On April 21st, 2006, if you ran into me on the maternity ward floor in Malathi Memorial Hospital, I bore a strong resemblance to any expectant father. A few minutes past 11 am that same day, I became an uncle to a bouncing baby boy.
For those who have trodden the path, it is one of life’s most enthralling adventures. It is my opinion that the joy one thinks one will derive from parenthood is largely an illusion. Nappy, baby powder and cerelac ads make parenthood look like a slice of heaven. On the contrary, there is always a sense of apprehension in parenting- when will my child talk, walk, become the teacher’s pet, break the neighbour’s glass, start using cuss words, fail in an exam, among many others. When the child finally leaves home, parents can’t wait to be grandparents – that’s where unbridled joy lies. Scour the shelves in any book store and you will find that the parenting section has plenty of sugar coated advice on how to be an amazing mom/dad and raise loving families like you see in movies with happy endings. But however hard you search, you won’t find a book on how to be the best uncle/aunt you can be, or how to raise self-confident nephews and nieces.
As an uncle, all I have to do is show up, be the hero and return them to their parents when it’s time to put them to sleep. Children have their own associations. It is a rare occurrence to have either of my nephews come to me asking for a diaper change. Nannies and parents are earmarked for that. But for an evening in the park followed by ice cream, presto, you’re the person who’ll sneak them out and teach them to lie to their parents, keeping a straight face. My nephews have made my visits to Chennai, a city I formerly abhorred for its weather, something I look forward to.
Sometimes, aunts and uncles assume an irritation quotient and slip into the role of agony aunts and uncles, advising you on life, offering to find you a life partner, telling you what to study and generally, being bores. Not all, but some. It is my own reverent wish that I don’t metamorph into one of those people.
Being an uncle has offered me some of life’s most pristine, innocent and hilarious moments, and has freed me from the constraints of ennui and listlessness. Sample some of these interactions:
1.(Occurred during India’s torrid series in England in 2011)
Pawan: "Aarnav, let’s play cricket."
Aarnav: "ok, I’ll be India, you be England."
Pawan: "ha ha, ok, that means you’ve already lost 4-0." (referring to the test series result)
Aarnav: "No pawan, this is not tests, this is ODIs."
2.Pawan: "Aarnav, if you cycle and swim, you’ll become strong like Hanuman."
Aarnav: "But Aarnav’s don’t have tails."
3. Pawan: "Aarnav, how was the match today?"
Aarnav: "Everybody played very well, but everyone got out."
4. Father: "Aarnav, the house is in the outskirts of Chennai."
Aarnav (in all seriousness): "Then appa, what are the inskirts?"
5.The doctors’ son
While playing scrabble, Aarnav gets the letter e. His choice of word – endoscopy.
On August 9, 2010, I became a proud uncle for the second time to Anuraag. All the things that you attribute to a father, I encompass in my role – devoted, proud, occasionally, reluctant disciplinarian.
It is said that fatherhood changes a man’s life. Until then, unclehood will do just fine, thank you very much.