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A dad slides into envy
Many years ago, as part of a lecture, I saw an ad which has stayed in my mind. A father is waltzing with his little girl. There's dreamy music playing, the lighting is soft and suddenly, in mid-twirl, the years whiz by. There's a tap on the now grey-haired man's shoulder and he hands over his beautiful young daughter, clad in a wedding dress, to a strapping lad she's obviously getting married to. As the ad ended, the sound of sniffling flooded the class. Most of the young ladies present had suspiciously red eyes. The men, yours truly included, snickered loudly and made gagging sounds.
Now that I have a 19-month-old daughter, Shrinjini, I suspect I'd be a little more sympathetic to the dad if I saw the ad again. In any case, I'm often told by friends about what a charmer she's going to be when she grows up and how I'll have a hard time handling the numerous suitors who are bound to come calling. Thus far, I've been dismissive of all such talk, basking in the knowledge that I'm the main man in her life.
However, I recently had my first brush with competition for my daughter's affection and it was quite an eye-opener. It happened at a playground in Jaipur, where my inlaws live. I was out with my child and my wife's aunt, whom I call Bua, and we were having a perfectly pleasant time on the swings when two little boys arrived. The younger brother was angelic and rather goodlooking and Bua and I took an instant liking to him. He came toddling over and tried to make friends with Shrinjini, who was having none of it. Instead, her attention was focused on the elder boy, a gangly, rather irritating brat who began performing acrobatics on a swing. As Shrinjini cheered, he got more and more adventurous, culminating in a nasty spill just as the swing was at the top of its arc.
Bua and I hurried over, picked him up and helped him limp over to a bench. Bua, a doctor, ensured that he didn't have any concussion or fracture. Once we were done with our examination, Shrinjini took over. She sidled on to the bench, showed him an old scar and communicated through a mixture of sign language and reassuring sounds that she's had the odd fall too and after some time, it doesn't hurt a bit. She then snuggled close to him â€” rather too close for my liking. The boy, to his credit, shifted away. Shrinjini followed him, till he was on the verge of falling off the bench. Bua and I exchanged glances. She was struggling to keep a straight face. I didn't find it funny at all.
"Come sweetie, let's go on the slide, " I said, sure that would distract Shrinjini. She came with me readily enough, leaving the boy sitting on the bench. "Great", I exulted to myself. Now, the slide was rather high, so I held Shrinjini and climbed to the top. The idea was that I would release her from the top, and Bua would catch her at the base. I duly let her go and suddenly found that the boy had materialised at the base, injured leg dramatically healed. As Shrinjini reached the base, he gathered her into his arms. A big hug followed. Bua abandoned any effort at being serious and roared with laughter. The process was repeated four more times and each time, the boy would dutifully collect Shrinjini as she slid down, to much laughter all around. Once, the younger brother tried to join in, received a jab in the stomach from my usually polite child and hastily retreated to the swings.
By the fifth time, I decided we'd been out in the park long enough. I scooped Shrinjini up, said bye to both lads and marched off. My daughter, I regret to say, squirmed, howled and generally made a big fuss.
"You know, she will start finding kids her own age more interesting than us. And one day, you will have to let her go with some boy, whom you may not like too much, " my wife told me gently when I narrated the episode to her. I guess I still have a few years to get used to the idea. But somehow, I don't think I'm going to be too thrilled when it does happen.
vikas. singh@timesgroup. com
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