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'To have a family is like asking for it'

india Updated: Aug 22, 2010 01:12 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

So there I am, sitting in the rocking chair that no longer rocks, twisting myself around so that my book catches the best of the light from the lamp on the small glass table alongside the chair.

She slips into the room, her bare feet making no sound, and I'm reading, so I don't see her, but you always sense your child's presence. It's atavistic; you know when she is there. (You walk into the flat and she is out somewhere, and you can tell.)

She comes towards me at a bound, a half-traipse, half-skip and final jump as she hurls herself on to the chair that might have stopped rocking because it has borne these assaults for years.

This is our bedtime ritual, our goodnight-and-goodbye-for-now moment, a leave-taking that becomes inexplicably and unnecessarily fraught on occasions.

She is nine now, Oishi, and I look at her carefully: the untroubled eyes, the wrists that are still so tiny, the toes and ears that are miniatures of mine, her hair. She has been growing her hair for more than a year now. It falls in a tumble of gleaming filaments halfway across her back. Its smell has become her smell.

She is nine now, but can still curl herself, her whole body, into my lap on the chair. Hugging her tightly, we exchange our final few words of the day. It's an ordinary moment, and should have been dulled by its repetition every day. But each one of those moments seem unrepeatable, unique.

Running my hands thro-ugh her hair, I wonder: How much longer? How much longer do I have with this?


It is a Sunday morning, and we are walking up the steep incline that leads from the gates of our building to a four-point crossing. It has rained the night before and the burnished green of the trees is at odds with the fetid puddles, the water so sullied that you can barely see your reflection in it.

"Baba, that cloud looks like a spider," Oishi says. As I stare at the grimy sky, she detaches her finger from mine, pulls ahead and switches over to my right side, which is the side the road is on.

The pavement is in a mess. There is a car parked on the road. We have walked around the car, and are walking up the middle of the lane.

An SUV comes tearing down the slope. It is so close that I feel its animal breath on us. Its madly spinning tyres are inches away from our girl.

I reach the top of the road, wondering about this visceral anxiety that parenthood brings, realising that it will never go away, that one set of them will be replaced by another.

"To have a family is like asking for it," writes the English novelist, Rupert Thomson, in his memoir, This Party's Got to Stop.

"Tempting fate. There's so much that can go wrong, and there isn't a lock in the world that can protect you.