In five months from now, he turns to be an adult, officially!
I discovered my parenthood with his birth and named him Anweshan. It was such an amazing feeling looking at him, squirming in the hands of the obstetrician when the Doctor called for his father. The day was 29th of November, 1998 at 5.08 pm (Sunday). While, there were a handful of people around me, immersed in their own merriment, I was immobile with an overwhelming feeling of the obvious, the duty to raise a child, the responsibility to groom him to be self-reliant and successful and the pride unbound, of having procreated a progeny to perpetuate.
The raising of my son was fraught with my own limitations. When look at those days today, the priority was to create sanity out of limitless expectations from all those folks, who would eventually matter only at the social occasions. Their omnipresence would have been missed if they did not pin point the presence of the obvious, called a tradition. Anything that remained unqualified to be considered a newly blessed parents’ wish, to be admonished and disapproved as ‘Nyakami’. (Feigning ignorance)
The visit of the neighborhood ‘Hijras’ and their distasteful gyration of arms and hips with hoarse and cacophonous threats to extract a ransom, made me sit up and confront them as a father. Our son was born with jaundice and was under medical supervision and I could not take their heaping of curses at the new born. I remember taking out a wad of currency (the salary was credited by that time) waved at them and while their eyes gleamed at the prospect of a handsome earning, I hurled back the choicest of expletives at them. They were not prepared for the outburst from a ‘Bhadrolok’ (gentleman) and there was this pin drop silence.
The leader of the pack, Dipali Chakraborty (yes, I remember her name) came forward and apologized, made a silent prayer invoking powers that be and nursed Anweshan with her gentle hands. In chaste English, she spoke of their helplessness of having been socially ostracized to be at the mercy of a fear that envelops our superstition, in making a living. I had a lump in my throat, I wanted to hand over whatever money I had with me, but she took 101/- and some other gifts. Her parting lines were, “be careful with the hygiene, wash your hands before taking him in your arms and yes, no one from my tribe will bother you, ever”.
I remember asking for Lactogen at the pharmacy and the pride that came along with it. I remember buying him the first Teddy bear. I remember his chuckle at seizing something twice his size and failing to make the Teddy, his bear. Oh, so adorable. I remember the sleepless nights, taking turns with his mother (although not every night) to attempt at singing a lullaby that made him yell back at me and eventually settling for a more sensible fare of fables and tales from the Aesop’s and Thakumar Jhulee! I remember aiming the analog camera, when he started crawling on the floor or making feeble attempts to walk, blowing bubbles in the air enjoying his monosyllables. It was a sheer delight, watching him grow. I was raising my son.
And, in all these, I suddenly found fostering an adversary in my wife and his mother. The lactating mother is God’s single biggest bias against a father. The baby boy cuddles and snuggles into the safest nest, his mother. The nature’s bounty for motherhood! Looking back at those moments helps me feel the family, a circle which is incomplete without one another!
Accompanying him to his first day at the playschool along with my wife was a day when I was basking in the glory, of having been identified with a tribe called father. He went in, only to come out in the tizzy along with a swarm of daisies and a bunch of bunnies, his mother comforting him along with a sea of other overindulgent mothers to coax them back to their classes. We, the fathers were standing amused to look at each other’s child to figure out, if he or she was the cry baby! If not, it was such a moment of triumph.
Well, my son is not crying and the exchange glances with the other fathers throwing a dig at them.
Hello Charlie, do something! Ask you boy to grow up!
The pride was short lived as a new father; we did not know that these toddlers have a herd mentality.
They watch and act on the overwhelming stimulus around, to join their band of brothers and sisters in an uncoordinated orchestra of wailing. Any inexperienced attempt at trying to soothe them adds to their motivation and then it becomes a symphony of the wild. The mothers being mothers will still try to calm their nerves and in many cases would end up sending back the kids to their classes and the fathers would be nowhere to be seen. Some would be making animated phone calls; some would be smoking over tea, discussing politics and the state of affairs while some would be blasphemously admiring the kindergarten teachers and other’s wives.
But the common thread in all these three cases would be squinting at their kid’s fate on the first day at the school.
Men will be men and fathers will be fathers! I started raising my son.