“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Parvati/ Parvathi/Parvathy

As the youngest of five children, I was at the receiving end of both lots of affection as well as loads of domination. Fortunately, my elder siblings moved away early; the elder two sisters by marriage, the third one, brother, to Sainik School – it left me to be bossed, pinched, slapped, blamed for crimes innocent of and privacy constantly besieged by the sister 4 years elder to me. Of course, she wrapped my books in brown paper, labeled, sometimes combed my unruly hair, stole my comics– guess that was just about it. As I boy, I might have been a bit of an introvert; I kept my own company, but complemented by books. In the secure world of fantasy, an oft recurring theme was a younger sister. A younger sister who would look up to me as her big brother who could do and get anything she wanted. She would be beautiful and any boy who dared cast his evil eyes on her would be doomed.

As an adult, willing to get married but none willing vice versa, I fantasized about a daughter. She would have pigtails and would ride on my back. She would become a great dancer ( I still have great awe for dancers) or a wildlife biologist. I envied my friends who had wonderful, pretty daughters. Of course, soon after K was born, I was content with my boy, though often I used to wish he had a little sister.

The best years for a girl-child, according to me, is between five and ten. Before the self-consciousness of approaching of womanhood robs her of unaffected, natural behavior. But I notice that even most girls of this age have lost the air of innocence that I had found enchanting.

Today early morning Parvati and I had been to a house to meet a renowned ayurvedic physician and sage, Swami Nirmalananda Giri. He is a saffron-clad, shaven-headed sannyasi, but quite respected in North Kerala as a spiritual teacher and practitioner of Ayruveda. He visits Trivandrum once in a month. Among the few waiting to see him was a young mother in her late twenties and her daughter. The child wore the uniform of a well-known convent school in the city. About 9 or 10, she was skinny and not too tall by the general standards and had long pigtails. Big-eyed, dark eye-browed, she had bundles of energy and moved around restlessly. Her frontal teeth were missing. I could feel my face break into a smile every time I looked at her; and sitting by my side, she would look at me and give that toothless grin; for no reason. Happiness is in her face and heart. My cynicism- addled brain suspected for a moment – is she mentally retarded? I was ashamed at the next instant – I could not recognize innocence any more. The young girls in our cities have forgotten to grin. I would have loved to make small talk to her.

Later, as we waited for the prescription, P noticed me looking at the child. She bent down and asked her name. She gave that toothless grin again and said, 'Parvati'. 'Oh, my name too is Parvati', said P. 'You study in Holy Angels', don't you?' She nodded vigourously. 'Which class?' 'Third', she said. P put her best teacher-ish look and said – 'Hm, III A, isn't it?' Little girl's eyes widened. 'How do you know?', she asked open-mouthed. 'I am a teacher', said P primly , 'we teachers know everything'. The girl looked at me and smiled. 'Who is this?' she asked P. 'This is my husband'. I kept a mock- serious face. 'Do you have a girl-child?, she asked. P said, no, a boy.

I stand close by and watch all this interaction silently. Little Parvati glances at me and smiles. I keep a straight face and ask her – 'Parvati, is it? How do you spell your name, ti, thi or thy?' she bursts into laughter and giggles. Her mother looks amused. Prescription given, the mother takes Parvati/Parvathy/Parvathi's arm and moves on. As they cross the gate, Parvati turns back, looks at me and shouts, “P -A-R-V-A-T-H-I!”

Quite likely, this could be the last I ever see of Parvathi. It doesn't matter. I will keep that toothless grin in my heart for a long time to come.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 29.01.2010


  1. Was just browzing and landed up on your blog...Nice post I toally agree with you.My best year were before I was 10.

  2. Lol...I don really remember too much of my childhood before 10 , and the part i remember makes me want to really slap myself. I was such a spoiled , arrogant , headstrong child.

    I am 22 and still am all those..though my mom keeps saying that its my dad who spoiled me to this extent!!!

  3. @Anamika: Thanks for dropping by and glad you enjoyed the blog! Do never forget how you were as a 10-year old! :)

    @Gymnast: In retrospect, we might dislike what we were. But accept the you you are...

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  5. Most touching, Baletta, especially the part about not being able to appreciate innocence any more.

  6. Good piece , but the girl perhaps seems to be a look alike of Parvathi hen she was little.


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