Virtual Aunt


On a humid evening in February last year, I was in a long, snaking queue of passengers waiting to board a flight.

My evening was magically transformed, when I received a call that my sister had just delivered a baby girl. And from then on, till I boarded the flight, it was just excited texting and calling on our various family and extended family groups.

When I landed at my destination, and switched on my phone, I was greeted by the cutest picture of my tiny niece, her eyes tightly shut, tiny fingers curled around a cosy blanket. And my heart filled with love and tenderness!!!

In mid-June last year, I had the opportunity to visit my sister and of course my darling niece, who was by then gurgling, making eye-contact and dishing out sweet toothless smiles of recognition. She was like a tiny doll, and I carried her with me wherever I went.

Soon it was time to head back home, to catch another flight – back to a world inhabited by teens, a world far removed from gurgles and toothless grins.

And the year flew by on wings, and I watched my niece virtually, on video calls each week – watched her crawl, sit up, have solids, recognize colours; watched her hair grow out into beautiful curly ringlets, watched her smiling with her first cute milk tooth.

And thus 2019 disappeared to inhabit the pages of history. When we rang in the New Year, little did I know that I would not be able to travel at all this year – that I would miss my niece’s first birthday party.

A few months ago, on a call with my sister, I watched my niece taking her first tentative steps.

I am now a fully qualified Virtual Aunt, who engages her niece on video calls. Now, when I call my sister, my niece ambles over to grin and babble with her Virtual Aunt, whom she now recognizes very well.

Image courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

The best gift was last week, when she walked over and said, “Hi Pamma”….( a baby version of Periamma, or mom’s elder sister). My heart just melted.

I thank technology for making such beautiful moments possible during these difficult times.

Lipsticks and little girls


It was a sweltering day, many years ago, when we had the naming ceremony for my baby girl, who was only 3 weeks old.  My mom’s home was teeming with aunts, uncles, cousins and little nieces and nephews, all of whom had come to bless and welcome our little bundle of joy.

I received hundreds of tips on being a mother, and hundred ‘must-know’ things about child rearing, and a dozen versions of who my baby resembled in the family. It was a normal, Indian family celebration.

I was a little tired by the afternoon, and when my mom caught my eye and realized that I was tired, she signalled for me to go in and take a quick nap. I slipped away, unnoticed.

I went and lay down, my eyes closing involuntarily. While still asleep, I heard something. I opened my eyes and realized that one of my nieces was in the room, before the dresser mirror.

I could see her reflection in the mirror, as she made faces at herself, and then tried on one of the lipsticks. Gently opening the tube, she used her finger to apply a dark maroon lipstick on her lips. I could imagine how good and beautiful she felt. After sometime, she quietely slipped out of the room.

Image courtesy – Shutterstock

I laughed, fully awake by then. I remembered how, as a little girl, my favourite game was to play ‘teacher’. The role demanded that I have long hair, and that I wear lipstick.

The hair problem was easily resolved. I found a piece of black cloth from my mom’s sewing kit and tied it around my hair, allowing the black cloth hair to fall over my shoulders to  the front. My students ‘had’ to see my long hair.

The lipstick posed a problem. My mom did not use lipstick, neither did my aunt. But my teachers at school wore lipstick, so I needed to wear lipstick to look authentic. Then I hit upon the idea of using the red liquid that Indian women use to wear bindis (the dots on the forehead). This was available in abundance, so during the afternoons when my gran, aunt and mom napped, I applied generous amounts of red on my lips and taught and educated many children every afternoon.

Lipsticks and makeup were forgotten till high school and university, when my mom gifted me my own lipstick for my birthday. I still remember its shade, copper brown. I still wonder how my mom knew what would look good on me! I used that tube till there was nothing left. 

After that first tube, lipsticks became a part of my life, and over the years I have tried many shades, and have settled on a few that suit me well.

A few years ago, when my son had his school concert, the little girls in his class were all dressed up like pretty dolls and fairies. However, a few girls had their lips in a weird kind of pout. On asking their moms, I found out that the girls had worn lipstick for the first time, and that they did not want for it to go away. I remember how much I laughed that day.

Now, my daughter grimaces when I talk about makeup or lipstick or accessories. She is ‘at home’ in her jeans and tees.

I smile as I look into the future, when my daughter will want to try on lipsticks and makeup. She just doesn’t know it yet!