Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Album

It was one of those days that happen in every one’s life once in a while. First the maid did not turn up. Then, just as I had packed off my daughter and husband to school and office, and settled down to do my washing and cooking, power supply failed. The clothes were stuck in the washing machine, and the food processor useless without electricity. Feeling lazy I decided to make just dal and rice.

My daughter, back from school, was at her irritable best when she saw the fare on table. When I refused to make the aloo parathas that she wanted, she had the audacity to call me lazy. Finally, I buckled and ordered a pizza to be home delivered as a compromise package. By then, she had kicked off her school shoes to one corner of the living room and school bag and water bottle were unceremoniously dumped in another corner. Quite aware of the futility of any effort to get her to keep them in their proper places under the given circumstances, I proceeded to do the chore. Later on, not only that she refused to sleep, but also would not let me take a nap.

By then I was seething with anger and all I wanted was to slap her tight and ask her to behave herself. But alas, that was not to be! Dr. Benjamin Spock and the likes have told us young parents that physical punishment make a psychologically disturbed child and that we as parents will be responsible for inflicting irreparable mental scars that the child will be carrying to his/ her adulthood.

Once again, I gave up all hopes of having my siesta and settled down to finish a book. She took her colouring book and pencils and settled down next to me. Suddenly, as I looked up from my book, I saw her licking her colour pencils to brighten the picture. As I gritted my teeth to control my temper and explained the hazards of licking the colours to my daughter without losing my cool, (outwardly of course, I was boiling inside), I envied my mother. Twenty four years back, faced with a similar situation, she would have just slapped me and warned not to repeat this.

Though I can vouch that I am not a psycho despite getting an occasional whack or two from my parents, I do not want to take any chance, now that I have read about the possible repercussions of physical punishment. Lucky for them, they had not been taken on these child psychology trips. Neither did I have the super moms of the TV ads to compare her with. Mine was as good or bad as my friends’ and cousins’.

By evening, my husband called up saying that he was held up in the office and would be late. This made my daughter, who liked to spend the evenings with her father, crankier. By the time I put her to bed I was exhausted and was feeling rancorous. A kind of bitterness engulfed me and I cursed myself for leaving a promising career for the thankless job of a mother.

In no mood to read or listen to music, I started cleaning up and rearranging one of the cupboards. That’s when I saw it, tucked away in a corner of my cupboard. It was the bulky family album, long unopened. I opened it, and there on the very first page, was my daughter as a puny little two-week old, then as a chubby three-month old, and then with her toothless grin at six months. Those were the days when I had felt that she was god’s gift to the world. I had promised myself, looking at her cherubic face, that I will never say even an angry word to her. There were photographs of her perched on my husband’s shoulders as a three-year-old while we were trekking in Himachal, making faces at the camera. I found myself smiling and my heart grew warm as the bitterness I had felt such a short while ago had vanished.

As I put away the album, I realised that in the difficult years to come when she becomes an adolescent I may need to take out this old photo album more frequently to cool my frayed nerves, and also to remind me the promise I made myself so many years ago.

I kissed my daughter good night.

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