My dearest Zoo-zoobi,
Hi! As I sit here waiting for the clock to strike the midnight hour and usher in the teens for you, I am in flashback mode. The moment I first set eyes on you, is still a fresh memory despite the blurry vision (minus my spectacles). Despite being a new born, you made a strong claim to your space in the world and to your independence. I was reminded of Kahlil Gibran's poem on children and of the Constitution of India, even though I was groggy from the anaesthesia.
It has not been an easy ride for you, in many ways, more so the last couple of years. I cannot promise that it will be smooth sailing here onwards, but it will surely be as wondrous a journey as it has been heretofore. Just make sure you deal with the crests and the troughs that you will ride, without being affected by either. It's all mind over matter in the end baby.
Happy Birthday my darling...here's to the teens and to our battles! Just know this, I have been there and done that so I possess the unfair advantage! Loving Mommy advice - Learn when to back off honey. Hahahahaahhaaa...I love you. And I have a little gift for you. When Papa was preparing to come to Nigeria for the first time, your Muthachan sent him a letter which was all about you. Papa shared it with me when he got it; he was overwhelmed and had tears in his eyes. The letter has an universal quality about it and Papa had given me permission to put it on my blog. I was waiting for you to turn thirteen to put it up. I have typed it in and have also put up a few pics of Muthachan and you. This was published in one of the Raksha Concert Souvenirs.
Muthachan was extremely fond of you as you well know and will know more when you read the letter. I hope it will also give you an insight into the person he was and that you will get to know the true essence of him. I am sure had he been around, he would have dragged Ammooma along and landed in Lagos to usher in your teens. Just as I am sure that both your Ajja and he are sending you blessings from wherever they are. You were very precious to Muthachan and there have been instances when I have known for sure that he is watching over you.
Never mind whatever else I may say, I am truly blessed and thankful that your soul chose me to be your Mom. Thank you for being my rock during the times of crisis. You do have those sparks of wisdom and maturity far beyond your years and the old men up there must surely be beaming with pride! If only they knew...
Love, kisses and hugs. And a big God Bless.
- "The Mother"
Here's Muthachan for you...
My dear Parag,
As the date of your leaving the shores of India draws near, I am troubled with the thought that fate may deprive me of the chance of seeing you again! Nigeria is far, faraway. It is not even Bombay or Kharaghpur, which heaven knows was far enough for someone for whom anything beyond Panampilly Nagar is far! But, who knows in a vaporized condition, I might find the entire world more accessible! But then I shall be a non-participating audience!
It is comforting to plan, meanwhile, for Muthu’s and Aarzoo’s visit; the thought of which is immensely exciting. We will make most of their time in Cochin. With Aarzoo around there won’t be any need to plan and, any case her mother will probably have to be whizzing around at great speed and we could have Aarzoo all to ourselves! When, and if I live to see Aarzoo after Nigeria, she will be a grown up girl, possibly a little shy, in Montessori or, LKG or, UKG and, of course, progressively more enchanting!
I hope you will fill her ears with the best classical music you can lay your hands on, Indian, Carnatic and Western. Let her speech aspire to music and her movements to dance. Speak sofly so that her speech will be modulated and she will know the power of the whisper. Give her children’s edition of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Iliad and Odyssey and the entire Greek classical lore to read in translation. English is a beautiful language and she has a right by inheritance to Bengali. Give her some Sanskrit too, for it is a storehouse of infinite wisdom. Not too much, for you don’t want her to be an antiquarian; just enough so she too can stand filled with wonder before the edifice of a tradition of such unmatched splendour. Malayalam is a harsh language not given to much refinement and invariably spoken in high decibels! But it would be a pity to miss it out altogether for it has much to offer but you may have to sacrifice its study for the sake of a more selective choice. If she is a “language girl” she will learn as she goes along anyway. You don’t have to thrust it on her.
Science will take an increasing role in the lives of those who belong to her generation. And, if she is to steer her course through this life she will need an ample measure of it – Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and Physics, and all the baby sciences that these mother sciences have produced. Teach her to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Let her know what religion is all about but practice spirituality. It belongs to the realm of science and is the only opening to, of self-knowledge. It will bring grace, depth and quality to her life and it is never too early to begin the great exploration.
Let the temple of her body grow in health and strength. It does not call for more than Milk, fruit, vegetables, plenty of sunshine and exercise – swimming, cycling, tennis and gymnastic exercise, which enhance the control of the body. Let her learn to value her body for it in her care for a lifetime and, we all have an obligation to make the most of what is given to us even without our seeking.
She will need to sleep a lot so she can grow well and bed time must be considered sacred and, set aside only as a special treat, when some great artiste is coming home to sing or play a musical instrument, or you are taking her out to listen to a concert of some truly great musician. Brook no departure and don’ let her cajole you into yielding! Your own lives will have to be seriously disciplined to ensure that she sees always before her eyes brilliant examples of the lifestyle you impose on her.
I wish I could list the books she must read but that will take all of a lifetime and in any case what can I recommend her at 75! By the time she begins serious reading everything but everything will be recast for the new generation. New stories, new poems, new myths and legends, new music, new science and even newer superstitions! All we can say teach her to distinguish the trivial from what has permanent value. There is no easy way to distinguish this wither, no magic formula to tell one from the other.
If I omitted to mention laughter and humour it was only to give them the prominence they deserve. Let your home be full of ringing laughter and bright shining eyes. Sulk is sin; fear it like the plague. Even if a sorrowing visage is in fashion, don’t keep with the trend. Teach her to value the “now” for that is all she has. The past is mere memory and the future mere imagination. Count any day as lost if you have not laughed. Don’t brook any sorrow in your life or in the lives of others; treat it as a kind of illness. Religions wear the clothes of sorrow and almost worship it as something essentially good. If you follow a faith in order to be miserable there are clear there are cheaper and easier methods to accomplish unhappiness. Take your morning papers seriously that is all that it calls for. Remember in spite of Bush and the Iraq war, in spite of Advani and Naidu, in spite of Lalu all our other calamities, in spite of the disability, illness, deaths by starvation, and thirst, ugliness and despair there are also wonderful people, and skies and flowers still smile, and there are kittens, puppies and babies – what more can you ask for.
As I sit here banging on this machine, from the ground floor of this nine-storied building, I hear the voice of children screaming with delight. This sound travels up the stairway and I keep the door ajar so that I don’t miss it. It fills me with a great surge of joy and I am reconciled to life and death. If this will carry on after I have left the world what is there to grieve about.
I started with the simple intention of saying bye bye and to say have a wonderful time and send you love. You don’t need all this but I wrote it on an impulse! God bless.
Love and many hugs from Baba.
Tell Muthu I love her and this un-revised, unedited letter is also for her together with an equal measure of hugs and kisses. Baba