(This blog is an excerpt from my book Effective Parenting: A New Paradigm)
My father came to live with us a when Ankita had just turned ten – months, not years. He had retired as a professor four years ago and spent the initial period catching up with his friends and relatives. A forced bachelor, he had no responsibilities and wanted to make the best use of his new found freedom.
My wife Madhavi had to join duty after her year long maternity and child care leave. I had hinted to my dad that we would need his help, in the initial years at least, since we did not want to leave Ankita at the mercy of a maid servant. He had assured me, “Don’t worry beta, I’ll be there a couple of days before Madhavi joins office.”
“But Babuji, a day or two won’t do. You should be there at least a month ahead. After all Ankita has to get used to you.”
Babuji had laughed, “Beta you are forgetting I am her dadaji, the bond between a grandfather and a grandchild is much stronger than you think.”
And he was right. Ankita was a very shy and sensitive toddler and would rarely go to anyone else. Even with me she was comfortable only when in a good mood. On every other occasion it was ‘mama’ mia for her!
The first ‘encounter’ between Ankita and Babuji is etched in my memory forever. When Babuji entered our living room Ankita was sitting on the floor playing with her stuffed puppy. He went down on his knees, spread his arms wide and very softly said, “Ankita beta, aaja (come).”
She looked at him, her eyes growing a wee bit wide with curiosity. She then stumbled to her feet and toddled straight into his arms. It was as if she had been in his hug for all the ten long months of her existence on planet earth.
I and Madhavi looked at each other stunned. That was only the beginning. By the time Madhavi left for office, Ankita was as comfortable with Babuji as she had been with her mum. From the time we went for work (we are employed in the same steel plant and have a 9 to 5.30 job) till the time we returned in the evening, Babuji took complete care of Ankita.
Gradually, we came to know from the maid servant and the neighbours the extent of his concern and commitment. Babuji always gave her a bath, placing her in his lap. The routine would commence with him pouring hot water first on his feet to test whether it was okay for the little one. Every dish that was cooked for Ankita too was first sampled by her grandpa and only after his clearance was given to her.