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When Babies Talk


Whole world listens to babies’ first words. After all another little being has just made his presence heard!

Little P’s first word was “DA”.


We were stunned when he first uttered this word for it was the first sound that he said with intention. For us it was akin to God speaking. And when Da became DADA and DADADADADA we were even more happy! Every passing day P’s DA became more meaningful : when he pointed and said DA it meant “look”; when he opened and closed his outstretched palm and said DA it meant “give it to me” and the more frantic the gesturing and louder the DA signified the urgency with which he wanted the thing. A questioning DA meant “do you really want me to do it?” while a firm DA meant a “NO”.

Gradually we began understanding his words. Dada meant any human being right from his parents to other people. DIVA meant light as in lamp and Da became De which signified “give me”. Soon he went on to the PA sound and started saying “Pankha” for fan and “Pampa” for our cook who happened to be named thus and was his favourite person (apart from his grandfather) because she operated his favourite thing that whirred – the mixer. Little P would come running from wherever he was in the house once this fascinating machine was switched on.

In fact that became his next bit of communication – the spinning or whirring action which he indicated by waving his index finger in a circle and trying to say “whrr”. Thus he would point out to fans, the washing machine, wheels and anything that went round and round.

After DA came MA and this sound was used to identify food. So food became Mum-mum.. MMMM meant cow and UMMMM meant mango which he loved. The next word that he learnt was TING which was the word he used before he flung anything. This was particularly useful in directing food missiles after his meal. Ting was replaced by TUNG which then became the official word for “throw”. BUB-BUB is a dog while BUB BUB BUB means bubbles. Last month he realized the difference between his father and other humans and began calling him BABA but mother was still identified by the generic DA.

But DA developed into DEE for his dahi or curds and DEE DEE for his milk. And he soon learnt to hiss the sibilant ssssss when he peed like a big boy in his bath. He learnt to say DING DONG when the door bell rang and now he has even begun “counting” with words like “Tee”, “teeee” and “tunh” while he puts his toys away in a box one by one. Every day he learns new words like “PaPay” for papaya, “pum” for plum. Yesterday he astonished us all by calling the playing cards “Pat Tay” and mimicked my request for a cheese toast by a cute little “ Chee Toe”. “Bay Bey” is baby as also the iPad which records his photos and videos.

So gradually, the vocabulary of my little man is beginning to grow from an infant’s helpless wail to meaningful sounds and gestures. His communication which is both verbal and non like raising his hand up and pretending to hold an umbrella to indicate an umbrella (his absolute passion), to rocking when he hears music he likes, grinning endearingly when he wants to be cutely irresistible and persuasive, bashfully putting his head in my lap to indicate embarrassment or remorse or otherwise boldly staring you in the face off defying you to back off when holding his ground, looking longingly at my bag or the pacifier box, pointing out and whimpering “unha, unha, unha” with wrinkled forehead and anguished eyes are signs that my little man is growing up.

But the form of communication I like most of all is when he gives me a hug, then draws back a bit, cups my face in his hands, gives me a big, inscrutable stare with unmoving eyes and then envelopes me in a tight squeeze cuddle that says it all.

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.