Sparkling whiteness interrupted by a hint of rusty reddish fluidity caved into a black mouth that gobbled up the last vestige of my precious possession – a touch and a smell. The pounding of the washing machine matched my heart's beating that created an uncontrollable fluttering murmur in it.
|Agni flaunting a new dress when she was 3 months|
She had embraced me tightly, her soft weightless hands on my shoulders, her cheek on mine, as she whispered the oft-repeated avowals with the newest of bewitching tunes - “I love you, I miss you.” My shirt collar quivered under the impact of the whisper. And now the pounding mechanical demon in which my shirt was being washed, was beating the touch and the smell, pouring torrents of water to wash a tear away.
But the memory lingers. The God's own machine that this body is lovingly preserves such moments. “Know wherever there is a spark of unselfish love, I am there,” the universal Flute Player assures, “for I am that spark of love.” Undiminished, unceasing, that will stay with me as an infinite moment caught within the finite-web of life.
She is an all absorbing flame flickering out caressing moments of warmth to beat the cold of this life, announcing her presence with unceasing rapture, “Are you happy?”, “Are you OK?”. Even a trace of sadness triggers off these non-stop queries till she sees a smile, and is satisfied of a job well done. Then she adds, “I love you,” “I miss you,” with unfailing regularity.
She is Agneya aka Agni and Gungun aka Guni, my nearly 22-month old granddaughter, as of now the last of our three grandchildren. She is flame, whisper, skillful, as her names suggest, all rolled into one.
|Just the right fit|
Surprisingly a super quick learner, she walked, skipping crawling altogether, up to her bedroom door when she was 6-month old, and issued a guttural sound to make her presence felt. Later we learned to identify the sound to her being angry. Today her anger is expressed by an emphatic 'uhh ohh' that she is fond of uttering it to all and sundry.
Seized by uhh-ohhing mood, she chooses a victim to dampen his or her mood. If the victim does not break down in tears, she orders, “start to cry.” Obliging her guarantees the victim a warm hug accompanied by soothing, “I love you, I miss you.”
She learned to use action words with alacrity, “Are you cooking? I am playing.” After her efforts lead to make a statement like, “I am 'funnying' in the shower,” while taking a bath, she receives the correction with great aplomb, “OK,” she says seriously. But 'aich-em” for elephant and 'gibal' for giraffe, two of her earliest tongue twisting utterances, still remain. 'Krincho' to Krishna took a couple of days, and had come to stay.
|With her favorite teddy|
Once Guni found me reading a book at a time she was obsessed about asking questions of all sorts. “Are you booking?” she asked me. Anxious to finish the paragraph I was on, I sent her out on an errand. She now had the onerous responsibility of informing her father that she was his daughter. She went muttering away, and before long she was overheard asking her father, “Are you Arijit's daughter?”
She hands me over a book. “Come on read,” she says impatiently. She listens to the unfathomable story for a while, abruptly closes the book, and, “finish,” she announces with finality. But she can detect if the reader is cheating by reading from some other materials instead of the book she had handed over. And that is not acceptable.
|Ladybug on Halloween|
Guni is crazy about rhymes as most babies are. But her ability to form strategies to get things done for herself is admirable. Once she had been calling me from outside the room repeatedly, which I ignored just to see what happened next. She came right up to me and rasped out, “You walk,” and then she grabbed a tiny fistful of my pajama, and led me to the TV table. There she promptly stretched out on the carpeted floor, and instructed me, “down”. I lay down beside her, and obligingly turned over. She pointed under the table, “Blue ball – bring.” I did earn a hug and a 'thank you.'
She usually lets loose a spate of hi, hello, and 'I love yous' at malls and restaurants, but has strong liking and disliking about who is touching her. Even as my younger daughter, Kriti, ended her particularly slogging pregnancy, Joyee (my elder daughter, Swati's, first born) indiscreetly inquired, “Is she better looking than me?” Earlier she had summed up the situation, saying, her own brother, Ishaan, had robbed half of her life away, and now the “oncoming problem” would rob the other half.
When the siblings visited 2-month old Guni in the US, Joyee and Guni looked at each other with furtive side-wise glances, and Guni literally flowed into Joyee's outstretched arms. The discernible acceptance of each other was complete in a moment and all others heaved a sigh of relief.
Guni impressed Joyee so overwhelmingly that the latter blogged the following words on the former:
“You look amazing. I am the happiest elder sister to have you! You are the cutest thing I've ever seen! I am gonna be there for you always. I love you infinite.”
|Showing off her first few pearls|
People often accost Guni's mother to have a better look at the child. Once I saw a man who had crossed us at a mall but had run back shouting for us to stop. “Don't be so selfish,” he had chided, “Oh! Look at those great eyes! You oughta let the world share your joy too.” It's her spectacular eyes that have stopped many a passer by in many a place. In Cleopatra's time, much less would have warranted the launching of a thousand war ships!
Her bluish gray eyeballs, encircled by a black ring, betray an oceanic depth only when she is lost in her own thoughts. At other times all kinds of truant thoughts wave up and down into them.
Leaving her in the US on coming back to India, as I stood with fluttering heart before the merciless washing machine, Guni demanded of her mother over twelve thousand aerial kilometers away, pointing to the bed I had occupied, “Sleep ... that bed.” Did she want to extract the last ounce of my touch and smell that lingered in my bed?
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE