‘She wakes up by about 9.30’, I explain. Slowly. Clearly. I am explaining why a 9.00 AM meeting on a Saturday morning doesn’t work with me.
He appears flabbergasted. I don’t know if it is because she wakes up only by 9.30 or if it’s because I quote that as a reason.
His darting next question makes his reason clear. ‘But 9.30 is late! Back home, we never let kids sleep after 7.30’. I nod. He comes from a different country and a very different culture. ‘Some things are non-negotiable’.
He says. He is bent on holding court on the topic. I want to move on to other topics. Like his country’s GDP. Or rainfall. Or the correlation between sale of tractors, cloud formation and sex ratio. Whatever. Something. Anything else would work.
Not allowing a toddler to sleep is preposterous stuff to my mind.
‘I don’t know about you’, I interrupt, ‘but I think it is a privilege to lull a daughter to sleep every night and be the first one she sees, when she wakes up the next day morning. I get that privilege only on the weekend. Some weekends.’
I think I was rather stern. For he only nods in response. Slowly. He understands now, that some stuff indeed is non-negotiable. I think. ‘How about 2.00 PM’ he asks. I nod. That was two days ago.
It’s Saturday morning now.
I am waiting for her to wake up. She opens her eyes by a quarter of a wedge and then closes it back in a jiffy. Sleep envelopes her. All over again. This has been on for a few minutes now. Perhaps aware of my presence today. Or so I would like to think.
‘Allow her to sleep’. I whisper to the missus. And stroke her head. ‘Carefree sleep will elude her soon’, I say within me. ‘Let her sleep’, I say slowly.
For, she soon will wake up to the world. Time will fly past us with a speed that could best be described as mind numbing! Old Tamil movies used to have a kaleidoscope based design as an indelible part to signify transition of time or geography. A flurry of waves. A whirl of whorls. Like the ones that I see on her pretty dress. And then, the heroine would be a fine young lady. In a jiffy.
Kids grow. They trot to school. Go to piano lessons. Learn taekwondo. Do gymnastics. Learn Carnatic Music. Throw in Bharatnatyam, Boolean algebra, English Grammar and a never ending list of To-dos that can cause the shiniest of stars pale in comparison.
A large part of me just revolts at the idea that she may have to go through something like this. A small part of me stays quiet. The silence of that small part bothers me. For, at the same age modern day kids do all of the above and more, my only aim in life was to bite into a raw mango. Stolen raw mangoes. But that’s a story often told. And told so fancifully too. By so many people.
Enough said, when she grows into school, sleep could well remain elusive.
The ever so cute school girl trotting to school will mean, having to get up early and run! Before you know there will be friends on the phone and cramming for the exam. Or maybe staying up preparing for a performance. Maybe, an early morning run.
Perhaps she will relish it all. Maybe she will have a set of friends who will speak through the night arguing a point or giggling away on a joke that cannot muster a public mention. Maybe it will be ideas that will keep her awake.
In the midst of all that, carefree sleep can be elusive. The summer Sun breaks through the windows this Saturday morning. I continue stroking her head. She is fast asleep now. I want it to stay that way for some time. This Saturday morning.
Someday she will begin to understand what they say in the newspapers and perhaps wonder what sort of brain wasting disease possesses news-makers and news editors. Or maybe she will dive into it with all with gusto and be one herself. Perhaps she will end up asking uncomfortable questions which would get all kinds of answers. Her choices will lead her from one road to another. Those by themselves can keep a sane person awake for two lifetimes.
You see, in no time will she be a young lady. The many forks in the road and the challenge that career and life choices offers will perhaps possess her for a while. Perhaps she would work with ideas to change the state of a parlous part of the world. Or just focus on dealing with an impervious neighbourhood and its contrivances. Maybe she shuns all of that and settles to earn a livelihood with a bank loan in tandem!
All said, the goals that she sets for herself and the terms she chooses to engage with the world will define a lifestyle. In that melee, sleep can stay easily outmaneuvered.
The fledgling grip of relationships. Of joy. Disappointments. There will be a yearning and a search to figure out what is real and what is true and if there is a distinct there. People will go from meaning ‘everything’ to ‘nothing’ and back to ‘everything’ again. Different people. Same people. And when it is time to make her own family, sleep could well be a distant intruder. With such joy and verve.
I raise my head to catch a glimpse of the missus sitting across from where I sit. Those sleepless eyes and tired hands tell powerful stories that words can’t capture adequately. Life as the lady of the house deserves far more than the mere mentions that it gets, I think. Perhaps she will be as graceful and as lovely a lady as her mother. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she will fight the system and get women their place under the sun. Of course, sleep could well seem as distant as the sky seems from the sea with either of those choices.
I hope she travels the world. Inhales the clear air of the mountains, soaks in the green paddy fields of river fed plains and gets roasted in desert sands. Merging into countries and cultures and be far more than just another tourist statistic in a marketer’s presentation. Celebrating the differences and joyfully acknowledging the similarities.
And oh yes, perhaps she will take to running. Or play some sport. Fill her lungs with air. And give every pore in her body a reason to breathe with unbounded joy. Maybe the world will look all pleasant or the mountains just too invitingly daunting that sleep will remain low on the priority list.
For good or bad, sleep will stay elusive. So, I want her to sleep as long as she wants to, this Saturday morning.
I continue stroking her. Her eyes flutter. And in some time she wakes up. Looks at me. And smiles. I could trade everything I have for that smile. I have seldom been more certain of a statement than that.
He calls me at 1.00 PM to remind me of the meeting at 2.00 PM. ‘Of course’, I say.
We meet. 2.00 PM. At a coffee shop. Close to home. We discuss our business. In about two hours time, we close. He looks at me and as we are signing off, says, ‘It’s good to wake her up early. She will have nothing like a rude wakeup call when she needs to get on with life’. He says with a matter of fact tone. He means well. I can tell.
I look away from him. Into the glass door and the bustling road on the other side. People move about in frenzy. Some seem like zombies. Some others passionately walk up and down.
I smile at him. We shake hands. I tell him, ‘I am not sure about the wake up calls. But I sincerely hope she will always wake up to her calling’. He looks at me. And smiles.
In some time, he bows. It is his tradition. I bow too. Some of his traditions are nice. I bow once more.
Kavi dabbles in writing, reading, traveling, photography, long distance running amongst other things. He and Shanti have their hands full with their adorable toddler, Kayal. In-between all of this, he gives an arm, leg and everything else to earn a living. Usually accomplished by punching keys, attending meetings and trying to sound profound. He blogs at http://kavismusings.blogspot.com & tweets @kavismusings. Just in case you are intrigued enough to know more about him please head to http://about.me/kaviarasu.