What will be the first word you say, I wonder? Your mom’s first word was ‘Dadda’ and your nanu’s happiness shot through the roof that day!
But there’s still some time for all that. For now, you love to listen your mom’s voice as she feeds you, soothes you, cares for you. I remember how attentively you, just four days old, listened to the story of the very hungry caterpillar as he chomped his way through pears and plums and pies. Of course, you didn’t understand a bit but the sounds were getting engraved in your mind.
You will be fascinated by other tales your mom tells you. You will love the three little pigs and their escapades; you will be enthralled by Jack and his magic beanstalk; you will listen wide-eyed when the big brown bear becomes a prince in golden armor!
For the moment, your own imitation games are on! You try to imitate everyone you see and everything you hear. And soon you will begin to use the same expressions and gestures when you play with your toys and cars and blocks, and as you grow older, invent characters and events and tales!
But you know what?It is not just you little ones who make up stories! We adults spin stories too and these stories help us make sense of the world around us. Two people live together within the bond of marriage, hundreds of men and women work in a company, thousands of people commit themselves to a country, millions believe in a common God… all these bonds and relationships are figments of our imagination; myths that keep us rooted in life.
And language has helped us pass these commonly believed stories from one generation to the next for tens of thousands of years. Indeed, it is storytelling that has kept us human and made us the most powerful race on earth.
Arham, this incredible journey of life – and yours has just begun – is nothing but a story.
You are far away in America and we yearn to take you in our arms! We eagerly wait for your video calls and I am sure you think your nani and nanu live in the mobile!
You love it when I call out Arhammmmmmmmmmmm… though it will be another couple of months before you realize it refers to you. You perk up immediately when we begin speaking to you – slowly in a singsong manner… I read somewhere such talk is helping you work out the sounds of language. This is why you love the rhyme and rhythm of your nanu’s silly songs!
You watch us closely as we speak… you pucker your lips and flex your tongue almost as if trying to form a reply! Your ooooooo and aaaaaaa and eeeeeee leave us enthralled! The other day when you came out with something like hiiiiiiiiiiiiiieee in response to your mom’s HI, we hopped around in happiness!
Within a couple of weeks you will begin to babble… you will begin to use back-of-tongue consonants and say baaaa, daaaaa, gaaaaa, paaaaa, kaaaaa… soon you will learn to combine these sounds and your babble will begin to sound like words. By one year, you will know about 50 words! And you will string them together to say sentences! Isn’t that amazing?
Come to think of it… A few sounds build hundreds of words that combine in thousands of ways to create millions of sentences that can express a zillion feelings, thoughts and ideas! And this amazing way of communicating is unique to us humans! We begin to absorb our mom’s voice much before we are born, and as we grow older, keep learning new words every day till we become pros ourselves!
And all this complex language learning just from hearing it! We all – me and your nanu, your maamu, your mom and dad – learned it from hearing others use it!
Isn’t it fantastic? Isn’t it fascinating? Isn’t it simply wonderful?!
Finally, after nine months of eager anticipation, you are here. Our daughter Tanvi’s baby. Our first grandchild.
Everyone had told me: The feeling will be indescribable. All my friends who are grandmamas. And incomparable to any other feeling in the world. And I would wonder: Really?! As the days of your arrival came closer, I became more and more curious about the indefinable emotion I would feel on becoming a grandparent.
And now you are here. With us at home. How tiny you are, how light.
When I look at you, I feel joy, wonderful joy. When I hold you, I have an intense desire to protect you from all that could hurt you, harm you, trouble you. When you curl your fingers around mine, i am filled with hope, hope for the grand adventure you are embarking upon.
And as I sit back and watch you with your mom, i feel inordinately fulfilled. My daughter has her own now. Life has come full circle.