Birth of a baby boy in Simla of the Sixties
Amma was heavy with a baby…..but baby word heralded a girl so it was not used by anyone….it HAD to be a boy…a boy like the one I gazed at in the Murphy calendar… the Murphy baby with pink cheeks, or the Balgopal Krishna on some other calendar that adorned most walls in the neighbourhood houses. I preferred Murphy baby over Balgopal Krishna.
Some well wishing matron had provided Amma with both the calendars with the instinsic wisdom, ” The child takes after the looks and qualities of the face one looks at first thing in the morning,” and Amma would look at these faces first thing in the morning. Amma preferred Krishna’s face and qualities as who knew anything about the Murphy baby howsoever enchanting he may have been!
I started weaving pictures of the brother that I would have by next Rakhee. Those were the days when Janki Dass stores had those famous twin baby exhibits. While coming from school, I would stop by the show window and looked at those babies. But more than that it was a parambulator in the show window that I was interested in. I could imagine wheeling away the pram with my baby brother in it. But then the thought of the steep stairs to our home engulfed my mind with fear and another worry that where to keep the pram in the small little home.
Indu, my friend, who walked with me till the stairs wherefrom she would go up to the postal quarters at the back of GPO, asked me, one day, at that show window, “You will have a brother very soon.” Indu had two elder sisters and, perhaps, she too, secretly, harnessed the dream of having a little brother. With wide gaping eyes, I looked at her as it was a secret for all my friends that a new addition to our home is in progress…I was in 3rd or 4th class at that time.
Indu looked at me mischievously and in a hush hush tone said that her mummy had told her so and my Amma had told her mummy!!!! That made the gossiping cycle complete. Why had Amma to tell everyone I wondered.
Looking back I really wonder where was the space and the privacy in those small houses in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar for lovemaking for a couple… But thankfully bring ignorant of all these stark realities we blissfully had never asked any of these uncomfortable questions from Amma and Bauji. As far as I was concerned, my faith in bountiful God Shiva had multiplied several times as He had listened to our fervent prayers and put a small baby boy in Amma’s tummy…the much awaited little brother who would give us a ten rupee note when we would tie Rakhee on his wrist.
I was much excited and my retinue had changed. I would look at baba suits in the show windows instead of looking at the frocks that I wanted to own. Now I would, instead, look at little boy’s stylish clothes. I relegated my dreams backstage.
Amma had started visiting Dr Surjeet Kaur who worked in Ripon Hospital and had her accommodation at the backside of Ripon Hospital.
I would tag around with Amma whenever I could and she was the first influence on my little mind worth emulating for. The first, of course, were my teachers. But somehow never thought of becoming a teacher. I was much in awe of her, though as even Amma stood so humble and docile before her and listened to every little word that she said. Sometimes Amma would talk about one Dr. Krishna Sood as well whom everyone held in high esteem. I could never meet her though.
And one fine day a little baby boy was born to Amma in the Lady Reading Hospital. Everyone was happy. Bauji brought on order a big basket of laddoos from a Halwai shop just opposite the stairs to the Chhota Dak khana in the lower Bazaar. I was so happy. There were small khaki paper bags in which we put seven laddoos each and I ran alongwith Bauji to every home in the neighborhood distributing those packets. The birth of the son was announced.
Bauji got a son to move forward his lineage, Amma got a son to be complete in terms of womanhood and we both got a brother to tie Rakhee on and get 10 rupees which we wanted so much…..
The neighbourhood massis and Buas were happy, came to sing Rang jhunne and carry back sprouted black grams with jaggery!!!
Everyone was happy!!