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The Da Da Chronicles

Oh, So Cute, He Looks Just Like....

Spitting image of Dad    You haven't heard from me in a few weeks. No, we did not have another baby (shub shub bolo!). I have successfully thwarted all lures from the Mrs. to bring forth another one. It takes two to Tango you see. I think. The thing is, I was mentally fatigued from answering all the "whys" that my son was throwing at me. I mean, what do you say when he asks "Why" when you tell him that two plus two is four? This after I had just convinced him that two plus one is three. Details of such grueling sessions will be related in a future post. But for now, back to a particular experience from my early days of fatherhood:  

    When friends or relatives visit you to have a glimpse of your baby soon after its birth, I have often heard them comment that the baby looked liked one of the parents. Some get very specific and declare that he has his father's goofy ears or his mother's enchanting eyes. Thankfully, I have not heard anyone comment on anything below the baby's neck. This ritual of comparison always makes me nervous. While I can tackle the hardest of exams with relative nonchalance, identifying who the baby looks like is, for me, an exercise in futility. To me all babies look like one thing when they are born. Aliens. Well sometimes they look like really old people that have been shrunk and lost their clothing in the process. And trying to figure out who the baby looks like with such thoughts racing through my mind, puts me in a quandary. Much like when my wife wears a new garment and asks me "Does this make me look fat?". While in the past I have refrained from answering such questions about the baby's looks with diversions like "I smell something. I think the baby needs a change", these days I take it to a new level.

    These days I compare a part of the baby's face to someone famous. But I throw in some added details. Something like "His nose looks like how Sunny Deol's nose looked in the movie Ghatak when he was beating the snot out of Danny Denzongpa". And much to my merriment I get to observe the parent wrinkle his brow and think hard, trying to recall the said comparison and almost all of the time, agree hesitantly with me. And that's what I do when I am driving to the visit the new parents. Conjure up impossible comparisons while my wife who knows what's going on in my head gives me dirty looks. And she would try her best to prevent me from answering the question when asked by either giving her opinion of whom the baby looked like or declaring that I am not good at identifying such things. But I always get my say and I get to leave the place with the poor dad scratching his pate wondering "Does the baby really look like that?".
   

    But the one thing that I have always wanted to do but haven't summoned the courage to do so yet is this. When the baby is first presented and the all important question is posed to me, I want to ask loudly (in a Paresh Rawal kind of way), "Who's baby is this? Where's your baby??". And when they respond that the baby I am looking at is indeed theirs, I want to say "Are you sure? The nurse may have made a mistake! This baby does not look like either of you! Why, look at his chin, it looks just like Jay Leno's chin had a baby and this child inherited it". And after that my friends, I am sure no one will ever expectantly ask me "So, who does the baby look like?"
   

    When Keith was born, I was unanimously told that he was a spitting image of me. "He looks just like you" they would say. And all I would say in return was "Really? Poor fellow!".

Banished!

    If there is one thing that you will learn to do very well during the first few months of having a baby in your house, it is, learning to do everything very quietly. Because heaven forbid you should make a sound louder than a feather dropping to the floor. The resulting cacophony will awaken the baby and it will wail its lungs out. Picking up right where it left off the last time around. Like a CD that resumes from a pause. It would make me freeze right in the middle of what I was doing. Both the baby's crying and the killer stare from my wife. Many a times I left the house with my pants only half-zipped up for the fear of making too loud a noise. And as you can very well imagine, I had to completely give up eating beans.
   
    It was also during this time that I learnt how to do a lot of things in the dark. You see, there was a possibility, let me repeat, a possibility that the light could disturb the little one's slumber. And for someone like me who frequently visited the restroom in the middle of the night, this proved to be a big setback. Although I had a vague idea where different things lay around the house, it didn't stop me from bumping into things like the very sharp edge of the bed, portable fans, dehumidifiers, the walls and closed doors. Not to mention, stepping on soft squishy diapers that had been temporarily placed near the side of the bed by my wife after changing the baby during the night. This went to the extent of me having to get ready for work in the dark during winter. There were times when I would wear the same shirt for a few days to work since I had picked it up from the closet completely in the dark! Since my wife shared the closet, I think I once wore a pretty pink blouse. I came back into the house to change of course, but not before I caught the attention of an extra friendly man outside.
   
