When my cousin Neeraja invited me to a baby shower she was hosting last week, I immediately said yes. I did not know the mother-to-be, but Neeraja told me she is the grand-niece of D.K Pattamal, she of the Female Trinity of Carnatic Music. There were going to be other interesting women, and it would be an enjoyable evening. When you are a journalist, sans the cynicism, and listening to people, watching them, and talking to them is what you do for a living, you generally find that any gathering can become as interesting or as boring as you make it.
The real reason Neeraja didn’t have to persuade me was the fact that it was a baby shower. I never cease to wonder at the power that a baby exudes over adults. Even when it’s not born. The mere news of a baby’s imminent arrival, somewhere in our orbit, does strange things to the mind. Happy-strange things. Normally serious-faced people go about with goofy smiles, or act extra tender when they come within ten feet of the mother-to-be, and the father-to-be gets his shoulders thumped, and silly things are said by people who are not normally expected to be affected by such news.
At a baby shower, there are no inhibitions. Everyone is allowed, rather, expected to be goofy, and indulge in baby-talk freely, perhaps even try to outdo each other in talking baby, exclaiming over teddy bears, rompers, blankies, bassinets, crib, bib, lullabies, picture-frames and the like.
And why not.
At Neeraja’s on Sunday afternoon ( we couldn’t miss it, with all the balloons, and buntings that announced this was the place, and she had even drawn an auspicious kolam for the touch of the Tamilian home) all menfolk were banished. Gladly, I suppose. The husband had offered to drive me to Rockville, and hang about the nearest Barnes & Noble’s for the next couple of hours, chiefly because he loves me very much, and also, I suspect, due to the fact that a baby was involved!
Is it necessary to add that the day before, we had great fun picking out a present for Ishu, the mother-to-be, and even chose the most adorable card, with a rocking horse and some beautiful verse.
I think I was the last to arrive, and the fun and games were in progress. You’ll meet some really neat people, Neeraja had said. Of course, It turned out that I was one of those “neat people”–The moment Neeraja introduced me, everyone asked me how my writing was going on, and what was I writing about.
It didn’t feel at all like I was meeting everyone for the first time. It was truly “neat” to meet Chandra, Uma, Latha, and of course, Ishu, the hero of the evening, who it turned out was having twins! I just hoped the two little bundles of joy would learn to share the toy I had got them.
Though there were more than a dozen women, for about a quarter of an hour, there was quiet, barring some loud-thinking by someone trying to find the words in the game grid, and unscrambling the jumbled words- the games that Neeraja had set for us to play. I learnt a new word- onesies. It was the only word ( of 24) that I failed to get. This was a baby-themed puzzle, and everything else had been a breeze. This proved to be a toughie even for those who’ve had babies!
I was chuffed when Neeraja announced I’d won a prize. And the other prize was won by Raji.
When Ishu opened her presents, there were a couple of onesies! (an infant’s one-piece close-fitting lightweight garment, usually having sleeves but leaving the legs uncovered and fastening with snaps at the crotch, says the dictionary) most of them had known about the twins. Uma had crocheted and knitted two lovely blankies that I’m sure the two babies will never outgrow. There were bibs and booties, little day suits and stuffed animals, who I’m sure are going to come alive and have the most exciting adventures that a child ever imagined, in the coming years.
I had taken along a loaf of banana bread , and was pleased that it was pronouced “delicious”. I gorged on the lemon rice ( Chandra’s) and quinoa salad (Uma’s) and samosas. I brought back some strawberries, which Neeraja said, had been sliced by her husband.
Neeraja had meant this evening to be about women bonding, and a baby shower, is a great way to make it happen. A baby shower detoxes you of cynicism, and accords you the luxury of guilt-free enjoyment of the pure innocence that surrounds babies like an aura. Apart from the unadulterated joy that the presence of a baby brings into one’s life. Any baby, not necessarily your own.
That private world that little Chichu and I lived in for a few months, when each day, he’d wander into my apartment, and we’d go through the ritual of playing with my doll, Gita Paapa, rubbing her face with baby lotion, and admiring our handiwork, and holding her , standing before the mirror. That gasp of anticipation and the joy that lit up his face as he ran up the corridor asking to be carried. They chase the blues away.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through your hair once every day, Audrey Hepburn advises. Let a baby walk through your thoughts once a day, to feel beautiful all day, she might have said.