26th March 2008! I had already reached office, a bit late as always. Hari – my sweet office boy got my morning tea to my cubicle as per his routine. I had the habit of picking the tea cup and talking on the phone with some friend, while walking in the alley near the car park. I started getting a second call while on the phone and I saw who it was… totally unanticipated, it was my brother-in-law – Dr. Vivek. At that moment it struck me. The expected event must have happened – my sister must be in labour. It sent shivers down my spine because we had to be with her that time. I was happy that Viv called just in time. I immediately shifted the call and spoke to him. The words that he spoke disappointed me to the core. I was expecting Viv to tell me to drop everything, grab everyone from home and reach the hospital at the soonest. It would take over an hour atleast since they lived 35 kms away and the Mumbai traffic had gone to the dogs. But! I was taken aback, simply shocked. Actually I don’t know how to express it. I thought I heard wrong. Incredibly silly, cause all he said ecstatically was, ‘hello ji, ladki ho gayi” (a baby girl is born!!!). Funnily I thought how was it ever possible? It was supposed to be a boy this time. Everyone had expected that soon it will be a complete family – one girl and one boy since my sister already had a beautiful baby girl three years back. But another little girl in the family was the harbinger of good luck and the family was more than complete. I congratulated him and assured him we would reach there in record time. My little sister needed us, because we couldn’t even be there during her delivery and that was a painful thought.
I immediately called home and spoke to mom, just blurted out, “mom Strawberry is born!” Why Strawberry? We nicknamed my elder niece Cherry and hence Strawberry was a natural word that just came out of my mouth on the spur of the moment. While we chatted happily and were very eager to see my new born niece, little did we know that she would be the source of boundless joy for all of us! We reached the hospital in a little over an hour. I ran up the steps, couldn’t wait to hold my dazzling little niece in my arms. And as I held her tight; her smile, her beauty and her innocence mesmerised me. Eyes moist, I kissed her forehead and revelled in the moment.
As she turns seven at midnight today I can’t help but reminisce some of life’s best moments with her. Surprisingly, though I have written poems for Cherry on her birthday, I’ve never written anything for Cheeni as her birthday gift. So today there is good reason to write about ‘Cheeni times’. 🙂
Since very early days Cheeni stole our hearts once again with her artistry. Her sketches are mind blowing. She has the ability of quoting from memory in her sketches. Like this one time, when she was really small, my sister had taken both the kids to the pool, there was a lapse of a second and Cheeni slipped inside the pool. My sister Chiki jumped after her to save her in the nick of time and brought her out. After a few days, Chiki found her sketching and on completion of the drawing, she saw that Cheeni had painted the exact scene where a small baby fell into the pool and her mother jumped after her to save her. Inconceivable but true. That’s our little Cheeni for you! Her drawings whether on paper, black board or her drawing board are outstanding and it’s difficult to imagine that they are her creations. Two of my favourites are her depiction of Mahadev and Ganeshji on mount Kailash (on the black board) and her sketch of my husband Desh (on paper). She loves him and gifted him the perfect present of his portrait sketch on my birthday.
Once when she was three years old, she was at home with all of us. She called out “nana” to my dad. Mom then explained how it is important to add ‘ji’ and call him nanaji as a mark of respect. She took about 30 seconds to think after which she told my mother that she should be called ‘Cheeniji’ from that time onwards. Mom was totally dumbfounded. First she didn’t know how to react, but later she acknowledged and appreciated her thoughts; and from that day my little princess has been rechristened Cheeniji. My family typically addresses her like that.
There was this one time when Chiki and I had gone shopping along with the babies. While I was trying a dress, my sister was humming the song, “tum hi ho bandhu sakha tumhi” from the Hindi movie Cocktail. Pat came a remark from Cheeni that her mother was being disrespectful and that she should have folded her hands and then said then hummed the prayer :-p That comment was hilariously cute but we had to act serious and look apologetic about the big mistake committed. Ofcourse, we apologised assuring her never to repeat such a horrible mistake ever again. This was thanks to the assembly prayers in school. And it was a pleasure to note the deep rooted values in her. The little things that she does amaze me so much, like the way she is extra careful about water conservation and how she ensures that while she applies soap on her little hands, the water tap is closed so as to save precious resources. She takes everything taught to her about the environment, people, school etc., so seriously that sometimes it is hard for me to believe this is a 1st grader I am talking about.
Her love for stories never ends, and that is such a lovely reflection of the value of books that has been instilled in her by both her parents. She insists on being told a story at bedtime. One would think she would fall asleep and forget, but no; she remembers every word. And when someone asks her to say a story, rest assured the content and moral of the story with Cheeni narrating it will never be diluted. Though she is a bit demure, she loves talking and making new friends. Just last week when I took both my nieces for the movie Cinderella, she recounted the whole story almost scene by scene to everyone in the house. It was a treat to hear it from her spellbinding voice. Before I miss such an important point, she sings ‘complete’ Bollywood numbers. Oh god, I was shocked when a few days back when she was with me at home, she asked me if I had seen the movie Happy New Year. When I replied in the negative she told me she has seen it thrice and wanted to sing a song from that movie for me, and she did…. the FULL song. What a treat that was! Speaking of Bollywood, one can’t help but notice her admiring herself in front of the mirror several times in a day. Mind you, she knows she is drop dead gorgeous!
Last year when Desh sent flowers, cake and other presents for Cherry’s birthday (booking them online), she was distraught with the online business and that it’s a sad thing that they don’t allow people to book two numbers of the gifts when they know that there are two sisters; so what if the birthday was only of one. It took us a while to assure her that we will ban the online shopping in the house. You get the drift, don’t you? But now things have changed a bit. Since her dad is a big online shopping fan, she has forgiven them and doesn’t mind accepting gifts booked online. We’ve taken care that she receives her online gifts this birthday J
Her latest obsession is a pet. She wants a tortoise for her birthday and let’s hope her dear dad agrees, for she is one caring child who knows how to look after every single person in the family. It’s no wonder that she misses every member of the family and calls and speaks to everyone. Oh this one is absolutely uproarious – a couple of years back when she was tinier all of us went for a family wedding, an uncle’s son was getting married. The next morning she woke up on the wrong side of the bed, was very upset that she wasn’t formally introduced to the uncle whose son was getting married. I still cannot believe what my ears heard that day. She’s a total riot in the real sense of the word.
On this lovely day when she turns a year older I can only think of showering the choicest of blessings on our little babe. She is the apple of our eyes, and on behalf of Desh and I, here’s wishing our princess a very happy birthday and many many more happy ones to come.
Love you Cheeniji…