    Talking about these tribulations with my good-for-nothing friends led to a revelation. It was suggested that I should continue to mess up badly. The idea was to get banished from the bedroom where the baby slept. A particular friend of mine had perfected the art of getting banished so well, that, he got to hear about how his baby was doing only through phone calls, text messages from his wife and from folks who visited them! Or when he would lose his sense of direction and walk accidentally into the bedroom. But then again, he had perfected this knack through the course of having four kids. While I didn't quite take up on their advice, it did lead me to ask my wife if I could perhaps move to the guest bedroom. I had to invent an extremely time-critical and complex project at work to get it done, but to the guest room I went! And that my dear friends is why I still have my sanity intact (some of you may claim otherwise). Of course, my relocation to the guest bedroom meant that my mother-in-law had to move into the baby's bedroom. Long story short, suddenly the chapatis were getting burnt and chicken started tasting like bhaingan all over again. But the undisturbed sleep..aaah, blissful sleep was worth every long hair I found in my saambar.
   
    Getting serious for a minute, I must mention that for a father, holding a newborn brings out emotions in him that he may have never experienced before. In the past I had always declined from taking a baby in my arms for the fear of harming it in some way. I think many men that have this irrational fear. But once you learn to cradle your child in your arms, the joy, the love and the pride you feel is indescribable. Suddenly you are certain that you can never harm this child and you would do everything in your power to keep it safe and happy. And these emotions would inescapably well up in me when I would often rock my son to sleep to the sound of Sting singing 'Fields of Gold'.
   
    But my fear of hurting my son were unfounded. Babies are much tougher and resilient than one can imagine. As I soon found out....

Hey Spidey, Try Your Hand At This...

Spidey can change    "With great power, comes great responsibility". So said Spiderman as he was putting on his tights. Similar sentiments are echoed when it comes to raising a child. And one of my first challenges was to wrestle the beast called the car-seat. When I lived in India for the first few decades of my life, never had I come across such a thing called a car-seat. At least not the ones meant specifically for babies or little kids. In India, you could leave the hospital with your new baby in any number of ways. You get to choose. The baby may be balanced precariously on your shoulder, squished under your armpit or suspended by the collar of its onesie that is clenched between your teeth (much like a mama cat). And this you do because you are hauling your wife's luggage in one hand and pushing people out of the way with your other hand. Then you ride home in a car, an autorickshaw or the local bus. It doesn't matter. The ride will turn out to be so bumpy that the baby which was in your wife's hand when you started your trip, would find itself nestled cozily in the hands of a distant relative or some stranger who was sitting a few feet away at the end of it. Sometimes, on the way back home you even stopped by the sabzi mandi (or in some parts of the country, the fish market) with your new baby to get some chores done. Back home, we are efficient that way.
  
    But here I was, hunched across the back seat of my car, grunting and gasping while I tried to get the seat in place. I just couldn't understand how such a simple thing like fastening a car seat can get so complicated. The first time I thought I had it done, I realized that I had strapped myself in with the seat. The next time I was sure I had got it, it lurched forward and hit the windshield when I braked. The next time I knew for certain that something wasn't right when a homeless man at the light pointed at it, clutched his middle, and laughed uncontrollably. When I finally did get it right I realized that I was crying and sobbing. Now I understood why the last applicant I had interviewed at my workplace had proudly mentioned "Fixed baby car seat in a single attempt" on his resume. Heck, he should have been made Time's Man of the Year!
  
