in my face. I open my eyes and goggle. Inside are five little mice.

Yes, yes, mice as in rodents. Mice as in those furry, grey creatures that make you screech and tango. Mice as in Jerry, mice as in the plural of a mouse, mice as in the heroes of Ratatouille. Mice. FIVE mice.

The boys had found them cuddled up in a hollow of the massive tamarind tree around the bend. Earlier that afternoon, Sabari had seen an eagle fly away with the mother. The boys were now planning to take two each and gift the fifth to Hari.

Amma, I wish I had friends like them growing up. All I ever got for birthdays were plastic dolls and jigsaw puzzles. At least books they could have gifted, no!

Anyhoo. Back to our mice. We ooo-ed and aaah-ed into the plastic box, christened them Appu, Pappu, Kuppu, Tuppu and Ajith. (Hari had joined us by then and refused to stick with our rhyme scheme. His logic was that we had given him only one mouse, so we had no right to tell him what to name it. Plus, he had recently converted into a thala fan. Hence.)

The entry of these monkeys and their mice was like a jolt of Glucose into my tired sytem. A few minutes after the christening ceremony (which involved an orchestra of stones and twigs, a jungle chant and a round of kadalai mittai that was dangerously close to expiration), the girls entered the dome.

They wanted to play kho-kho. We had been planning to for the last two months and kept putting it off either because of the weather or for want of players. Today, we had the right number (a few grown-ups included). As we got into positions and began running around in loops, I suddenly realised that this was the first time since school that I was sitting on my haunches, half raised, waiting for someone to pat my back and shout ‘kho’.

THIS is why you parents exist, don’t you? Because in this world of potholes and packed locals, of endless errands and continuous chaos, of horrible bosses, greedy politicians and annoyingly argumentative adults, you need a child.

You need a child to keep you sane. To draw your attention to the shapes of clouds. To make you greeting cards of messy handprints and unadulterated love.

You need a child to make a life out of your existence.

You need a child. You do.

So, for this impromptu Parents’ Day, please find enclosed an old-fashioned handmade card containing handprints of us kho-kho players and paw-prints of Appu and co.

Frame it, ok?

Lots of love and much awe.

Your daughter forever.


P.S. Midway into the kho-kho game, Jodan, who was sleeping in his corner of the nursery, woke up to our shouts and came bursting onto the field running in loops alongside Ashok. Too funny it was. We’re planning to teach him the rules of kho-kho tomorrow. If dogs can be trained to jump hoops, kho-kho should be easy-peasy, no?

P.P.S.: Later in the evening, the grown-ups disappeared into the forest so we sneaked into the kitchen and made a pot full of Maggi. (Shh. This is a secret. Oh, how long I’d waited for this day.) We all had four mouthfuls each. No fork. First time eating with hand. Such fun.

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