While her friends have daddies, Anya has a papa; I hope one day she is not going to turn around and ask for her daddy.
Children need their fathers. They have a whole different thing going between them. Take a look at Anya. She is my shadow for the day, but the moment she hears the honk of Chetan's car in the evenings, she takes off for the door.
"Papa! Papa!" Her squeals can be heard down the street, I'm sure. If I am slow to get to the door to open it for her, I get an upbraiding: "Mama! Mama! Papa, gaadi!"
We wait together on the landing for Chetan to open the door downstairs. Actually, I wait, she fidgets. She points to her 'jack' (jacket), to her shoes, my shoes, Papa's shoes, to any 'chhee chheee', the chhata [umbrella]....
When he finally appears, she goes giddy with joy. She jumps up and down (I have to hold her at times for fear she will tumble down the stairs in her excitement), her face crinkles with smiles and dimples, and her hands beat the air like a bird in flight.
This immense activity is accompanied by constant babble and peppered with shrieks. Sometimes she tells him about the events uppermost in her mind ("Anya, gaadi" or "Anya, nahai-nahai all done"), sometimes she wants him to play with her immediately, so she hurries back up the stairs to the living room even before he has reached the landing.
Other times they have a squealing match. She shrieks, he imitates and it goes downhill from there. I just sit there with a bemused expression -- where was this sunny child five minutes before?!
For Anya, routine is food for the soul. After her bath, I put her into her kurta-pyjama (Chetan says she looks like a little nawab-sahib) and comb her hair. The next step is to run to Papa to show him her 'maaish' (smiley face).
If he is working on the computer, she stands next to him, puts her hand on his knee to get his attention and then beams into his face. The wattage of her smile could light a city.
If he is not home by the time she finishes her bath, she does not quite know what to do with her 'maaish'. I can only suggest the mirror, but obviously that is not good enough.
They invent games together, games that she will not play with me. She makes him sit inside her tent and play ball, while she remains outside. They chase each other around the house (thank heavens for accommodating downstairs neighbours!), sometimes on foot, other times in her scooter.
She loves being tickled with his beard. He turns on 'naana' (gaana, music) and they dance together (my dancing with her, means I am holding her).
She derives much pleasure from his morning stretches. She copies him as he touches his toes or bends from side to side. If she is strapped into her chair eating breakfast and cannot actively participate, she directs him to do particular exercises: 'Aside down' (bend backwards), or 'jumpi' (jumping jacks).
I am often amazed at Chetan's ability to (successfully) reason with his daughter. Perhaps its because he doesn't get emotional about it, or because she senses he treats her like an adult and not a baby. Either way there are times he can get her to do things that I can't.
Like the hand-washing ordeal. It is not really an ordeal, just that she is so fond of running water that she doesn't want to stop. More often than not, my dealing with her results in tears and kicking limbs.
Chetan has her walking out of the bathroom of her own volition. To me, that's a miracle. The other day, he was able to convince her to tear herself away from the door long enough to get her socks from her closet. Amazing.
Of course, theirs is not always a coochy-coo relationship. One night he wanted to stop her from putting a marble into her mouth, so, he used his best 'No' voice. Anya came running to me, tears pouring down her cheeks, sobbing "Papa". So much complaint in one little word.
Since we do present a united front, I let her bawl for a bit, explaining that 'chhota ball' most certainly did not belong in her mouth. We hugged for a bit, then back she went to her father to play another game.
She looks a lot like her father. Sometimes her behaviour is uncannily reminiscent of Chetan like the urge to have bhujiya for breakfast or her desire to handle the 'amote' (remote). Together they rule my heart -- or do I mean time?!
Illustration: Lynette Menezes