When a daughter is born, they say father changes his outlook. In the name of parenting too many lies are often bartered around. I think it is a vicious circle that helps the parenting ‘industry’ thrive better. When two moms meet they talk about how the arrival of their kids has changed their lives completely. If one of them is a traditional mom, she will go gaga over her son’s virtues. If one of them is a feminist and has only girls, she will say sons will walk out but the girl will stay whether she would be married or not. I do not know how fathers speak about their sons and daughters. However, I have heard fathers speaking about how they have been changed with the arrival of their ‘girl’. I have tried my best to be like one of those fathers, young, happening, cool and changed-for-ever-with-the-arrival-of-the-girl-child types and have failed miserably. When my son came first I was elated and soon I realized how he has brought a bundle of problems too. This could be easily misinterpreted. How rude he is! Obviously some of your would exclaim so. But that is the fact. Kids bring additional responsibilities which most often are not palatable. When my daughter came I was a bit curious because the child was a ‘girl’.
Going by the norms of the society I pretended to be very happy. Some people told me, ‘man, you have now a complete family.’ For a long time, to tell you the truth, I thought that a complete family means a wife, a husband, and two kids. But someone corrected me much later, especially when I was going through a separation. ‘Hey man, what a pity. Look at you. You have a complete family’, someone said. ‘Excuse me, what did you say?’ I asked. ‘You have a complete family; a son and a daughter.’ That was it. So whenever they said someone had a complete family they meant this. One wife, one boy child and one girl child. I was appalled by that generalization. Suppose if I have a loving wife and a son, can’t it be a complete family? Or if I have wife and a girl child, can’t it be a complete family?’ Nobody answered my question because I did not dare to ask this to anyone. There are so many questions in our society that we do not dare to ask because we know that the answers could be quite offensive. Isn’t it a crime when you have a question and you dare not ask and also you have an answer and you kill it because it is not palatable? We are living in a self generated crime ridden society. Right in our mind we are criminals.
(Me and my daughter on a winter day in Delhi)
That was not my point. When my daughter was born I thought something was going to be really different. I may be an intellectual and I may have very good understanding about the psychology of people but the problem is that when it comes to your own case you just don’t understand half of your own things. It is exactly like a doctor who abstain from self diagnosis and like the clairvoyant who avoid seeing her own future. When it came to the case of my daughter, like a naïve person who was brought up with the staple food of Amar Chitra Kathas, I too believed that my daughter would be a very quiet child, obedient and calm. Sooner than later she proved to be otherwise. She did exactly what her brother did. She even fought with her mother. She refused to eat as if she had taken a vow to be an anorexic model when she grew up. She howled and threw tantrums and shamed her brother in mischief making. The adamant nature turned out to be normal to all kids who often fulfilled their desires and or attracted attention by throwing tantrums. My son had strayed away from a greenroom in full make and a few years down the line my daughter also reported have strayed away from a packed bus stand somewhere in Gujarat. I had read out a lot of stories that taught good behavior and morality through the life of a puppy. But the kids proved that they had learnt little from those stories.
Daughters are also mischievous. But their mischief has a different color scheme as they grown up. I do not know whether it is genetic or not, a girl child behaves differently than a boy child. As they grow up girl children automatically go for the ‘pink’ color. Anything pink will attract them. I do not remember anything of that sort happening in my childhood. I too had an elder sister and also many other little sisters around. We were village kids and we played with twigs, coconut shells, mud and so on. We also used to play ‘House’. It is a peculiar play where even brothers and sisters behaved as if they were husband and wife. We enacted the gender roles available at that time. So naturally, we boys set up stores with an array of differently colored sands, stones, leaves and many other collected items, each of which stood for something real in a grocery store. Girls came to shop, bargained and went back home by buses or cars driven by boys. Often a car could be made with a small loop of rope and if it is a bus a loop size will increase. Train was an easy thing to make as we all held our knicker and skirt ends and ran behind a boy who made a hooting sound and imitated the hissing sound of a steam engine. Girls made food in thatched huts and the ‘men folk’ closed the shops and went home to have lunch. Interestingly, kids imitated whatever they had seen at their homes and some of the kids ended up in violent fights. They were just living a ‘family’ life!
