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Thursday, 23 May 2013



My daughter came home running one evening, rang the door bell a million times in a second and continued yelling as if there has been a fire in the neighbourhood. I was startled and jumped and unlocked the door. There stood my child shivering like a leaf during a strong gale wind. Before I could even enquire as to what happened, “Amma engey?” she shouted. (Where is Mother?) Since my wife had gone out on an errand, I enquired as to what was wrong. “Amma illaya?” (Isn’t Mother home?) She blurted and ran straight into her room and bolted it from inside. Shocked, I was shell shocked! Any amount of knocking, cajoling, kicking in anger could not induce her to open the door. I was totally dumb stuck to say the least and stood there for a few minutes outside her door like a loyal poodle completely blank. “Ammava koopidu, Ammava koopidu!” (Call mother, call mother!) was the only sounds I heard her make amidst a series of sobs and sighs. That jolted me out of my utter indecision. A few anxious phone calls later my Wife arrived. The door opened and “Appava pochullu, Appava pochollu” (Send Father away!) was the only thing I could hear before I was bolted out of the room again. Every possible thought flashed in my mind. What for gossake had I done to hurt my child so much that she would not tell me what has upset her and take the extreme step of barring me from entering  her room. Think as much as I may, I couldn’t remember any such incident. I couldn’t even remotely imagine hurting my child! For wasn’t I her best friend?

A few minutes later the door opened, my wife stepped out with a mixture of concern and caution in her eyes. Our daughter had ‘grown up’! ‘Beti badi ho gayee hain!’. My daughter had had her first menstrual periods. News! And I just didn’t know how to react. I mean how is a father supposed to react to such an information? Never ever had I read an article or seen a movie which captured a father in such a scenario. Should I be delighted or horrified? Should I laugh, giggle, maintain silence or mourn? Anxious and confused is what I was to be honest.

The subsequent events proved that the above paragraphs ware just the trailer of the larger film to follow. My wife was confused too but maybe to a slightly lesser degree. She knew what to do for our daughter but was equally clueless as to what to do about our daughter. A SOS to my Parents we decided, was the best course of action. And then all hell broke loose. “Inform all the relatives about the ‘good news’, call the vadhiyar and fix a good day for shobhanam, hire a mandapam, organize a huge luncheon, what will the mama aathu seer be?, buy jewellery, is there a caterer who can serve ‘puttu?’’ In short let us celebrate! To say this left us further confused would be an understatement. The next terrifying thought was what would our relatives say? Knowing them the likely responses would be “Congratulations, so the girl is all ready for marriage haan?” one would say. “Ask her to be very careful now, avo vayasukku vandhutta” would warn another. “Bad timing, the gold prices are very high now” would be yet another.

And then it stuck us! Our child! Our sweet little child was suddenly pushed to the background while we were contemplating about what to do and how to respond to the society, debating on how to manage the celebration, agonizing on the various feedback, suggestions of family and well wishers that will pour in. If we were this confused, what would our daughter be going through? In our selfish anxiety to be seen doing it the right way, we had completely forgotten about the main character of the story. What is she thinking? What are her feelings right now? Is she happy? Is she thrilled, scared, annoyed, angry, ashamed? How is she taking it? And how would she take whatever that seems to be in store for her? How will she react on being made to go through the above celebrations? That bath in water mixed with turmeric powder. Her public exhibition sitting atop a peacock shaped throne?  What will be her response? Dilemma, dilemma, for her and for us with no solution in sight.

 Sleep they say clears the cobwebs. In our hour of confusion laced with a tingling sense of subdued excitement, we decided to sleep it over. With the early morning rays dawned upon us the refreshing clarity of what to do next. Clarity that had refused to manifest the whole of last evening. No, my daughter has not ‘grown up’ overnight. A few droplets of blood does not mean her world has changed, she has changed. Nature had blessed her with a biological make up for being the female of the species and nature was just doing its job. Once the clarity struck, the future course of action to be taken was surprisingly simple. We would speak to our child, frankly, openly, calmly. Tell her what she already knows, what she had anyway studied in her science books, explain to her on how to use a sanitary towel, remove the stigma, the embarrassment, the shame attached to such events and live a normal, normal life. Normal. Such a small, mundane, everyday word, with so much significance. Nature made her a girl, biological metamorphosis just another stepping stone, time will make her a woman, a fine woman we believe. And till that happens, we will not steal her childhood; she will do all that she did before ‘those four days’ notwithstanding. And we will continue to be what we were, we are, her best friends! The relatives and society in the meanwhile can stay out of this!


Glossary :

Vadhyar : Priest
Shobhanam : Ausipicious Ceremony
Mandapam: Ceremonial Hall/Auditorium
Mama aathu seer: Gifts from Maternal uncle (as is the practice)
Puttu: A variety of sweet.

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