The joys of Indian life – for babies!

“Rolly polly, up, up up!”, a chubby three year old sings, while her  cousin,  a cute little two year old, chortles with glee and a ten-month old Baby M watches them intently, fascinated. He kicks his legs wildly in protest at being held. So what if he can’t walk yet? His friends are running around playing and of course he must join them!

The girls are our neighbors at my parents’ home in Mumbai. Everyday, morning, afternoon and evening, the three get together in the building compound to ‘play’.  Whoever gets down first calls out to the rest until the entire building knows the gang is getting together again! Sometimes a little boy from across the street joins in as well. The older ones sing songs or tell stories (picked up at playschool), while Baby M is usually content to simply watch them, that’s when he’s not looking at the crows and butterflies, trying to grab at flowers and leaves and staring at the neighborhood cat! Sometimes he’ll laugh out aloud or try to imitate the funny sounds his friends make, more often he simply kicks his legs in delight at their antics.

In the morning, when Aaji sets out on her daily rounds of the market and sundry other chores, Baby M sees her pick up her purse and gets all excited. It’s time to go out! Aaji tries in vain to slip out unnoticed, but the ever-alert Baby M lets out a loud wail until she picks him up and takes him out. Perched on Aaji’s shoulder, Baby M roams the lanes of our sleepy suburb, visiting the bank, the fruit seller, the local library, even the school for physically challenged children where Aaji volunteers her time every week.

Every evening, when Aai shuts down her laptop for the day,  she gets herself and Baby M ready and mom and son head out, to the park, to the local bookstore to browse books for Aai, to pick up Aaji from her yoga class or to the market to hunt for some elusive ingredient for Aai’s recipe-of-the-day.

And at night, when Ajoba comes home, Baby M leaps into his arms before he enters the house and demands to be taken out for a walk or a ride in the car. Weekends, he travels to South Bombay to visit his cousin, just a year older to him, or north to the suburb where his paternal grandparents, uncle, cousin and many more of our relatives live.

Grandparents, uncles and aunts to pamper him, cousins and neighbors his own age to play with,  older cousins to teach him new tricks, the household help, the driver and  the watchman to entertain him when everyone else is busy, traveling by bus, train and rickshaws, a fruit seller gifting him an orange just because he seemed so fascinated with the color, random girls on the road pinching his cheeks and going ‘so cute!’ at him, the lights of Diwali, band-baaja of Ganpati and kites of Sankrant – could a baby’s life get any richer?

When Baby M first arrived in India, he’d look at a gathering of  two or more people and burst into tears. Guests at home, burst into tears. Enter a strange home, more tears. A stranger picking him up, loud wails and shrieks! Today, he throws himself at anyone who’s standing at the door. An unfamiliar uncle picks him up and all he notices is the pen sticking out of the uncle’s shirt pocket. He’s traveled to Khandala, Pune, Delhi, Agra and Indore over the past couple of months without showing a hint of stranger anxiety.

“Rolly polly, down, down, down!”, Baby M’s friend ends her song and I watch him laugh aloud, my heart bursting with happiness. The decision to move back home never seemed wiser!

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5 responses to “The joys of Indian life – for babies!

  1. Devaki,
    A very well written post, I couldn’t agree more with this post. It is truly a pleasure to grow up in India as a kid.

    Me: Oh yes! I am so glad Baby M is getting this opportunity to enjoy these simple childhood pleasures in a middle-class Indian setting. Just the kind of memories the husband and I have of our own growing up years. Childhood is fun everywhere I’m sure, but somehow I cannot (now) visualize bringing up my child in a foreign land, at least in these first few precious years.

  2. Aaah.. now I am just plain jealous! 😀

    Me: Aww! I know just what you mean. I felt these pangs from time to time as well, when I was in the US. But also, one makes peace with what one has to live with I think. I mean, if I was in the US, I would be probably going gaga over all the beautiful parks and hikes I was taking Baby M to, and the kids section in the local library and bookstores and the fresh air and the perfectly maintained walkways for baby strollers… 😀 All this is hard to come by in India, as I’m sure you know!

  3. Oh this post made me smile throughout! Such a warm warm feeling to read about Baby M’s life in India 🙂 And he seems to be enjoying it so much 🙂

    I agree that life in India is totally different for kids 🙂 My SIL just returned from India and she says the baby (also 10months old) is finding it hard to adjust to the car seat, the long drive and the daycare. He surely misses all the people he was always surrounded by 🙂

    Me: Thanks M! You know, my friend in the US with a two year old tells me her daughter shoots up in her social skills each time she visits India for a vacation! But hey, for the pre-baby years, nothing like the freedom and privacy in the US! 😉

  4. Perfecto! 😀

    And no, it couldn’t get any richer 🙂

    The kids here in US have no clue what they are missing out on…sad..but, true.

    Very heartily happy for you D and three cheers on your decision to move back!

    Me: Thanks A! I may not know you in real life, but from what I’ve seen of you online, this is so like you – warm and heartily happy for others’ happiness. Now I know where Paapu gets her sweet qualities from. 🙂 And hey, I’m sure Paapu will have a grand time in India when you visit this year!

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