Wednesday, March 21, 2018

She Came, She Saw, She Conquered...

There she sat, round-eyed, our little sparkle on top of the trolley, as her mother wheeled her out of the arrival lounge, where I sat, fidgeting around, waiting for them both to emerge. My heart skipped a beat when I saw them both, my daughter with a wide grin and the little one who sat, expressionless. Was that because she was exhausted after the long flight, or because she was filled with trepidation at the idea of seeing a whole lot of new faces? She was coming to India, after all.

It took our little sparkle just a couple of hours to realise that we were her own. Thereafter, she turned into a little whirlwind, talking nonstop with her own unique vocabulary that we soon learned to decipher. All we needed to do was to concentrate on the actual words and link them together amidst the rest of the babble.

Our little sparkle revealed this immense sense of joy within her which made her laugh out loud at the sight of every new wonder, be it her colourful chair and table, a drive in the car or the pretty sight of a tiny flower growing on the footpath.

She often had us in splits over the quaint things she did. She would get into the car and say, “Tareful, Nana!” to her grandfather who is a veteran Himalayan Car Rally driver. Or she would watch me telling her a story, with all my usual melodrama, and chuckle, “So funny, Mooma!” Needless to say, we throve on these little expressions which kept us all in splits.

It was in India that she realised that she had a large, wonderfully disorganised family that often extended to friends and acquaintances as well. She, who had been wary of strangers in her first year, suddenly found people cooing over her, picking her up at the drop of a button, as an immense wave of love gushed over her, swaddling her in a warmth that was almost palpable. Her great-grandmothers waited eagerly for a glimpse of her, as did her granduncles and aunts, and she soon learned to associate them with the food they offered her – chips, biscuits and anything crunchy. In fact, my mother, herself an avid lover of potato chips, nicknamed her ‘Chippy’ because she crunched up chips faster than a cowboy draws his gun. Mumu, Mimi, Mushan, Mooshi... every precious relationship was given a name that made it easier for her to relate to each of them. She fell in love with her young uncles and aunts who made much of her each time they met her. 

What fascinated our little sparkle was the mindboggling number of people on the road, the colourful lights at night illuminating the various buildings, the array of food available for little Oliver Twist and the three doggies who pounced on her the moment she got to her great grandmother's home. She actually managed to pronounce their names rather well – Pugloose, Mikki (Midikki) and Kitkat, though she did get alarmed when they ran away with her toys.

We would walk around the only mall in town and she would stroll about in her designer clothes, (she made everything look designer!), pausing to say ‘Hello!” to a random stranger, or ‘Thanchu! (Thank you!) to someone who did something nice for her. The next moment she would pass on a flying kiss to them, (Umma!) followed by an “Aiyyluvyoou! (I love you!). These endearing gestures won her many admirers, of course, as did her stylish wardrobe which drew many eyeballs!

However, there were times when she was just not in the mood for conversation. I remember how once, an aunty came up to say Hi to her. She looked at her with a faint smile, said Hi, followed by an Umma (a flying kiss) and then a Bye, a polite way to end the conversation, then and there.

Luckily, our little sparkle was not a regular Pollyanna! She would suddenly throw a fit, along with whatever toy she had in her hand. Or she would refuse to eat her food and strew it around. However, her astute Mama had the perfect solution to nip these in the bud. “To the naughty corner, NOW!” she would order, and the little one would make her way to the said corner, tears streaming down her chubby cheeks, throwing a woe-begone glance at us that would melt the heart of a stone. 

For us, her Nanu and Mooma, it was as if there was sunshine all the day around; from when she woke up in the morning and buoyantly announced, “Good morning!” to mealtimes when she sat with us, eating her food with a spoon on her own, to lifting her up when she came running to us with a “Kariyu, kariyu!” (Carry me!) My day only ended at night when I would say “Good night!” to her and she would respond with a “Mooma, liedown!” and I would obediently lie down by her side, and maybe tell her a story or just joke around with her, both of us in giggles. For what astounded me, and still does, was her amazing sense of humour, even as she turned into a little clown, knowing fully well that she was entertaining us all with her funny little mannerisms.

Her relationship with her Nanu was a boisterous one, as he would make the funniest of noises to make her laugh. His Army colleagues would have been shocked out of their wits at the sight of him rolling around on the floor, generally dancing to her tunes. Very early, she sensed that she could twist us both around her little finger, but her Mama made sure that she did not overstep the line that both of us always missed. 

When it was time for her to leave, there were tears all around, for her vibrant little presence would be missed. Luckily for us, we were going along with her, to her home back in South Africa, and be with her for the next two months. The tears could wait till after then!


This triad of stories by Mona Verma boasts of a theme quite unique, of relationships unimagined, and biases that rule. Whether it is th...