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Hand in hand for eternity

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dad's Diary 3 - 'Joyee is an Enigma'


Joyee is an enigma. A riddle in which the pieces never fell into their assigned places till she started to knock on the teens-door. But she has yet remained to be an unsolved puzzle in her totality.

Joyee with her pet Rushtu when she
was much younger
We had all crowded the nursing home lobby the day she was born, the first of our three grandchildren. An hour or so after her eagerly awaited arrival, a smiling nurse raised her before a see-through glass panel. I remarked almost involuntarily, “A bundle of divinity.” Indrani, my wife, agreed with an ear to ear smile, but pointed out that she had furrowed her forehead and had been crying non-stop noisily, not happy at all to be out in the world.

She plainly had a grouse against the world right up to age 3. But that's when I had a different glimpse of her own tiny world. Fatema, a household-help, a divorcee with two kids, one Joyees's age, and one a few months old, was instrumental in opening that special door. This was in Bangalore. 



On that morning of revelation Fatema came to work in a foul mood. Her former husband was still giving her trouble. On top of that Joyee's contemporary kid was proving too much troublesome. Fatema took the child out in the veranda, and started giving vent to her own frustration on the child. The muffled wailing warned Joyee who jumped down from her bed and scurried out.

Joyee in one of her moods 
What attracted my attention was the coincidence of disappearance of Joyee's legs into the veranda and total silence outside. I hurried out. Joyee's tiny world appeared to be going round and round the only conceivable sun in it, Fatema's 3-year old, on which a silent Goddess spread her body, face down, creating a veritable shield between the sobbing child and her tormenting mother. Fatema stood there awestruck.

When her mother had brought home her brother a year earlier she had shrieked, “Where have you brought him from? Throw him away.” But when she was barely 6, she once locked her eyes into mine with fury oozing out of hers, raised her pointer, and warned me, “Slow down, he is only a baby.” All I
did was to rebuke her brother for nagging, and brought my arm down on the wooden table with some force. I still remember that look, and of course I was the one to blink first.

Joyee was fond of going to the Gul Mohar Club, Delhi, to play with other children. Before coming  home at dusk she routinely visited the library where she read the newspapers amidst the fathers and grandfathers of the area. “Reading newspapers at home is not much fun,” was her view. That must have prepared her for taking to writing seriously when the residence changed from Gul Mohar colony to Sheikh Sarai which had no club of her liking. Today, at age-13, she boasts of a blog spot of her own (joyee-bhattacharya.blogspot.com) where she  has plunged into airing her rather radical views about life and living.

Miss Beautiful
She got herself equipped with a harmonium, tabla (drum), and a music teacher to learn singing, classical ones, and gave up her efforts nearly a year and half  later presumably because it drastically eroded into her time for reading and writing. Two years earlier her school teacher assigned the class to assume any character from 'Cinderella' and write that character's feelings at midnight at the prince's dancing party. Joyee sprang a surprise by choosing to be the wall clock pouring out its heart for Cinderella.

Like her wildly swinging mood between positive and negative poles, Joyee's love for literature does evenly match her hatred for mathematics. To quote from her blog, “I hate it more than smelly socks, lizards, cockroaches, or puke.” When she is seized of math homework problem, any reference to her brother's prowess in it could land anyone in deep enough misery.

She has even gone public about her relations with her parents : “We fight, I scream, you ground me, I disobey you, and at times even raise my voice against yours which always lands me into deep deep trouble. But whatever I am today is because I had you with me. I love you.”

Her father now-a-days is acutely conscious of her presence anywhere. One day he came back home from work, extremely preoccupied with some problems, missed Joyee's - 'hello baba' – but   acknowledged his son's (Ishaan) greetings a step away. The 'spitfire' quipped immediately, “Am I non-existent or invisible?” Her father hurriedly retraced his steps and gave her a warm hug to save the situation, and also himself from the trouble of suffering a long lecture on the philosophy of fairness and justness in righteous indignation.

When she takes my breath away
The 3-year old toddler's 'noch yer fend' (not your friend) rebuffs a dozen times by breakfast has amply graduated into a tempestuous tongue lashing whenever she can seize an opportunity. She is avowedly a 'no nonsense' girl – sorry, 'super woman' - placed to deal with a nonsensical world as a member of the “weaker sex”. I keep telling her if all the women could somehow emulate her diatribes, the definition of “weaker sex” may have to be redrawn.

And it is precisely for that reason my love for the eldest of my grandchildren is tinged with growing respect.