My sister had a baby last month. It’s a boy. Thanks for the congratulations, but I have mixed feelings. And these feelings have taken precedence over more pertinent social stuff like the Baba Rampal fiasco, because I do not necessarily have to love Rampal and other such babas. With my nephew, it’s more complicated. I have to love him. I mean, I do love him. He is my first nephew after all. But I have mixed feelings because, so far, I had only one emotion to spare for kids: Irritation.
Before you judge me, send me hate mail, or sweetly explain how kids are God’s carriers of goodness, please remember that kid on the next table who was crying/shouting/running around in circles/generally throwing things in random directions when you last went to a restaurant. Given my poor luck with most matters, I usually end up at a table next to such monsters. Hence, I am worried.
While my sister, her husband and everyone else from our extended family is busy looking for a name for what they term a cute little bundle of joy, I am losing sleep. In teenage, kids are usually best left alone, and I am not at all fretting about what he will become once he grows up exactly. That’s for his mom and dad. My worry is about that age from which he starts talking to the age when he attains puberty. These 10-odd years are when kids are walking-talking-yacking personality-development tests for those around them. And I score poorly on that count.
So, since October 20, the day he was born, I have been doing some deep analysis. How bad can he be possibly? How many times do I have to meet him in a week, since I love him after all and will like to see him quite often for emotional reasons? Which earplugs should I buy for those visits? Would he be open to taking bribe to shut up? Most importantly, which type would he be? Yes, there are types. Experience has taught me that. Let me share four basic ones:
Criers: As the term suggests, these guys just cry. And cry some more. Until they can talk, this is the only mode of communication. That, I understand. But why keep crying after that? Obviously, someone forgot to tell them that they could always say what they want. Then there are the howlers, closer to being wolves than human beings. They make sounds that scare neighbours at night, or make a whole restaurant wonder if the kid has some special powers, like turning into a werewolf on full-moon nights.
Players: These guys just keep going, round in circles at weddings and funerals, up and down on beds and sofas, forward and backward on tricycles and then bicycles. When done, they hang by anything that’s higher than them, be it an uncle’s pants or an auntie’s shoulder. Ideally, these kids should be put on a treadmill to expend all their energies before taking them to a public place.
Abusers: No, not the criminal types. I simply mean kids who use swear words. At a larger level, they fall under the category of repeaters. Abusers, however, are a more seriously hazardous species borne out of the great Punjabi tradition of teaching kids gaalis of the MC-BC variety. With their cute lisps and verbal dyslexia, they do sound hilarious at first. Only at first. In case of my nephew, we shall honour the tradition but teach him some milder ones, in English. That way he’ll not embarrass anyone in front of hoity-toity guests, and will sound all fancy too.
Hell-raisers: These are the ones who progress quickly from being the life of the house to the tsars of chaos. In their reign, unpredictability is the law. From throwing knives at guests to breaking the toys of the neighbour’s kids, throwing your phone off the roof, tearing the newspaper in the morning to make little airplanes, scratching your car’s bonnet in an epiphany of modern art, to crying at being caught and lying through their milk teeth — trust the hell-raisers to, well, raise hell. If my nephew ever grows into one of these, I shall be left with no option but to sever ties with my beloved sister for at least 10 years.
So far, though, signs from him are encouraging. He has responded exceedingly well to two key words when he’s crying: Shut up! This seminal phrase works better than all that ‘googlu-wooglu’, ‘tunnu-munnu’ and ‘shona-mona’ that others try. There is hope.
And don’t ask me about what I’ll do when I have kids. Let me just say this: U-turns are the hallmark of a thinking man, and changes in opinion mark the evolution of a true journalist.