A teacher in disguise – a full-time father’s tale
We have just started assembling the sun’s rays one by one, and Maya is now excited.
She had painted the paper squares earlier, completely ensconced into the new game of dipping her little fingers and palm directly in colourful water paints I had just purchased and applying it on the white sturdy paper.
She is now beginning to see an actual circular sun take shape right in front of her eyes, with the pointy, triangular “rays” I am folding all those painted squares into.
“Will you give it to me?”
“Of course. But I still have to stick more rays.”
“Yay! Only three more!”
She counts the rays still to be stuck.
Time flies really, this little doll has learned to count! Correctly up to ten, subjectively then onwards, but still…
“Can we stick it on the wall next to the kites?”
Simple joys of life
Where does she get these ideas? I am impressed, because I was universes away from the artsy kind. And I never thought the arrival of a kid would make YouTube so synonymous for craft videos, DIY hacks, and all those food recipes. And purveyor of ideas, it did become. Like the banana-oats pancakes I promised to make after completing the origami sun. She’s always been curious about food, at both preparation and consumption stages, my partner and I feel we are lucky on this account too.
So, thanks to YouTube again, I have a different idea for the sun. We hang it with a red thread under her room’s lamp. The sun is beautiful. Maya is happy. I am proud. For the same reason, in fact, this is our first origami sun! That feeling of a concrete and successful achievement in front of your daughter! I wish such moments to everyone.
Maya is now looking at me, with her eyes sparkling with mischievous anticipation. I know it is time for transition.
We swiftly get ourselves busy into making those special pancakes, special because they have oats and banana in them this time.
“Let us invite Geetansh and Pariksheet!” Oh yes, why didn’t I think of it? We promptly invite our neighbour’s sons to take part in it. Some division of labour among all these energy balls, and soon I start pouring the pancakes’ batter on the hot pan.
All this means we will not go to the society’s park today. Durga might remind me about Maya’s daily share of outdoor activity. Or perhaps she might take a look at the happy ruckus in the flat and say that the essential thing is that Maya is having good fun. She will certainly add that she misses all these moments. She will definitely say I am the lucky one. In spite of Maya forgetting me the very moment, Durga gets back home from work. In spite of Maya switching from Tamil to Malayalam, and relating the entire day’s proceedings to her, most of which I can’t understand. But I know she will need my presence, later on, to doze off. Yes, both of us have our own little prides and jealousies regarding our little one.
Being the man in the house
The said society’s park turned out to be a place of interesting learnings over time. On how Maya runs around, on how she shows eagerness to meet new kids. On showing her how chameleons change colours amidst the park’s plants. On women’s surprise when I tell them about my break from a corporate job to look after Maya.
Or on how some men asked, “So, you’re babysitting then?” It required explaining that babysitting involves money being paid by one party to another, or asking whether they call their women babysitters in their households. I don’t judge them for seeing and reproducing what can be called a pattern. But the last time I checked, enquiring further before displaying a condescending grin does not hurt.
And then there is this guy at the grocery shop, the presswala, Amazon’s courier boy, and of course the carpenter who worked for a month, all asking more than once about my current job. Clearly, they were not expecting to see a man of my age so often at home. But no hard feelings here, I understand them, a man can’t be on leave indefinitely.
Actually, there is an increasing number of men accompanying their daughters and sons to the park or the swimming pool. Most of them do remain with their kids all the way. It’s funny how we always exchange glances of understanding. We occasionally start talking, though things kind of slow down understandably as soon as we talk jobs.
What about the money?
Women have clearly been eager to enquire and share their thoughts on my choice: a good thing to do, a natural thing to share responsibilities. One of them squarely wished herself the same, and another even asked what no one ever did, or probably did not want to: how are we managing? As in, how are we making ends meet with just Durga’s salary? Well, both of us were never spendthrifts and that has always opened up more possibilities for us so far.
What about a career, then? I might probably look for a regular professional activity once Maya starts going to school, which is due to happen very soon. It might probably not be all that easy to get back into the corporate world after the break I have taken, and one can’t possibly use a broad brush in these fast-changing times.
In any case, I can’t work too far away from Maya now. Every day, every word, every sentence of hers, every metamorphosis she is going through reminds me that she keeps changing and she will never be the same again. And that’s life. She keeps infusing this awareness every second into me by just being here. I can’t afford to be away from her for too many hours in a day. For, I know that a child is a teacher in disguise.
Ragou Govardanane is a corporate professional-turned full-time father. He spends most of his time taking care of his daughter Maya. In the rest of the time, he plays the role of an independent translator.