(me and my daughter near a crocodile sanctuary near Mahabalipuram)
Those girls did not opt for pink. Perhaps pink was the color of a ribbon and the cheap nail polish that came with the hawkers once in a year during the temple festivals. Girls wore coarse cotton clothes with huge flowers printed on them; today they may be passed off for curtains or furnishing clothes. But my daughter gravitated to pink as if time had inscribed the rules of global desires in her genetic make up. There was a time you could enter a world of pink once you opened her cupboard. She demanded pink shoes, pink belts, pink caps, pink frocks and pink anything. I think when she was hardly three years old and started browsing Youtube for herself, she chose all those pink related programs that included Barbie dolls from all over the world including Japan. One day I was horrified to see her watching a Barbie doll being cannibalized by some animated characters. This kid was enjoying it thoroughly. That was the first time I thought that there should be some control over the Youtube channels that she watched. My son watched only animations and some games. Violence was not his kind, but a girl child enjoying the cannibalizing of a Barbie doll. Thank god, she did not dwell much into that. Also she did not need any persuasion to leave it behind.
You may not think that my daughter who is all six years now, is another early nerd. She is one of the cutest of girls (see I too got into that one’s own syndrome) in the world and whenever I see a girl of her I just cannot take my eyes away from her. I have been away from her for almost one and half year due to certain familial issues. I could see her in between and whenever she met me she behaved as if nothing had gone wrong between me and the family. Girls are great survivors too. They are cautious and calculating than the sons who would go around and just boast that their fathers were celebrities or big fighters. The most coward and unsocial person, for his son would look like an animation transformer hero who could become anything by just taking different shapes. They think that they belong to the family of the Incredibles. But girl children are more realistic and imaginative at the same time. My daughter is realistic when it comes to the real situations in life. She is imaginative when she asks questions like, ‘Papa, do butterflies wear frocks?’
(Me initiating my daughter into the world of letters)
‘Do butterflies wear frocks?’ What a question…what a question. A question that does not have an answer. I could have cooked up a story, a scientific explanation or anything of that sort. But I chose to remain silent and I gave her a smile, which I thought was wonderful and I am sure she would remember that smile for ages even if I would be dead and gone back. I told you about the questions that we dare not ask and the answers that we dare not utter. I also said that by keeping those questions and answers to ourselves we become criminals. But these are the questions that absolve us from all kinds of criminal thoughts. Even if we do not answer those questions we will be acquitted of that crime. There are questions that do not seek answers in this world. Those are the questions that have gained their answers in the world before and beyond. Children come to this world with those questions, leaving the answers behind. These answers are like memories that are never remembered. When we are grown up and old, suddenly we remember that we had some questions and also they had some answers. But searching for them here would be a vain attempt; that also we know by then. So we would wait for those answers and we know that they would come one day unexpected. Wouldn’t it be interesting to pass over to a world where there are only answers for all the beautiful questions that by now we have forgotten?
My daughter has turned just six. I am very happy about that. I am happy because she would be having such beautiful questions that would put the most intelligent person in confusion. She would have those crystal shoes which she would leave for her Prince (feminists of fundamentalism would say that as a father I could not think anything but marriage). She would have one of the brightest brains so that she could see the light of the world of imagination than earn a fat salary packet from the world of servility and darkness. Her world would be rich with all happiness and luxuries because she is going to the creator of all such luxuries. When she has wings why should she think about flying at all? Flying would come naturally to her because she is made to scale the heights and trace the new trajectories. Ethereal spirits that have blessed her are with me as I was the one who gave her the blessings of letters and lit the lamp of wisdom in her mind. She is not still able to know the vastness she has been containing within her. How come sky measure itself? How come sea hold itself back from lashing out at the shores? How come the air stops itself when it knows only the path of life and movement? My daughter is six years old today and I bless her from this distance and make myself and her immortal through these words that know no distance and geographical borders.