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And they grow older

columns Updated: Mar 05, 2011 23:40 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

Sometimes, when she is not aware of it, I catch myself looking at our daughter carefully. It is during moments in which she is utterly absorbed in something or the other.

It could be while she is painting, on her knees on the floor, holding down with her knees the sheet/canvas that is too large for her, the accoutrements spread out around her, putting down her brush to occasionally, frowningly, push away a lock of hair that gets in the way.

It could be while she is reading, sitting on the bed, her back against the headboard, her knees drawn up, oblivious to anything else, grunting a (slightly annoyed) response after being asked something thrice.

It could be while she is riveted by her current passion, sewing. She has a kit and a frame and threads of various colours and swiftly, nimbly goes about making various designs.

She is fascinated by the alchemy of how the surface on which she is working changes as shapes form and colours swirl on what was previously blank. It’s why she loves to watch us cooking, to see the raw material transform, bit by bit, in colour and texture and form, and become something else from what it was.

I look at her, and, especially in moments when she is sewing or playing music with her eyes closed so that she has the score by heart, it strikes me how much better she is at certain things than I am, how far ahead she already is of me in certain respects.

She can do with the BlackBerry stuff that I can’t. She can make power point presentations on the laptop. She can sew and draw and paint much better than I ever could. And when I nod and smile and murmur appreciative things when she sits upright on the piano bench and plays, she, on occasion, turns and says, “But Baba, that was all wrong.” I grin sheepishly. “That’s all right. You’ve said you can’t play. But you are very encouraging.”

And I sense that the journey in which one point (she) begins to move further and further ahead and away and the other point (us) remains stationary, the journey in which she grows mature and responsible and realises the follies and the fallibility of her parents, that journey has begun in earnest.

I think of something I have up on the felt in my office: her first identity card at school. It was issued nearly six years ago. Looking at the photograph, you can still tell that it’s her. But, in another sense, you can’t, not really.

That frozen moment, those first days of school seem at once to be very far away and all too recent. My eyes wander towards the picture nearly every time I look up and away from the computer screen. I recall how, when she was three or younger, she would depend on us for nearly everything. It seemed then like both a constraint and a delight. Now, when she does no longer, it seems like a constraint and a delight.

That’s the baffling thing with parenthood. Each thing is at odds with the other. The numbers never add up.