    Once we got back home safely from the hospital without any baby-popping-out-of-the-seat kind of incident, things got a bit more actuarial. Before bidding adieu at the hospital, the nurse in charge had smacked a booklet in my hand instructing us to keep tabs of the baby's wet and dirty diapers. My miniscule knowledge about babies made me think that this was not a big deal. I thought I would probably have to note something down once or twice a day. Fact: Did you know that a new born baby can soil upwards of a dozen diapers a day?? I didn't. And now I will never forget. I was walking around like the carpenters back home with a pencil stuck behind my ear. There was a lot of cautious pulling on the diaper and peering inside involved. It was almost as if I expected something to jump out and attack me. It was an especially hard task to do right after I had eaten a big meal. I learnt to hold my breath for long periods of time. By the end of the first month, I could check the diaper, recite the preamble to the US constitution and whip up a six layer Sundae all in one breath!
  
    It was around this time that I learned that one must use the current diaper as a shield when changing baby boys. If not, you can get doused by a gusher. It almost seemed like he was holding it all in until it was I, who came around to change him. And no, there was no warning from the ladies in the house. They just sent me into the baby's room all by myself while they hid behind the door and guffawed heartity when it happened. Despite all this, there were some heartwarming moments for me with the baby. At times when I was cradling him in my arms, his eyes would open wide and he would crack a big smile. And my face would light up and  I would call out to my wife ecstatically "look look, he's smiling at me". And she would crush that moment of joy by declaring "Don't get so excited. He's just passing gas".
  
    And did you know that babies do not sleep through the night? Well, I learned soon enough.

Baby meet Dog. Dog meet Baby - (kind of)

Dog meets baby  Now that we had our bundle of joy in our hands, the thing that threw us in a quandary was choosing a name for him. And as I learned soon enough from my wife, it had to be a unique name. Because these days everyone has unique names. Back home in India where she hails from, the names are indeed unique. Often times names are created on the fly by taking a syllable or two from the parent's names. The result can sometimes turn out to be quite disastrous causing great grief and misery for the child during his or her schooling years. No one can twist names to make it sound like a cat's burp like kids in a school can. Since we still had four weeks to go before the due date, we had assumed we had enough time to find a cool unique name. Stacks of baby names books lay untouched(by me) on our nightstand since we had bought them a few weeks ago.
 
  But now, we were desperate. We were under the impression that the baby had to be named before we took him home from the hospital. We were running out of time. And I don't do well under pressure. Every now and then I would blurt out random names like 'Ramirez, Kobayashi, Alfie, Urckle, Sheila'. To which my wife who was still in great pain would reply, 'It's a boy for Heaven's sake!. And not a Mexican, Japanese or fictional character!'. In my defense, I thought Alfie was a pretty cool name. And then, I started paying close attention to the name-tags of the doctors, nurses and janitors that came to our hospital room. If my wife hadn't thrown the bedpan at me, our son would have forever been known as Jimmy Two-Shoes. The 'a-ha' moment struck soon enough when I was in the restroom (the ultimate place for inspiration in my opinion) and we ended up choosing a name that while not unique, was still music to our ears.
 
  Did I mention that we share our home with a dog? No, not me. An actual four-legged dog. A one hundred pound Rottweiler mix named Rexy. Not the kind of dog which would make you say "ooh, so cuuuute" when you saw him. But rather, Rexy would likely make you say "Gulp!, I think I need to change my underwear" should he come close to you. We had read that we needed to make the dog accustomed to the idea that a new person would be living with us now. One suggestion was to take something the baby had worn from the hospital and make the dog smell it. And so, I left the hospital armed with a wrap that the baby had worn. My mother-in-law thought it was a good idea to send a used diaper as well. In the elevator going down, I stood all alone in one corner holding the package while the other people in it, huddled at the very far side, gasping for breath. When the doors opened, they rushed out like weary sailors who hadn't seen land for ages. I walked nonchalantly through the lobby while people all around me looked around frantically asking "Goodness, are we under a chemical attack??". I drove home with all the windows in my car rolled down and my head partly leaning outside the drivers side window.
 
