A week after her first birthday, Baby A is now 27 years away from turning into her mother. I’ll have to break it to her gently. Maybe when she’s 26.
Growing up I wanted to be my dad, moustache, chest hair and all. He’s a cool guy. He’d split lobsters down the middle and barbeque them for us, he’d play loud music, he liked hanging out in the garden, he wanted us to be in a band, he drove us around, he made the money.
As eldest of six, I watched my mum always amongst her children — supervising mass bathing, feeding frenzies, packing us off to school, staying up nights with the brother who consistently failed in Hindi, spending days cleaning, doing the laundry and sometimes threatening to throw in all six towels and join a convent. She didn’t take to the radio being on. It interfered with her super powers — that special mix of sound and intuition that mothers combine to make an evil-child-radar. We thought she was just being a stick in the mud.
Your first independent thoughts are to be as different from your parents as possible. They say doctor — you say rock star. They say rock star — you say porn film-maker. Get the baby-boomer treatment — produce hippies, the slacker vibe — yuppies. It’s impossible to foretell how your kids will make money. You can bet your last buck though that most everything else will be done like you do. Even as we speak I am turning into my mother. Irrational fears for the offspring, voice throaty from yelling a panicky ‘NO!’ the whole day, fatigue-whipped in the evening, a little bit of a grumble-gut, a little silly. (I also, willy-nilly, inherited my father’s facial hair, but technology and harsh chemicals take care of that twice a month.)
Baby A’s too little, but already she imitates and can wag her finger and grouch threateningly. I now have a minor obsession with observing other mothers and daughters. To avoid the clowns, cake and crying ritual that comprise most children’s first birthday celebrations we hot-footed it to Goa for Baby A’s 01. Also on the ‘monsoon package’ were two Delhi mums, two nannies and a son and daughter apiece. On the bus to the hotel the mums were ecstatic. None of the above had seen the ocean before and typical of Delhi-wallas, it was making them a bit giddy. Loud phrases floated past, ‘leave the kids’, ‘should abandon husbands more often’, ‘go out for a drink’, ‘Driver where is Tito’s?’
When we reached, a loud banner fluttered a welcome to a music channel’s veejay hunt. The permanent roommate and I exchanged looks of horror. The Delhi mums went high pitched with glee. And that’s when I first noticed one of their little girls’. Eight years old and judging her mum with every furrow her little eyebrows could muster. A picture of her x-chromosome donor, she watched her like a hawk. It was probably the first time she’d seen her mum act like she’d ever had a life — she didn’t like it one bit. I wonder what she’d have said if I told her she had every chance of growing up to be just like her. Some colourful North Indian expletives I’d imagine. Give her 20 years. I’m guessing she’ll think it’s pretty much the best she could be. With a little luck and selective recounting of embarrassing stories, Baby A may eventually think so too.