Reading between the lines

Reading between the lines


Dear Nayantara,

It seems like only yesterday that your father and I brought you home from the government hospital where you were born, wrapped in a bright red and black checkered woolen shawl, bought off the streets in a hurry that winter afternoon in Mumbai. You decided to come into the world earlier than we expected and hence the shopping off the street. If you were around, you wouldn’t have allowed me to buy that particular shade of red. You would’ve said, “Mom, your taste is so loud!” Thank God you were not around because the option, otherwise, would have been a cheerful lime green number with giant sunflowers on it! Besides, your parents were struggling journalists at the beginning of their careers and shopping for branded stuff was a distant dream.

It has been 19 years since then and sometimes I can’t believe the fine young woman that you have become actually came from me. I search for traces of me in you but instead of the uncertain, painfully shy girl-woman that I was at your age, I see a smart, confident being who can look any situation in the eye and come home none the worse for it!
I can’t believe sometimes that you are the same little being, the one who would bawl all night, keeping the family awake till 2 am. You still keep me awake till 2 am, but now it is not from colic! It’s because you are texting away furiously or on Facebook with friends while I lie in bed worrying about the side-effects on my only child, of cocking a snook at the bio-clock  and networking like Facebook is going out of fashion at day break. I’m not sure I like Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter too much these days. It is great to catch up with friends and stay tuned, but what is the point of a life that is lived so publicly it is almost like the life of the pale-eyed gold fish in a glass jar, on my friend’s mantelpiece? That fish has grown fat from doing nothing but swimming languidly all day, staring balefully at visitors. I am not saying you or your friends are fat or stare balefully at people, but I would love to tell you that there is more to life than the idiot box, the laptops, Facebook and Death By Chocolate. I know, I am tech-challenged and very boring and don’t know how to enjoy life but, dear daughter, I am managing fine without all of these.

Coming back to the topic of fat and languid, I mean it. The human body is meant to use all its organs equally, not just the fingers, used largely to fly over the key pad. The laburnum outside our window is ablaze with yellow flowers. I wish you would sometimes walk with me and explore the beauty of summer’s wildly beautiful flowers that have carpeted our sidewalks. Walking with me might also help get you and, hopefully, me into the right size for those awesome new jeans that are being advertised on the telly — the ads that I see when you surf channels in between watching How I Met Your Mother, Friends or Glee.

Sometimes, I wish you would not shut me out of your life so easily with that trendy iPod. I am pondering  about evolution and the theory of adaptation a lot these days. For instance, will human beings of the future be born with an iPod-like organ supplementing their ears? Adaptation may cause either the gain of a new feature, or the loss of an ancestral feature, science books say, and by that definition, sooner rather than later, nature will conjure up an  natural iPod-like organ for homo sapiens…

It is also adaptation that has made you a rock star in the culinary department, my mother tells me. It is nature’s way of making sure you have enough to eat, considering that I have never really found my way into the kitchen in all these years. Thank you for the most delicious chocolate truffle that you made yesterday; it was doubly sweet because my daughter baked it for me. You are right Nayan, it is very much possible to eat your cake and have it too! Ask me.

Thank you my precious daughter for bringing so much joy into my life. I love you, forever.


(The writer, Sudha Menon, is the author of the recently launched book, ‘Leading Ladies: Women Who Inspire India’.)