My daughter was born prematurely in the seventh month. It was a bitterly cold winter morning when she announced her most unexpected arrival. I was a very young, apprehensive 20-year-old suddenly saddled with this wrinkled, tiny little bundle who had to be fed with a dropper.
The paediatrician in the nursery ward made my mother cut her nails to keep from transmitting any infection to the baby. Caregivers in the hospital explained to us that girls are more resilient than boys and have more chances of survival. A battery of tests ensued. "Her veins are too tiny, so we have to puncture many times," the pathologist told us apologetically as she howled stridently. She was a determined little waif and objected vociferously to the discomfort they were subjecting her to! When we took her home, she weighed a mere 2 kg.
We kept awake at night with her bawling away, little understanding that she was crying in pain due to an ear infection, and sat with her in the early winter sun to avoid jaundice and countless visits to doctors.
I thought I would never forget the ordeal. But astonishingly I have, because as the years passed by, the baby who wasn't given half a chance of survival by the doctors, slowly but surely metamorphosed into the most beautiful, caring and level-headed girl. She went to boarding school without a fuss and discovered a passion for dance, but pursued mathematics and made it into a career. Today, as an adult, she sagely lends a listening ear to the raving and ranting of her young and brash brother, advising him and shielding him from fatherly wrath. Food and the latest diets are the common topics of conversation between daughter and father and they sit and make lists of the hot, new dining spots in town.
She takes out time to talk to both her grandmothers and bears their constant chants of marriage with a grin. She is my personal stylist and shopper and insists on togging me in the most outrageous colours despite my protestations. She talks to me as to a friend and confides in me her infatuations and heartbreaks. Never impulsive (unless shopping), she will weigh up the situation and call a spade a spade, even if it wins her brickbats.
The presence of a young girl in the house tames the most boisterous of men and mellows them. As for me, I watch her and find in her my closest ally, and remarkably, an extension of myself.
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