Back here , cos it had nowhere else to go
I am a writer. Its not one of the best earning professions in the world, but it gives me a satisfaction of doing what I’ve wanted to do, even if it has cost me a life long parting with people I cared for dearly once.
With my profession also comes the occupational hazard of trying to analyze things, trying to probe into another's mind, thinking of each situation as a story, and as some would accuse me of, being too passive, but I am what I am, I cannot undo the "chains I wrought myself" to misquote Tagore. After a life filled with books and writings, old age comes like a whiff of fresh air to me, I go out and play with my grand daughter, walk in the lawn barefooted and do all those foolish things that age and so called social grace robs you of.
Now though I’m a grandmother I am delighted because I now officially have the right of being foolish and the right to blame it on my grand daughter’s whims.
The beautiful precocious child that she is far more intelligent than required for her age of 9 years.
“Age is a number gran” she tells me, her mother laughingly tells me that a friend had said that once in a party that she’s overheard when she sees my jaw touching the floor at that statement. Her mother teases me “Like gran like gran daughter” I love to be teased.
Today though, she’s throwing the tantrums of a normal 9 year old. She wants a bedtime story, a new one at that, she is “fed up of listening to the same stuff” in her own words.
I call her, take her on my lap and promise her a new story.
“A different one?”
“Yeah baby, a different one, a special story. Because YOU are so special”
Her father looks up from his reading; his mother is worried as they hear the word “special”. A moment, a flitting moment of unease is around in the room.
I have always wondered if moments are what they are, just moments, just a point in time where the unceasing time appears to have stopped, if just for once? Or are the moments a time warp? Bringing with them a memory of many lifetimes, many pasts, while they, they are in the process of becoming a past, to be relived at another “moment”? For haven’t you felt a scene replay itself in the mind’s eye when a familiar scent wafts through? Or when you pass by a street or store that has memories either sweet or sore?
I felt that moment then, I do not know, whether it was the latter or the former variety, but it flitted past me, as though touching me like a whiff of cold air, the same air that had just touched my son and daughter-in-law, the only difference being that the cold air, to them felt clammy, clammy with fear. I looked into my son’s eyes and saw the same anxiety I saw in them many years ago, when I had told him that he was special, not just special, but special special, he, was adopted.
My son. My adopted son. The word in between me and my son tearing us apart. But the little boy then had the maturity to make the very same word that would have otherwise torn us apart into the beautiful bond that we share now.
I told him when he was 9. When he was as sweet and angelic as my granddaughter is now. He had a question for me, where was my husband? “Where?” He asked, “Nowhere” I replied. His little mind was confused. Hadn’t his teacher told him that every kid has a “mum” and a “poppa”? Then why did he not have a “poppa”?
I told the kid that he was adopted. What did adopted mean? It meant that a stork did not leave him at my doorstep; instead I went searching for the stork. He was special. He was the only kid for whom a parent went searching. Did that have anything to do with him not having a poppa?
Questions and more questions. By the time he was fifteen, he knew he knew his “mother” was unmarried. She had adopted him.
Why? Was his question. I had adopted him not because I was lonely. (I was). Not because I could not have children of my own. (Unmarried females in India don’t have much of a leeway!). Not because I needed a male in the house, even if it was a son (I wanted someone, yes.) But because I loved him. I had once loved someone who was adopted and had inadvertently messed up his life, it left him a shattered man driven to nothingness and me a spinster wandering aimless in the journey of life. But I loved the child I brought home. It began as a penance for a mistake, an effort to erase guilt, but ended up being a bond greater than that of the umbilical cord. He understood that. We even visited the orphanage where he was when I adopted him. He loved me. I could see it in his eyes. I loved him; he could see it in mine. He was proud of me and me of him.
But why think of all this so many years later? Why now?
Now, because my grand daughter is adopted as well. My daughter in law will never bear to break this news to her child. I can understand her. I am a mother too. I can understand the feeling of denial and the loveless ness that my granddaughter might experience.
She fears her daughter will never be the same again. I can understand that. I have gone through that, though thankfully, my son never had the handicap of linking maturity with age.
When my son held his 3-month-old daughter in his hands, his eyes moistened “Mom, I now why you searched for the stork. I will give her what she does not have. I will give her a father.” That minute I felt I might have made a mistake.
“Son, would you have preferred a home with a complete set of parents? I mean I’m so incomplete... I feared to see the agreement in his eyes.”
“Mom,” the voice was grave. “I was destined to be your son, come what may. And you tried to defy destiny, you did not marry, so God sent me to you this way.”
I turned to see his happy eyes. She is destined for me as well mom, he said passing the baby onto my arms.
“What will you name her?”
“I want to name her as the eternal emotion in this world. I to name her Pranayani”
Pranayani means the one born of marital bliss in Sanskrit. I was to explain this to my granddaughter some years later, she hated her name, and she was the only one in her grade who could not spell her name. She sat spell bound when I told her that the German she spoke had such intricate links with Sanskrit. Her Mutter was matah in Sanskrit. Sanskrit was the oldest of languages.
I had given her father the liberty to choose any day as his birthday. I had adopted him when he was 5 and the orphanage did not know his birthday. He had chosen everything he wanted. He loved it. But now his daughter had everything fixed for her. Even her parents were fixed.
When he was in the throes of teenage, I had once told him that if he did not like he could exchange me. I could be his mother, his friend, his lecturer, a stranger, an enemy. He could choose the role. Adoption does not mean imposition of someone over someone else. Natural birth means that mostly always. Maybe then, it was my bitterness in my family and relationships that had led to me to say that, but it had the right kind of impact (I thank HIM everyday for that). He even practiced with me before he went and proposed his then future wife. I love him.
Today though, I can see a fear in his eyes, maybe the word “special” has brought out memories of certain moments in him. There, can you see, that word again, “moments”! Moments, moments. When you look back at life at an age that I am now, all you can see of your life will be a string of moments you can remember, the more there are, the fuller you have led your life.
Well, ignoring my children, I now turn my attention to my 9-year-old friend; I tell her a silly story that I have made up just then, something about internet-fishing net – mosquito net and a rivalry between them.
My daughter and her mother are in peals of laughter. My little Pranay at the nonsensical impossibility of it all and her mother discovering the childhood innocence, in awe that I just made up a story.
“I can never do that, I am so bad at telling stories,” she says in between her gurgling laughter.
My son wrinkles his nose. He’s hated made up stories since he was a kid. He was always a sucker for the “tried and tested” stories.
“Hrrmmmpphh, you could instead tell her a story of the stork that carried the wrong baby!”
“Now that’s a made up story as well”
“No, it’s not just made up, it’s tried and tested, In case the stork forgets, you go and find the stork”
He sticks out his tongue. My little Pranay sleepily laughs at her father’s childishness.
I’m waving at them. Its already time for them to leave. He pleads with me to come along, but I’m too much in love with my country to go to Germany, besides, all I know of Germany is Hitler!
Isn’t that a problem being a reader and a writer? You tend to read too much and fantasize, that the real thing sometimes looks mundane!
I stand there and savor the moment when my grand daughter waves at me. I wave back and walk back. I hum the lullaby I sang for him when he was a kid. My son. My adopted son. My family. My adopted family. My love. My love of my life.