A Letter To My Son
Mamma wants to confess a few things to you today.
It was your Annual Day function a few days back in school. You were supposed to be a chef and dance to the tunes of ‘Hot Potato’ along with your pre-nursery classmates. As all your friends danced onstage, cheered on by their parents, you sat playing in a corner with a wooden egg and a spoon, oblivious to everything around you. Your chef’s hat that I had painstakingly made the previous evening lay ignored on the floor. I choked down bitter tears of disappointment as other parents clapped and clicked away pictures of their children. My own camera remained unused.
Later, that day, your Koka-Aita (grandparents) and Mahi (aunt) berated me over the phone.
“He is just two and half years, how can you expect him to go up on stage and perform?”
“Do you remember performing anything at his age?”
“Maybe he doesn’t like all that dance and music. Maybe he is like you guys, more in tune with nature and birds and animals. You take him out to all those jungles, what did you expect him to like?”
I calmed down as I thought over the last point. Perhaps they were right. You been travelling with us since you turned 3 months old and it has mostly been forests that you have seen. You are a quiet chap and unlike your peers you have been slow to pick up on language. Yet, amongst your limited vocabulary you surprise us with words like bird, kingfisher, rabbit, hyena, iguana, tiger, cheetah, leopard, rhino and peacock. You point towards the sky and say ‘eagle’ to the raptors circling overhead. I remember exchanging happy glances with your father on such occasions.
Your teacher says that you are a thoughtful and observant child in her report card. You do test our patience with your continuous “This? This? This?” You hate to be photographed and it is only when you are unaware of the camera that we get a chance to capture you. Let me show you a few pictures that we had clicked surreptitiously over the months.
Remember these, son?
These were clicked when you were 14 months old and had recently learnt to walk on your own. It was a scorching hot day in Maidenahalli Blackbuck Sanctuary. While you had the option to stay back with your grandparents in the cool shade of the watch tower, you insisted on accompanying us on foot to explore the area. As we scanned the area for any sign of wildlife, you were busy examining the ground for dried leaves. I remember looking at you fondly as you twirled the leaf around, lost in your own world.
This little video was shot in Honey Valley Estates, Coorg, when you were 22 months old. You had just recovered from a long bout of viral fever that had left you weak and thin. But despite my apprehension, I did not have the heart to bar you from wading through every little puddle of water that came your way.
“Let him play,” I remember the owner of the estate tell me, spying the look of concern on my face. “This won’t harm him. Look how happy he is.”
And you were happy, my son. We had taken you down to the stream where I showed you how to plop pebbles into the water, making little splashes. You were so delighted with it that you refused to leave the stream and we had to resort to various ploys to make you return to our cottage. I am so glad that I took this video. That smile on your face in the last frame, that look of sheer joy – priceless.
These were clicked on the farm visit organized by your school. You sat patiently by my side on the bus ride to Gerry Martin’s farm. On reaching the site, the other children had gone berserk on the swings, slides, see-saw and the jungle gym. You had joined them, too, but not for long. When I asked you to come along with me and see the animals and birds, you had readily agreed. This was where you met your friends the iguana and the turtles. You were so enthralled with the creatures that you did not even realize Mamma was clicking pictures of you.
Remember the ‘Quack, Quacks’ at your great-grandma’s place?
You had created a stir at your Mamma’s paternal grandmother’s house in Assam. Everyone had been waiting to see and bless the little baby that they had heard about. Your great-grandmother said that it was her luck that had kept her alive to be able to meet you. But all you wanted to do was to look around wide-eyed and romp about with the kid goats and demand that the ducks should come out of the pond. The ducks do look like they agreed to your summons, though.
Of late, you have become fascinated with snakes and frogs. Maybe it is the shows on Animal Planet that have made them interesting to you. You search for ‘red colour snake’ and ‘green colour frog’ wherever we go. We finally came across a frog, a red coloured one though, in a ditch during our visit to Nandi Hills last week. I had showed it to you and you wanted to carry it home. But the shrewd little frog had scurried to take cover under the dried leaves. You were not ready to give up and kept on calling out for the “red colour frog”, poking the leaves away with a stick. While that exasperated your grandparents who could not pry you away from the spot, I think I loved your spirit.
You love emulating us, don’t you, my little one? You beg for the camera and the binoculars when we go birding. Of course, it annoys me a bit, since you always choose that moment to ask for my binoculars just when I had sighted a sought after bird. But I must not complain. You wake up with the brightest of smiles at the unearthly hour of 4 am to go birding with us, despite us tip-toeing around the house lest we disturbed your sleep. I have no memories of you being cranky on our travels.
These pictures of you following your father with my binoculars around your shoulders were also taken in Nandi Hills. You stopped wherever your dad stopped. And you took aim whenever he did, too. These will always remain my favourite images of the two favourite men in my life.
I have realized now that I was wrong that day when I expected you to go up on stage and perform with the other kids. You have your own personality, your own likes and dislikes, your own mind. Perhaps your interaction with nature makes you feel more comfortable and happy rummaging for a frog than sing and dance in front of people. We, your Mamma and Deta, often talk nostalgically about our own childhoods spent amidst a horde of cousins and siblings, running around vast backyards and playgrounds. You are far away from your cousins and growing up singly in a metropolitan city. We cannot promise you the same things that we had experienced in our childhood. But we shall try our best to keep you attuned with the beautiful creations of nature.
I hope you grow up to be a responsible citizen and never lose touch with your childhood.
With lots of love,
Your forever anxious Mamma