For long after our marriage, Shobha and I were not prepared to have another life alongside, dictating terms to us. We wanted to live our lives with zero accountability. While we made plans, God made his, and Anjali arrived in our lives. That’s when we realised that nothing calls for all of your immediate attention with more urgency than a baby. It makes you fully present – to all possibilities.
In minutes, we readjusted our priorities, our thinking and our lives – to deal with her. Apart from claiming all our time and energy (which we had devoted fully to ourselves till then), she came with her own set of behaviours and expectations. For example, she did not think twice about crying at any place and anytime (however, nasty a look we gave her) and cried and cried until she got what she wanted. Now, this was a revelation to us – that we could demand things as a right. You see we had started to believe that we ought to keep our wants inside and suffer quietly when denied. So much so that we forgot what our wants were and what to do if they were granted! Watching her, it appeared that we could bring the roof down if we wanted something. That was lesson number one really.
Anjali also smiled and laughed whenever she wanted. She did not know anything about waiting for the right moment, the right people and the right joke like we did. She laughed at whatever she found funny. We found it foolish to laugh at nothing like she did. But since laughter was fast going out of our lives we responded to this non-judgmental character by making funny faces, funny noises and inventing funny names. It was addictive. Pretty soon we didn’t care about who was watching us and how embarrassing it was – all that mattered was this tiny person who did not bother about others and who seemed to love us despite our stupidity, our looks, our failures and our achievements. She brought us down to her level (or did she pull us up, I’ll never know). We regressed a bit from being adults – and it was a huge relief.
In just a few months, she zoomed around the learning curve while we slid and slipped at the starting blocks. She learned to walk, talk, climb, dance, sing, handle a fork, button clothes, tie shoe laces and other life skills at a rapid pace with great determination. I could do most of those things so I was not threatened. But when she started operating the mobile and the computer better than me by the time she was six I gave up. She picked about a 100 new things a day. She just made me dizzy.
At some early point of time in this breathless journey, I became an ardent fan of this wonder woman in diapers with her thirst for learning, her courage to pick up live ants and slide off mountainous slides at high speeds, her transparency in crying loudly when the ants eventually bit her and her adaptability to change her attitude when an ice cream was offered.
In a couple more years my admiration transformed into awe. She was now grateful to people who dug up roads (they are digging for us only), told me to love everybody (or they won’t love you), taught me to be grateful to all who sustain me instead of complaining about them (they do so much for us). Why was she not running others down like the rest of us did, I wondered. But the world was not a place of conspiracies, insecurities and dangers for her; it was a magical garden where everyone helped everyone. In time I learned to see the true colours of gratitude, equality, kindness, self-esteem, vulnerability, strength and most importantly love for life, of her own an all around her. It opened my eyes to the possibilities I missed with my judgement, and my eagerness to take a stand. With her irreversible trust in two reluctant and slow-learning adults like us, she forced us into being responsible, gentler and kinder people (I think). As she grew, so did we.
I did things I never did for myself– it was important not to disappoint her. She challenged all that I could be – she wanted nothing but the best part of me and demanded it – unlike the rest of the world which did care a hoot. Thanks to her faith and belief I’ve come to respect myself a lot more. And find it easier to put others ahead, consequently. I learned how living in the moment was more fun than escaping from it, how accepting everything and everyone was easier than resisting them. I stopped fearing rain, strangers, dogs. Could life be lived like this? With fun and play, ease and joy? Pretty much everything went the other way now. The right way it seemed.
A glimpse of a super world
I cannot help thinking that perhaps we were members of this super club too. Somewhere along the way we lost it and made things harder for ourselves. Imagine how the world would be if we asked children what to do with nuclear weapons, armies, war, religion. If we cared to listen, we can see how life-centric they are. It’s a gentle world view that could make life so much better if we just let them be – without messing them up. In fact if we can go a step further and be like them, life, I suspect, would be a lot easier.