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The in-between times

india Updated: Apr 12, 2009 00:04 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya
Soumya Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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It's late on Saturday afternoon. I haven't yet delivered this column—hell, I have just started on it (I ought to have much earlier, but I was pretending to be busy all the time all week)—and I am feeling fraught, finicky and annoyed.

I have just looked up 'cusp' on the dictionary. Again. The meaning I was looking for (for confirmation—I was certain the definition existed in the very words I thought it did) turned up as Number 4. Somehow, it bothered me that it didn't as Number 1.

Cusp: A point of transition between two different states.

I love that word. It's part of my core vocabulary. I love that definition. Transition between two states. If I were to choose one phrase that describes me, that is it.

Trouble is, I don't quite know exactly how I shall get from one state to the other. I feel unsure about if I shall ever get to the other state. And I keep feeling fraught etc because I feel suspended between the two states. I am tired of being continually on the cusp.

It's always tempting to pin down a moment and say, yes, this is when things began to change, this is when I began to figure out that things were on the cusp. (The next stage—going beyond the cusp—is harder. Which is why I haven't been able to.)

I now think my seven-year-old daughter is on the cusp too. The moment came earlier this week.

My parents were here for a few days. Oishi is fanatically attached to her grandparents, and their brief visits—once or twice a year—are the high points of her holidays.

She plays all sorts of games with them, games of her own invention, largely silly, utterly imaginative and deeply pleasurable as much for her as for them.These games used to occupy her for hours, for days, when my parents last visited. This time around, something odd happened.

Oishi began playing those strange self-devised games no sooner than they arrived. But in a short while, she said—with each game—that she had grown bored of it. She had had enough.

Then she switched to something else. Then she grew bored again.

I saw this happen on one particular day. And I felt the realisation—the cusp, of her being on the cusp—dawn upon me.

Our daughter will be eight in August. And she is, I am beginning to sense, at the intersection of being a child and being something else. (Not quite an adolescent, not yet, but not the child I have known either.)

It's a startling thing. And it feels like the beginning of something new. She is still afraid of the dark, of spiders, of cockroaches, of travelling on her own, of noise, of bullies.

At the same time, she is acquiring a new poise and confidence, becoming more opinionated, and turning out to be dramatically less tolerant of nagging, of bores, boors and hectoring.

She still snuggles up. But I can see in her—in her fastidiousness with her clothes, her hair and her food and where she wants to travel and what she wants to do—a burgeoning self-consciousness, the blossoming of a sense of self-aware determinedness.

I like it, I must say. Which is not to say I don't already miss the time when she was five. Or three. Or one. Every day, I promise myself I won't be the sort of father that a lot of my women friends have: snoopy, patronising, domineering. But who can tell? I am hoping she won't be on the cusp for much longer.

Me? I have been stuck in it for too long. Between two states. And not sure of where I am going next. And how.