  When I got home, I introduced Rexy to the smell of our newborn. He took one sniff of the wrap, snatched it from my hand and proceeded to tear it into a zillion pieces. After a few seconds of scratching my head, it hit me! I gingerly held the used diaper in my hands (much like one would hold a volatile armament) and placed it under his nose. The transformation was instant. With his tail between his legs, he went back to his corner with a sullen face. He would never mess with someone who could produce something noxious like that. Mother-in-laws can be brilliant! When I got back to the hospital, still smelling slightly pungent, my wife asked me how it went. "Oh, he was fine. No problem. Started wagging his tail when he smelled the wrap" I told her, not looking into her eyes.
 
  In my next post we will talk about the time when I was reduced to tears.............

An Unexpected Arrival

An unexpected arrival Now, if we are to believe everything that we see on TV or the Silver screen, having your Mother-in-Law (MIL) in your home is like living with a very hungry, fire-breathing dragon. A situation where you would sooner or later become a nice tasty grilled snack for her. Surprisingly though, I never once did I feel like I was going to be turned into a crispy appetizer.
My MIL and I got along famously. In fact, the two of us would sometimes spend hours together cracking jokes at my wife's expense. I learned soon enough that such a thing was not good for my well being either. Having your MIL visit you during such a volatile, unpredictable and delicate time is a blessing indeed. I never did miss a single College Football game! A few games, we watched together. Even though she couldn't tell if it was really a game or if I just liked watching men grab each other in tight fitting pants. I couldn't give her any reasonable explanation for the tights. To assuage her fears about which team I was batting for, I just pointed to her daughter's now very large belly.
   The cooking in the house improved tremendously of course. My MIL would cook up amazing delicacies quicker than I could say "Hara Bhara Chicken with a Dash of Lime". Gone were the days when I would finish a meal, thank for my wife for the wonderful Baingan Curry and then exclaim incredulously "Chicken?? THAT was Chicken?!" when she would indicate as such. But now, things were indeed going along splendidly for me. All that fear about being pregnant proving to be a stressful time was a distant memory. Until....
   One Sunday morning in early May, my wife indicated that something didn't quite feel right. "But", I protested. "We still have four weeks to go before the baby is due. And your mom said she would make hot Idlis today for breakfast." But the look on her face convinced me that we would have to make an unscheduled visit to the hospital. And the visit sealed the deal for me
regarding hospitals. I simply detest them. For over twelve hours we sat and waited. My wife and I. Every couple of hours a nurse would come along and hand us thick stack of forms to fill that would shame the IRS. After gathering information about whether on not my great-great grandfather had decent bowel movements, they lead us from one room to another where
different machines hummed and buzzed. I was pretty sure that one of them was not even a medical machine. It looked more like a water heater. At the end of the day, we were told, everything looks okay and we could go home. What?
   Just as my wife was changing into street clothes (from that silly gown that always flaps open at the back and shows your butt to the world) she calls me to the bathroom. When I get there, I see water everywhere. I quickly look around to see if any faucets had broken. IT WAS NOT THE FAUCETS. And so, my wife was induced into labor 4 weeks early. The next 24 hours are a blur for me from all the fainting I did whenever I saw the nurses pull out a big needle. The breathing exercises we learned really helped. Helped ME that is.
   In the end, after 20 hours of my wife grunting, pushing and yelling obscenities at me, it was determined the baby wouldn't leave the cozy confines of his current dwelling willingly and we would have to make a trip to the OR. And I would have to be with her in the Operating Room.  "Operating Room??" I mumbled, preparing to faint again. "But, I don't do so well at the sight of blood" I protested. "Not to mention needles"  quipped the nurses, giggling.
     What happened in the OR would take an entire post of its own. But despite all this, in the end, I was holding a beautiful baby boy in my hands who was so eager to meet his dad, that he came a few weeks early. Strangely though, he seemed to have a 'ha-ha-ha' kind of expression on his face when gazing at me. But something told me that the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for more tales from the Da-Da Chronicles.

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