23 May 2011

On Being Made a Mama

It’s oddly exciting being made a mama. My sister recently did me the honour. I am now a mama.

Actually, it’s oddly preposterous as well. I mean, me a mama? Of course, I knew it was in the offing these past nine months or so and I was looking forward to it as well, to the prospect of having after a long time a babe in the house, but the morn the news came, the morning the news was suddenly broken upon my unsuspecting, groggy self, it hit me like a tonne of happy bricks. It was expected, of course, but more, I suppose, as a distant possibility, as something that would happen but not so soon, not at least take you unawares and knock the innocence out of you in one fell stroke – or cut, as it was in her case.

Innocence, ay! For though I may not be particularly innocent as I am now, in form at least I could claim some amount of it as a young scion of the generation. I am, after all, one of the younger ones and in any case more in the past than any of us. Memories of that childhood are far from dead and in moments of ponderous solitude the mind’s eye wanders over many a scene of knickered and board game-ed joy. More than that, being young, being, as it were, one of the last in line, one feels a certain license to youth, to the abandon and mindlessness that are the undeniable preserves of youth and the youngest.

No more, no more! In one fell stroke – cut – all gone, all transferred to a wrinkly, animated blob of flesh and bones. At this tender age of fun and games, all the heavy weight of relations and responsibilities, all the onerous burden of acting up for a generation upon me, an uncle!

How, how does one act an uncle? What does it mean to be a mama? Is one supposed to alter one’s attitude to life, one’s behaviour, one’s self because there is now a generation beneath one for whom one is required to set worthy examples? How, too, to behave with the kid when it grows up? Should one be stern and noble and inspire a la Chesterfield visions of an austere and fulfilling life? Or should one open vistas for greater fun and debauchery, be the mama a niece would look up to when in mood for sin? One can’t treat a niece like younger, baby siblings – or can one? After all, like the rest, it is an animated blob of flesh and bones and just because it makes my greys look whiter still doesn’t make it any different per se.

An animated blob of flesh and bones. Not very charitable, I suppose. But it’s nameless as of now. What is one supposed to call it? Her? The Kid? Ku Di’s kid? Without a name, without the jimble-jamble of identities that a name affixes on one, is not one just an animated blob of flesh and bones? Language makes the niece? Or the niece makes language? A quaint baby too: post-colonially post-modern, yet destined to grow up a structuralist enmeshed in deep structures of kinship and good old bourgeois morality. Would a name really matter then? The future’s already laid out, a mish-mash of identities already bestowed: girl child, first born, baniya, Indian, bourgeois, woman...except for the calling, does a name really matter much then? Yet, one can’t but hope it’s something nice, something that would be good to consider and call, for though from the moment the fatal cut was made and thing extracted it has been getting normalised, being made a subject from an object, her from it, a name is a name: a marker, an identity.

An identity that cannot be denied. Oh, a mama – too soon, too soon! The sister can never really be forgiven for this, though hers being arranged the blame falls more on the jija for unmindful haste. Seriously, not even a year and one on the block already! What’s the hurry, one wonders, what in the world! To each their own, of course, but one does wonder why one wouldn’t want to be conjugal and kid free for a while...being as it is, the deed being done and consummated so soon, one would imagine there was some sort of need to prove virility in this off-hand, childish manner. Besides, it does seem too much of a patriarchal conspiracy of sorts, have the woman pregnant and burdened with kids as soon as she’s married and so effectively shut off means for self-determination for the next two decades or so.

Not, of course, that one thinks ‘twas effectively planned so, no – but one can’t but think. A sister pregnant and a generation thrust beneath one, all by a man more or less unknown. One wishes one had a bit more say in these matters. As if the cornucopia of relations and relationships wasn’t enough, to have this, to have you made older and responsible in form without as much as your consent! It is the last straw really, the last nail in the coffin of a childhood already dead and gone, an official confirmation if you will: arise, no longer child, by these wrinkly, sleepy blob, by the freshly cut womb of a sister, by the haste of a jija, a new-made mama!


(some time later) The importance of stating that everything that's written is not implied seriously being vehemently pointed, it is thus done so.


jlt said...

It may be your first experience on being an uncle though you yourself have sufficient number of aunts and uncles giving you a pretty good idea about behaviour as an uncle!

AP said...

That is true.

little boxes said...

I will tell you what i do with my sister's daughter...
while both she and her husband are busy changing diapers and working the rest of their days away, i lie silently next to her, watching her do things no one notices.
if the little one is doing so much, it is only fair that someone watches and remembers :)
love to the little one.

p.s: nice blog.

AP said...

That's nice. I don't think I'm ever going to get that sort of access to this little kipper though, being somewhat of the proverbial black sheep and so on.

Also, I've somehow always thought children to be much more engaging when they're over three and can be actively involved in games and stuff.