I hate attending social functions, mainly because my parents got married early. Observing their condition after I was born, all their friends took a hint and decided to maintain their sanity and singledom for as long as possible, with the result that there is never anyone my age to talk to. Of course, magnanimous Priyanka is invariably told to babysit the little kids around. What people fail to recognize is that there’s a fundamental reason to leave a nation-wide gap between me and their kids (some have realized it, though, the difficult way). Kids tend to like me, but that is because my way of handling kids is to treat them like invaders from outer space – answer all questions, explain all discrepancies, let them learn about the world around them, and make up a few things along the way. Adults, however, use a different term – Corrupting Young Minds.
I tend to go a little gaga around kids. The evil kind of gaga. I realised a long time back that the easiest way to keep things under control was to make up a hideously improbable, exceedingly fantastic game with about a hundred rules. By the time the game gets sorted out and the rules get narrowed down to about fifteen (with me protesting lustily all the while) it’s usually time for dinner. Some of the elders did complain that pretending to be an amusement park in a zero-gravity zone did not help: even though the Ferris wheel and the pirate ship were moving around in slow motion, pretending to float, they still managed to knock vases off tables. Now try telling an adult that fragile vases perched precariously on dainty lace-matted tables are just begging to be broken.
I was in the Corrupt Young Minds zone again this evening, because I was deserted by both my parents in the middle of a wedding hall. The food wasn’t ready, because it was a cousin tying the knot, and we caring relatives just had to arrive early to bicker about the table arrangements and group up into armies and try and take control of a situation that didn’t need any handling anyway. And then someone thrust this baby at me, which was a lot worse. Still, it wasn’t long before Srishti and I were fraands as fraands could be. We pretended to be three-toed sloths all evening. It’s really simple – all you need to do is look upon the world with a jaundiced eye while you’re actually pretending to sleep. You may drool into the bargain. Srishti won by a large margin, but got excused for her undeniable cuteness. Let’s not start about me. It takes me a while to realise why people tend to smile uncertainly at me from a distance and then utter a silent “phew” when they walk away. But when I do, I stop pretending to be a three-toed sloth. I am very discerning that way.
We brought Srishti back home for a while. Here are this evening’s insights into child psychology:
1) When you make funny faces at a baby, chances are it will stare at you sternly.
2) When you continue making funny faces at a baby, chances are it will try to nibble at your hair defensively.
3) When you put a hyperactive baby on a bright red bedsheet, expect a hysterical burst of giggles, followed by a fascinated inspection of the pattern on the sheet.
4) If you swing a baby around, saying, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superbaby!!!” it is equivalent to getting it hooked on drugs. You shall have to make your makeshift superhero fly till your arms fall off, or endure supersonic wails the moment Superbaby’s toes touch ground.
5) Babies put everything in their mouths. Everything. I wonder if this is the result of a latent desire to eat their tiresome parents. Does a baby wonder whether I am digestible when it eyes me adoringly?
After being kissed goodbye by everyone, Srishti was whisked away and we all paused, for a moment, to heave a little sigh and wish she hadn’t left. There’s something about babies that makes people act like sentimental idiots. It is better to have a dog, I think. At least it won’t grow up and send you to an old-age home, or turn to crime and get your name in the newspapers - if you're lucky.