Monday, June 3, 2019


Three years old… that’s what she trills, loud and clear when anyone asks her how old she is. As she runs towards us, her grandparents (Nana and Mooma) at the airport, her eyes shining in glee, I realize that she has grown, that she is a little human being, a kutty manushyan in her own right. Gone are the faltering steps and the reserve that once stopped her from smiling at strangers – this is a grown up little creature, long hair tied in disarray with stray curls escaping, a tiny jacket to keep off the chilly Johannesburg wind and a vocabulary that has us gasping.

In the car she regales us with non-stop chatter and we can only look on, our hearts filled with delight, as she waxes eloquent on Tyrion, her grey cat (definitely the GOT influence!), her new school which she adores and the one question that she repeats. “Are you going to stay in my home, Mooma – Nana?” 

Of course, the one topic that is a constant is one that is on all our minds. “I am going to be a big sister. I love my baby!” her eyes glow as she talks about Junior for whom she has been waiting ever so patiently over the past eight months. She gives her mum’s tummy a kiss and leans against it to show her adoration of the little one who lies, cosy within.

Back home, she gives us a guided tour, which she later continues at her paternal grandparents’ home as well. The overflowing toy room, the warm little room that we will use, the lounge which doubles up as her toy room at times, the little pantry cupboard which contains her treats and her swimming pool which we have never had the privilege of using because the African cold and the African sun compete, in turns, to keep us out.

 This time, we go to drop Zoya off at school, and we see a different side of her. She turns quieter as she looks around at her teachers and her friends with large, wary eyes, but we know that this will last only till we leave. For after, she has the time of her life painting, singing, ballet dancing (“I want to be a ballerina!”), baking and sleeping. The warmth at school is palpable and it is no wonder that our little Sparkle loves being there. 

Her vocabulary is astonishing, if I do so say myself. Ask her a question and she hums and haws and says, “Maybe!” She points out ‘electricity’ and ‘excavators’ on the road. She hears a siren and whispers, ‘ambulance’. The most amusing moment came when she was sent to the naughty corner, and from a distance, we could hear her say, “Wee coming, oh dear!” The other day, when her Nana asked her if she wanted a cracker, pat came the reply, “Oh, yes, please!” Peppa Pig has much to do with this British spurt, I suspect.  For example, when her Mama does the smallest thing for her, she is greeted with, “Oh, thank you, my little sweetheart!”

Peppa Pig TV Review - Common Sense Media

She also has created her own vocabulary for her own use. “Crumbs”, for instance refers to the food that has fallen on the ground and must still be eaten. Her Mama has all her special words written down but that, I suspect, would take another chapter in itself. Her sense of humour often keeps us in splits, and we wait for those times when mischief peeps out of her sparkling eyes.

Now that our Sparkle is a bit more grown up, the tantrums are slowly building up. Mama is the strict one who nips them in the bud. Dada tries, but judging from the hapless expression on his face, his heart is really not in it. The grandparents strive to keep straight faces, even as their hearts melt like chocolate in the sun, at the first sign of a rebuke.

A huge milestone gladdened our hearts last week. With the imminent arrival of a little grandchild, the question that loomed was whether to have Zoya sleep on the bed next to Mama or a crib by her side. So, all of us set to work, trying to persuade her that the crib would be a great idea. Dada put the crib together and we went shopping for new sheets and accessories pretty enough to bring cheer to Zoya’s heart.

That night she slept on her bed with not a whimper, covered with a pretty white and pink duvet, with a sparkly bunny, a pink unicorn and Bella, her new panda strewn around her. We were all so proud of her!

Dancing and music are in her blood, as she sings the toughest of Hindi songs and the cutest of nursery rhymes with the same ease. She twirls around, jhatkas and matkas in perfect rhythm, as she copies the gyrations of Bollywood dancers. In school, she has taken ballet and her ambition, as she once told her teacher, is to become a ballerina. 

Meal times are when she watches DD (cartoons on the mobile) as Mama makes sure that her viewing time is limited.  Mama also ensures that her plate has all Zoya’s favourites on it – chicken nuggets, carrots, tomatoes and corn. She also loves to draw, and it is a treat to watch her, as she concentrates on not allowing the paint to flow out of the lines. 

That is Zoya for you… a little girl who manages to get the limelight on her whatever she does, whether at the mall or at a party. She bosses over her older cousins, goes absolutely wild as she rushes around, fearless, keeping up with them. She refuses to cry even when she is hurt. However, one stern word from Mama and she drops everything she is doing, looking at her with large, woe-begone eyes. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth on such occasions.

As we wait for the arrival of the littlest VIP, our hearts swell with love and pride as we watch the big sister, and marvel over the things she does, the words she uses and the oh-so-precious hugs and kisses which come so naturally. These moments are precious, akin to pearls in a necklace, strung together with adoration and warmth. We strive to keep them in our hearts for as long as we can, because as little ones grow up, their minds and thoughts shift, the caresses become fewer as they turn more reserved and conscious of being adults.

And to end with a quote that I have always loved from Winnie the Pooh.
Winnie The Pooh: Pinterest

Photographs: Priyanka Menon Rao

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