Saturday, November 26, 2011

Taking care of Mama

It was a misty, silvery Saturday morning; the kind where the sun plays hide and seek with the clouds and bathes the leaves with a mellow glow. Mama stood in the living room battling a familiar inner conflict: the thick sheaf of tempting Saturday newspapers and a mug of ginger chai or the little girl playing alone in her room? Mama always looked forward to her quiet Saturday mornings with the paper, but this Saturday was a little different. This Saturday Daddy had had to rush off for an urgent meeting at the office leaving behind a very upset little girl who always looked forward to her extended Saturday 'Daddy brunches', and a weary Mama. A massive volcanic eruption masquerading as a tantrum had followed Daddy's departure and now that the dust had finally settled, Mama was wary of provoking any further unrest. Besides the little girl seemed happy now and was even humming to herself...but then again she had looked so terribly forlorn when daddy left...

Just ten minutes. Mama promised herself. And then she would go and build towers with the little girl. And make little pink playdoh pigs with curly yellow tails.
She sank gratefully into the welcoming couch and gave herself up to the thick Saturday newspaper.

Not for long.

"Mama?" The little girl stood beside her with her basket of hair clips and rubber bands and a definitive gleam in her eye. "Your hair looking so funny. Room-it your pony's tail and Nikki make your hair pretty pretty just like Nikki."

"Okay" Mama said meekly. She knew better than to offer any resistance and she also did not think she had the capacity to weather another tantrum.

Besides there was the whole debacle of U didi. U didi who had sidled insidiously into the little girl's life, to help take care of her and who had left just as insidiously without so much as a by-your-leave a few months later. Now U didi hadn't been good at many things but if there was one thing she had been rather proficient at, it was making fancy hairstyles. While Mama had thus far considered it a major achievement to pin the little girl down for a few seconds while she hastily ran a comb through her hair and put a clip or two in place, U didi spent copious amounts of time creating elaborate hairstyles. Right from the simple 'fountain' on top of the little girl's head to hairstyles reminiscent of the fancy bouffants of Bollywood's leading ladies of yore, she attempted several hair-dos and managed to create outstanding results. It almost became a ritual of sorts; the little girl would sit patiently by the large French windows in the dining room while U didi wove her magic, and then much ooh-ing and aah-ing would happen over the little girl's latest hairstyle. And then U didi left one day taking her hair styling skills with her and breaking the little girl's heart. Overnight the little girl didn't want anything to do with her fancy hair clips and scrunchies and hair bands. She refused to entertain thoughts of having her hair styled into even a ponytail despite Mama's best efforts. Even combing her hair seemed to upset her. So when she began displaying an interest in combing Mama's hair instead, Mama was willing to do anything to help her get over that evil U didi who had left without a second thought for a little girl who had thought the world of her (curse her pointy little bouffant-ed head).

Besides after the initial few attempts at 'combing Mama's hair' which had comprised much jabbing and poking and shrieking of the anguished kind (by Mama), the little girl had managed to master the art of putting a comb to Mama's hair without irreparably damaging her scalp and Mama didn't really mind her hair being made 'pretty pretty' any more.

So when the little girl appeared beside her with her basket of trinkets, she obediently loosened the clasp that held her locks at the nape of her neck and settled down on the floor to make it easier for the little girl to wield her comb.

"Very good Mama! You're a good girl. Now I make you look pretty pretty okay?"

The little girl got to work in a determined sort of way and since she didn't seem too inclined for conversation, Mama decided to continue reading. After all this didn't really hamper the reading process at all. Actually, maybe this was a good thing, this obsession with combing Mama's hair. Maybe Mama could use this as an opportunity to stop cribbing about all the unread books piling up on the bedside table and actually get some reading done for a change! The little girl could comb away and Mama could read. Yes, it was brilliant! Mama was so happy she smiled a little smile to herself.

"Why you smiling Mama?"

"Because I'm reading."

"Now your eyes tired. You take some rest. Close your eyes."

"But..."

"CLOSE. YOUR. EYES. Mama."

"Okay. Sigh."

Mama let the newspaper drop to the floor wistfully and closed her eyes. So much for catching up on her reading. Now she'd have to sit here for God knows how long with her eyes closed till....actually it had been a while since she just sat with her eyes closed like this. It felt kind of good. Relaxing, in a meditative kind of way. Actually maybe this wasn't such a bad idea either. After all everyone was always telling her to take a chill pill and learn how to relax, and now that she thought about it, she was beginning to feel a little bit relaxed. Yes, Mama could get used to this. Just sitting here, no unnecessary thoughts crowding her mind, no talking...ahhh, bliss!

"Why you again and again smiling Mama?"

"Hmmm? Oh nothing, just feeling relaxed!"

"Hmmmm."

Short pause.

"Okay Mama. Now you sing. Sing 'Aloo Kachaloo kahaan gaye the'. Start."
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