His Story; My Way
Yesterday, for the first time, we celebrated a bitter-sweet birthday. As Neha touched thirty one, Akshay seems to have touched everyone’s heart and consciousness. Together, the tug of the twins brought abundant tears. By the evening, we were once again calm as the ocean spent. Extended family and friends rallied around and raised a toast to our brave-heart by voicing their emotions.
It is time to take Akshay’s story forward and I hope I can find the strength to keep up this blog.
After six months at my parents’ home in Bangalore, we (Girish, his mom, me and our twins) moved back to squadron life in Gorakhpur. As a young mother, bringing up twins meant sticking to a hectic, round-the-clock routine that began at 5.30 am with ‘sterilize feeding bottles’. The day was combined with ‘good morning cuddling, oil massages and hot baths, mid-morning nap, playtime, afternoon nap, out-of-home stroll and bed- time cuddles’. Our day ended each night at about 11.30pm, just as it had begun, with ‘sterilize feeding bottles’! We had to have 8 feeding bottles between the two and a huge steel vessel (with lid ) solely for this process.
If I’ve left out the innumerable ‘nappy changes’, ‘messy burps’ and ‘runny nosies’ parts, it isn’t intentional but because …….oh well, never mind!! Our friends and domestic help became extended family as they pitched in so we could deal with the myriad issues that unexpectedly crop up with baby-raising. On the money front, we did feel the pinch and the first thing we did every month was to stock up on supplies of baby food (milk and cereal tins). All other non-essential shopping was set aside.
Akshay continued to take up a lot of my time with long feeding sessions. While milk went down easily, he wouldn’t open his mouth to solid foods and when cajoled, he wouldn’t chew what was spooned in. So, once his mouth was stuffed, instead of swallowing, he would bring all the food out in a gooey mess and get me worried. Although he was gaining some weight on his wiry frame, his milestones continued to trail Neha’s by at least a month.
She in contrast, was the dream baby. As she showed clear signs of being self-dependent so early on, I felt a wee bit guilty that she didn’t get the same attention from us as Akshay did. As a young mother, I was also buckling under the pressure of living up-to expectations of being a good mom and realized only years later how close I had got to experiencing post-natal depression. I am grateful to my mother for her long phone calls and help, and to close friends (particularly Pooja) for dropping home to share conversations and chores. There were times when she helped me get an hour or two of ‘me-time’ by taking care of the twins along with her own little Arjun.
As their first birthday drew near, Girish, aunty (my mom-in-law) and I began planning a big party. We were finally relaxed that the twins were growing up healthy and our home was a delightful place with gurgling babies chasing each other all over the place. Neha took her first steps very early at 9 months plus and was soon happily running all over. Akshay was still crawling but able to stand with support at 11 months. He hadn’t taken a single independent step and I was fretting at the thought of guests comparing the two and asking us questions on their first birthday.
And then a strange thing happened. We received a parcel of clothes for Akshay-Neha’s first birthday. Opening the parcel revealed cute cots-wool romper sets in bright red and blue checks (made and sent by my sister in law Smita). I decided to try them on for size. As soon as we stood Akshay on the floor to check the length of his pants, he let go off the chair he was holding and just walked straight out of the bedroom and into the drawing room, taking 15 quick, confident and continuous steps before he fell to the floor, beaming at his achievement! Aunty and I almost hugged each other with joy. After that feat, Akshay never ever crawled. The twins really enjoyed their first birthday running after, clapping and laughing with the bigger kids, as if they too wanted to participate in the games of musical chairs and passing the parcel.
Maybe our little fellow would never have been content with trying to take baby steps.
The next couple of years that followed were such fun! We grew as parents and our twins went from being toddlers to school-goers. A flood of incidents come to mind and I will try to share some of them with you all.
One Sunday morning, Akshay, all of 2 and half years old, was playing with other kids in the park near our home while I chatted with friends and kept a general lookout. A few minutes later, he had been pushed off the side of the 7 foot high structure by a bigger, maybe impatient child, and we all heard the loud ‘thud’ as Akshay fell flat and hard on his face. Just before we rushed him to the Air Force Clinic, I was shocked at how much blood from my little boy was splattered in the mud he was picked up from. Tiny, bawling Akshay got 5 stitches right across his lower lip and his mouth was swollen like a red tomato.
Being a pretty constant thumb sucker, Akshay couldn’t soothe himself that day. By nightfall, we were quite sure the injury would break the thumb-sucking habit. That because of the pain, he would have no choice but to quit. But early next morning, as I dropped off to a disturbed sleep with Akshay in my arms, , I heard the familiar ‘chus chus chus’ and opened my eyes to see our little fellow happily sucking his thumb, despite swollen, bloody lips.
He wouldn’t quit what he loved doing. Never mind the pain!
Akshay was this innocent and adventurous little boy who loved to socialize and knew no fear. He called out to strangers with a cheery ‘hello aunty, uncle’ and smiled cutely as he waved. None could resist his charms! At the same time he could be very content in his own company, often lost in thought. After every such silent spell would emerge a barrage of questions directed at an adult, starting with ‘kab…, kyon…., kahaan…, kaise…., kaun (when, why, where, how, who)… and so on…., and not in any particular order! Once while I sang ‘Chanda mama door ke…’ to the little ones, trying to lull them to sleep, Akshay piped up with a statement, ‘Chanda mama ke paas janna hai(I want to go near moon uncle)’. When I told him he would need a rocket to go to the moon, pat came the next question; ‘Chanda mama bhi rocket mein baith kar vahan gaya tha kya?!(Did moon uncle also sit a a rocket to get there?!)”
He was very persistent when he wanted to learn something- be it a spelling like ‘y-a-t-c-h’ in LKG (they started school in Bidar), or getting the words of a popular hindi song right. At 3, he loved singing ‘Papa kehte hain…'(‘Papa says….’ was a very popular song in 1988) loud and clear, in his very cute lisp and Girish and I had many bouts of laughter listening to him as he sat on the potty, practicing ‘pappa kehte hain bara naam kaega…beta hamaya aisa kaam kaega….(papa says our son will bring him name and fame…he will achieve something great…) . His self-confidence was so high that he grabbed the mike during an AF day picnic and sang the song at the top of his voice to a stunned audience!
Never in these three decades did we ever imagine that thinking of our little boy singing this song would drive us to tears.