But still I had to buy something, something nice - for that was the only way to get rid of the guilt that had immediately crept in as soon as I left my 23 months old daughter behind in pursuit of my own needs. Or maybe, it was just the longing to see some excitement on her face – her lips widening into an ear to ear smile and her eyes twinkling with excitement as she fiddled with an unexpected interesting toy in her hands, bought after much deliberation and thoughtfulness on her Mummy’s part. I wasn’t really sure what the real reason was but the fact that I had to buy something was an absolute must.
I managed to grab a couple of hours on the very first day of the visit. Slipped into my T-shirt and Jeans (Couldn’t afford to venture out in one of the only two formal sets of clothing that I had) and turned right from the hotel entrance, in hope of locating a few baby shops that I had spotted the same morning on my way from the airport. It was scorching hot and a few gracious taxis did slowdown in anticipation of a positive nod but had to speed away disappointed, for walking seemed to be the best way to get to my destination. The shops lay somewhere in the vicinity of the hotel, and I was convinced that an over-enthusiastic taxi was bound to overshoot my target cutting into the only two hour break that I had managed for myself.
“City Babies” read the first shop. I got in excited having looked at the elaborate tri-cycles and baby cots that were visible form the glass window. There were loads and loads of Chinese toys inside – all carrying a sincere promise of immediate lead poisoning and extremely low quality of manufacturing. Moving away in disappointment, I headed towards the relatively smaller section of soft toys, and realized that some of them already formed part of Mira’s overwhelming toy collection while some of them just didn’t look right.
And then, my eyes fell on her - bright and charming, yellow in color, wide black stripes, think pink lips and big black eyes. I instantaneously liked her. The cash counter did dampen my spirits though – she was far cheaper than what I had imagined her to be and the loss of currency wasn’t weighty enough to justify my 3 days of absence from home. Visited the other two shops in desperation but to absolutely no avail.
Coming back home was an exciting experience. As I slammed shut the door behind me, I saw Mira standing next to the book shelf in the passage, making up her mind about which book to pick. Papa and Daadi came running out of their individual rooms, anxious to see the reactions of a long-separated child. I moved as fast as I could while loudly exclaiming “Hello Mira” all the way towards her. She didn’t react much – a tiny blank face probably struggling to figure out the quantum of time that had elapsed since I last met her – was it normal or not?; was it more than usual?; was she around mostly as she always used to be? A minute long pause and then, she held out one of her favorite books to me, and said – “Mummy Mira read book”. No complaints, no tantrums, no realizations – I’ve to confess to my gratitude for having things the way they were and to my confidence for enhanced work-related travel in the future.
And yes, the fish happened to be a much bigger hit than what I had expected it to be. It is either trailing behind her sweeping the floor, or supporting her head as a nice soft cushion, or just lies next to her as she puts together her puzzles or goes through her books.
Papa being the Indian parent he is, didn't let go of the chance to teach something educational even with the fish. In his usual instructive tone, he said – “See Mira, Fins and tail. Fish’s fins and tail.” Me being the wicked mom I am, asked her – “If this is fish’s tail, where is Mira’s tail?”. Mira’s hand immediately shot back and ran across her entire bum, while her eyes reassured me that I’m going to soon locate it, don’t you worry.
Papa and I burst out laughing. Wonder if life could be anymore fun, exciting and content than what it is now!