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The gift of their presence

delhi Updated: Jan 03, 2010 01:06 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya
Soumya Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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Dear Fellow Parents,

It’s early in the morning as I write this letter to you. It is hushed and still, as if the world (or the bit of world that I see around myself from the window) is holding itself in abeyance, waiting for the business of the day and year and decade to begin.

I thought I’d write to you because today is the first day of the first year of the new decade (although you will, of course, read this only on the third day of the first year of…). I know it’s only me, but I always feel chastened and subdued on New Year’s Day.

Whenever I think about all the guff about renewal and rebirth that goes around at this time of the year, I think of what Salman Rushdie had Gibreel Farishta say as he came tumbling out of the heavens at the opening of The Satanic Verses: “To be born again, first you have to die.”

So I thought I’d count my blessings instead. And I thought again this morning of a terrifying story that appeared earlier this week in all the newspapers in Mumbai.

Here is what happened. In a mall in a western suburb of the city, a 62-year-old man stepped on to the escalator with his one-year-old granddaughter. He tripped, and lost his balance. The infant slipped from his grasp. She fell to the ground floor. She died before reaching the hospital.

I was wondering about what sort of new year that family might have. I was wondering about what sort of life that family might now have. Will the grandfather ever recover? Will the parents ever come to terms with what happened? What will they do?

What do you think?

Parenting, as all of us know, can be really hard. It can often be frustrating, enervating, intimidating, and annoying. It alters our lives in many ways in which we’d rather it didn’t. On a bad day (and there are so many of them, aren’t there?), we feel a bit like Sisyphus, tirelessly and thanklessly rolling a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down — again and again.

But every time I read of an incident like that one or hear of some tragedy to do with children that has befallen a family, I feel grateful.

Look, we know our children aren’t perfect. (But are we?) They may not always be what we want them to be. They disappoint us as much as — I am sure — we disappoint them. And often, things look as though they will never get any better, any different.

But they are ours, and they are there. Doesn’t that seem like a benediction? We have only them, or nothing. And isn’t nothing so much worse?

Thank you, Oishi, for being there. And thank you for being you.

I wish you all a splendid new year.

(Soumya Bhattacharya’s new novel, If I Could Tell You, is in stores now)