Tag Archives: babies

wonder in house-searching in bandra

I talked to Ashutosh on the phone the evening before I came to see the room.

Well, the thing is that I already have two people who are interested in the room, but they don’t like cats. Do you have any problem with cats?” he asked. I assured him I liked cats, that I’d come in the morning to see the place.

I arrived at 9AM the next day at the century-old colonial bungalow near Rizvi college. Ashutosh had already phoned before I left the house:

How long will you take to reach? Shall I put the tea on?”


He greeted me with a namaskaar as I slipped my shoes off, stepping over the threshold inside.

The thing is,” Ashutosh said, “I have actually just gotten four new roomates. They’ve just come yesterday.”

Confused, I didn’t say anything, but followed him into the front room.

You can meet them if you’d like.” He smiled, and pulled open a cupboard door.

Inside were four beautiful new kittens, nestled peacefully in a row against their mother’s body. She was beautiful, much more apparently serene than a human is when they have given birth only 12 hours earlier. The group of them were collapsed together on top of a grey towel.

The little ones’ stomachs were wet and sticky from being born. Mummy had bitten off the cords. Their eyes were closed.

She had been whining so much when she was about to give birth… I think she was insisting that I leave,” Ashutosh laughed softly. “She didn’t like the male energy. I invited my neighbour to act as her midwife.”

Only hours old, the baby cats already wore beautiful patterns in their fur. They meowed as mice would speak, in high voices, and struggled around blindly.

The details of them were already beginning to be clear: their whiskers were brown with white tips, noses soft and damp, their tails ended in points. They were precious and helpless and already loved.


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Skinny jeans and runners; dupattas and wind and rain

There is a baby wearing skinny jeans on her fat legs. Sausages stuffed into denim. And little puma runners on her puffy, soft feet. How inappropriate.


She is rocked to calmness on her mom’s swaying hip. Mom also wears matching skinny jeans and runners: she dressed her baby as herself as a pleasant surprise to the rest of her Moms Group. She’s eating salad that she bought for 1.39/100 grams from an organic grocery store. Out of a compostable container, with a biodegradable fork made of corn.

She chats about the goddamn weather with another woman, then covers her mouth. She tries not to use curse words when her infant is listening.

The other woman laughs, nods, holds her own baby, a little boy about the same age as the other one with the sausage legs.

His neck is practicing holding up that heavy head, those weighty cheeks. It takes a lot of work, but he is patient and revels in each success and new independence that he gains.

Baby frowns, becoming frustrated because he wants to sneeze but his sneeze won’t come. He is too young to reason about why he feels as he does. He doesn’t even know why he is frustrated, but anyone watching can guess.


On the other side of the world, there is a baby wearing nothing on her thin legs. And no footwear on her already-hardened feet. How inappropriate.


Baby is rocked to calmness on her mom’s swaying hip, listening to the jingling of aunty’s ankelets as she sweeps outside their home. Watching her cousins drawing their dreams in the dust with sticks.

Until wind lifts the dust and their dreams into the air, and everyone shrieks and wraps their dupattas around their faces to filter the air, and runs indoors. Dust dances in the thick air through a thin sheet that separates inside the house from outside.

Until rain starts and beats the dust into the ground. It starts light, then comes heavy. Not only smothering the dust that was in the air, but pulling and tearing up the packed dirt that was patted so firmly by so many human feet, including baby’s.

The cousins shriek again, for a different reason, and tear out of the home into the downpour. Mom doesn’t have the energy to stop them, and also has a little bit of delight in her chest. She stands with Aunty in the doorway, beneath a ledge, watching the girls grip one anothers’ hands and spin in a circle. Their braids fly and water runs down their faces, shining their gold noserings. Their dresses are soaked through as their brown feet stamp up brown mud.

Baby waves her hands and legs, trying to also dance or be more involved. But she’s also happy to watch from mom’s hip.

A leak in the ledge allows a little bit of water through, and it starts to stream onto the part in Mom’s hair. Mom steps back out of the way, so that the stream is in front of baby.

This is the most marvelous thing that baby has ever seen. She has almost no memory of things she’s seen before, so everything is exciting, especially this stream of light and water that is happening right in front of her. Baby waves her hands and touches it, while the cousins continue to dance. And the only sound is of rain smashing into tin roofs.


Veera Desai Centre


Bandra to Churchgate in the ladies car

Very elderly ladies aren’t accustomed to sitting on chairs, and don’t feel to venture so far into the trains, jostling to compete for space with so many. They climb aboard, hitch up their saris that are tied in the Maharashtrian dhoti-style, and sit in the doorway on the ground.

Beggar families, usually a mom and a pile of kids, have no qualms about doing whatever they want wherever… as anyways they have no private places to do private things. So they also sit on the ground in the train compartments, eating donated roti or banana, or taking sitting-up naps leaned against the walls. The kids try to play and take back the childhood that was not offered to them.

University students do their homework on the way, young modern girls in shorts and blouses. They listen to ipods and look disinterested.

If I was a baby I would also collapse into sleep against my mother’s softness, rocked as I was ferried from place to place, gently jarred by the train’s humming movement. So new and alone here, I think of how nice and secure this would be.

The only males in the ladies car are the infants and those young enough still to be harmless. These boys get to stay amongst women, and observe all of their secrets until they’re old enough to cause trouble, and then they have to go in the general cars. From those general cars, they can only watch into the ladies car from a distance, and flirt with their eyes with shy young girls who are just coming to know that they are beautiful.

An abundance of softness: soft worn cotton and silks, floppy synthetic purses, impossibly soft womens’ upper arms and bowed toddler calves. It all rests against unforgiving hard benches, poles, walls to contain the passengers.

Most women have long hair that falls down their backs or is collected in loosely plaited braids. Spare strands inevitably become free, and sit wrapped around their owners’ necks in a mess of clear sweat and train grime. Held there by sweat that’s summoned by air that’s full of water in this monsoon season.

Most wear sandals and have painted toenails. All kinds of different feet: one lady with six toes on each. Cars full of women with the nails on their left hand grown out and painted, and the nails on their right cut short and left unpolished, for eating.

Some people catch up on their sleep, falling against the seats and lifting their feet up, abandoning plastic sandals under the benches. Some read: English romance novels, textbooks or different books from different faiths.

Muslim women enter the car and sit and pull their hijabs off of their heads, only to re-wrap carefully before they get off. Younger girls from Islamic schools wear veils that cover their heads and shoulders. And long kurtas, and pants, and square school backpacks.

Some of the women are so delicate and spare, skin drawn tightly over their bones, as though there was only just enough to cover them, not more. Some are beautiful and perfect: skin tight over their collarbones and then quickly loosening into fullness at their sari blouses. Older, heavier women shuffle to their seats, hot and heavy and uncomfortable and with no release.

At each station, there is a clamour and dash towards the doors, pushing and shoving and all kinds of unladylike behaviours. Between stops, a stillness gathers and everyone appears to sleep even with their eyes open. Gold nose-rings and earrings that drape over the top of the ear all glint in late afternoon sun that enters the cars through slats in windows.

A small Bengali baby wears thick dark curls and long eyelashes shielding big eyes. Her fat baby thighs straddle her mom’s hip; mom uses the end of her sari to wipe the sweat gathered at her temples, her upper lip, her throat. Locked together, they are funnelled through one crowd off of the train and into the next, those waiting on the platform. Only two amongst the millions of little fish swimming in watery and stale station air every day, coming and going and continuing.


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