An Open Letter To My Little Niece

My darling Ria,

You are about three months old. A tiny ball of innocence. Uncorrupted and carefree. Oblivious to most everything, but maybe for once, oblivious with reason, with an inability to process anything, because your brain is still figuring everything out. You have a slight dent in your head because that little brain of yours needs to grow. It will bloom with the wonders of the world, constantly challenged by temptation that it will sometimes give in to. But, that’s okay. You will find that balance, that serene peace with yourself that your mother embodies and that sheer strength your mother personifies. Your mother’s ability to reason emotion will pervade your wondrous life with awe, with the right medicine at the right time, and you will forever be loved.

If you do ever read this, a few decades down the road, remember that I am (or used to be) a wannabe-poet. So, I have been forever finding a way to take the cheese out of the cheesy. It’s hard, and to be fair, it’s a two-way street. I hope just the right amount of cheese melts away at your sentiments as you read through this. I think innocence, life and connection warrants infinite emotions.

There are a few things I want to say to you.

I’ve had the honor and the privilege of changing your nappies. I have put you to bed more times than once, sometimes to the music of someone I love. I have danced embarrassingly in front of you way more times than I would like to admit, but you never judged me. You looked at me, sometimes confused, sometimes with a smile, and sometimes, you danced yourself. Yes, most un-smitten people would call your dance, “cycling leg movements, coupled with offbeat hand gestures, topped off with constantly evolving eyebrow thrusts”. But I’m smitten, so I hope you dance all your life, with or without rhythm, with or without music, but with a whole ton of heart.

I am proud to say that you are also a master burp-er, one that even we, your mother’s burp-tastic side of the family, celebrate with awe. Your baby farts give adult farts a run for their money, making you, quite the Rockstar among your peers. There are limited ways for you to communicate at this age, so I love how you make the most of what you have.

We are still far from figuring out what your hair color is, and what your eye color will morph into, but the bets are on. Your golden skin is the perfect blend between your pale father and your dark mother. You have your dad’s eyebrows but your mum’s eyes, your dad’s chin and your mother’s nose, but your smile is a delightful combination of them both, and everything nice. Your legs, though, are more like “tangdi kababs”, but that will change.

When you cry, it’s like the world has gone still. All the chaos in my head is concentrated on yours. Because you are too young to cry without reason. So, it’s time to play detective, and comfort the discomfort. But I think I am a pretty bad detective, so I play more of the “throw-everything-at-it” game — music, books, soft toys, taking you in my arms, singing off-key, dancing, pretending everything is okay, and somehow something works.

When you look into my eyes and smile, there is an explosion of joy. Your face lights up like a few million stars clustered together in the clear sky, luring me into finding my own happy stars. It’s amazing how powerful your tiny fragile little self can be.

Right now, I am looking at you and you are fast asleep. Yes, that sounds creepy but I feel comforted when I see your chest move up and down. You can call it paranoia, but it comes from a good place. I probably won’t get to spend as much time with you as I want to. You can thank ambition, distance and a laundry list of excuses for all that. But you will always have a piece of my heart, my soul, my brain or anything else you grow up to believe is the right form of the emotional self. You are in the best possible hands. Your mother is my second mother from the same mother — she is already a pro at this, and you are lucky to have her as your guardian. Your father is as sharp as a knife, and this combination of reason and intelligence sets you up to be the ultimate hybrid baby.

Here’s to dancing your way through life, clasping on to innocence as long as you can, with a few burps and a few farts along the way.

A timeless hug,
Your Mamu, Anish.

Trying to incubate my own social enterprise. Also these consume me: data, spoken-word and friggin’ Arsenal. https://anishmalpani.com

Trying to incubate my own social enterprise. Also these consume me: data, spoken-word and friggin’ Arsenal. https://anishmalpani.com