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Her story and ours

india Updated: Dec 05, 2010 00:27 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

It's funny how, when a baby is born, friends and relatives will say - with a great degree of certitude - whether she resembles the father or the mother, and whom, and to what extent.

When our girl was born nine years ago - it seems like a lifetime away; and so it should, given that it was such a life-altering event - I could never tell.

Nor could I agree with those who proclaimed such resemblances. At the time, I was too pleased by the fact that she was intact, whole; also the fact that she was a girl (we had all fervently wished for one); and, frankly, it was impossible for me - with the sort of intelligence quotient I have - to spot, even remotely, likenesses of any kind. I was simply thrilled that she was there.

Now I can tell.

She is quick to be annoyed by hectoring, like me. She can't suffer humourlessness, bores and repetition, like me.

She has her mother's gait (yes, she has a gait now). She has her mother's poise. When she speaks, she shares both our inflections and turns of phrase. She has a certain obsessive attachment to sport and books. (I know where that comes from.) She has become adept in drawing, painting, in loving - and loving to play - music. (I know where that comes from.)

Her fingers, long, shapely, nails not chewed off, are like her mother's. Her toes, stubby, with squarish nails that instinctively grow inwards, are like her father's. I can now tell. It is about time, too…

The most important thing, though - the thing that is really crucial for us as parents to get our heads around and appreciate - is how, in many ways, she is utterly unlike either of her parents; to see how much her own person she is.

I love that.

I love her candour with her parents - or with anyone else. I love her spontaneous and stubborn refusal to bear rubbish. I love the way she can stand up for herself - at home or in class or in the playground or with non-school friends - and speak her mind. I love the way she is unabashed as a public speaker or performer at school functions. I admire her intent to brook no nonsense.

And the way in which she makes things hers, turns things into her acquired territory - things that we can't. Or can't, not nearly so well. Or couldn't, at all, when we were her age.

Child of the Internet age, she is far more at home with all that stuff than we are. She genuinely cares for the future of our planet and global warming.

She knows rather more about several things than we do. Her fingers, graceful and nimble, fly when she is at work on paper, dough, buttons, shoelaces, fine pieces of string, or anything that requires dexterity. I am clumsy and butter fingered. That I can type swiftly is enough for me.

"Ooof, Baba," she says, in that tone that equally mingles exasperation, indulgence, pity, longsufferingness and affection, "let me fix that for you."

Every time she says that - and it's not as infrequently as you'd imagine - I look at her, her brow furrowed in concentration, and I think: This is the beginning of when she is beginning to leave us behind, her silly, growing-old parents. It's her journey; but, also, in a way, it is ours.

It's as thrilling as her birth. She will grow older. We'll grow old.