This appeared as “Got to tighten my curse strings” in Mid-day, August 26, 2002
Overnight, Baby A (who will be promoted to Toddler A the minute she actually gets off her butt and begins to damn well toddle! Oh the shame of having a slacker child) is learning to speak. Currently her vocabulary is all the way up to 12 coherent words. This ties her in with Gigi, the speaking family dog, who can say all of our names, ‘I love you’ and ‘torch’ (I kid you not!). Gigi also howls in tune with the harmonica. This however involves encouragement in the form of a certain twin sibling waving one arm wildly, tapping one foot from the thigh like a hillbilly and most importantly, looking like the village idiot. Seventeen and well on their way to womanly beauty, Gigi’s musical development has been sacrificed in the name of the twins’ self-respect.
But about Baby A. I believe now is the time to make my first parental sacrifice. The comprehensive cleansing of my filthy mouth. Never mind the fact that two irate writers-in have accused me (and U Benegal Esq) of wearisome big-word-using, complicated-sentence-making and the chronic stringing all-those-words together with hyphens.
Outside of the print/radio forum, my language is festive, my idiom obscene, my interjections foul. Perhaps it is inherited, written in the code. My community, the East Indians, are known famously for being fisher folk (here my mother pops her head in to disassociate herself from all ancestral seafood-selling, taking refuge instead in the caste of the piano-playing, lavender talc-wearing landowners.) Whatever. Fact is, I swear like a parrot on a pirate ship. Indeterminate paternity (or what A Thakraney Esq calls a b*****d), the accusation of maternal and sisterly incest in Marathi, female canines (no offence Gigi), parts of the anatomy, psychological disorders and some nice scientific doozies I picked up in my pre-natal trips to the gynaecologist all pepper my conversation. Admittedly, I relinquish control every day and live in mortal fear of making a mechanical error while in the studio and then going on air live with an ‘oh copulation!’
The permanent roommate has taken to being stern with me about my language. Ah, the maturing of a long-term relationship from ‘you be the dreamer darling, I’ll be the practical one’ to ‘you be the dreamer but when you start to drool, I’m gonna have to wake you up’. It began with raised eyebrows, clucking and ‘You have to stop that, Baby A will pick it up’. Now he sneaks around with a Fisherprice tape-recorder trying to catch bits of audio proof for use in court when I make good my monthly threats of leaving him and taking full custody.
Baby A meanwhile remains oblivious to the colourful consonants. For now. ‘Flower’, she says, and ‘bus’. She can name a couple of fruits, tell you how old she is, where her belly button resides, a rough estimation of her name and, courtesy the time she spends at the Quirkfest Commune I call my family home, replicate the sounds of at least two bodily functions. (Yes, despite my best efforts, I’m turning into an irritatingly proud mama.)
The best incentive to clean up though is watching the human awareness slowly unfold in this pristine mindspace. So I must learn to speak like I write. hyphens and big words included. Already, Baby A likes to have the last word. Last night she ended a discussion with a brand new word. We’re hoping it was cupboard.