Bringing up her kids.
My sister-in-law, Ria was on cloud nine ever since she got the job of an office assistant in the Steel Authority of India limited. Her brother that’s my husband, and I supported her in realizing her dream to stand on her own feet.
On the day to join duty, Ria collected her lunch from me and took the bus to the Steel plant office. Ria found the work interesting. Days rolled on without being noticed. We celebrated her promotion to the next level within a year.
And then she married Surya, her brother’s colleague and friend with whom she was in love for quite some time.
A fresh new chapter began in Ria’s life.
The first few months post-marriage flew fast, while adjusting to a life with her husband and in-laws.
Ria’s baby girl, Siri was born two years later. A beautiful bundle of joy, Siri was the apple of everyone’s eye in the family.
Siri grew up in the loving company of her grandparents. However, Ria made it a point to spend time playing and petting her daughter after coming home from work. We know that she took her to the park almost everyday to have the company of other kids. Siri squealed with joy whenever she had a chance to throw ball at the kids playing around.
When Siri was two, Ria and her husband shifted to a new house due to an argument with her father-in-law over financial matters. Now, the question was, who was going to look after Siri during her parents’ absence from home? All of us were busy with our lives. There were no agencies around to provide a baby sitter.
Luckily, Ria made friends with the lady, living on the other side of the street. Ratna was older than Ria and had no children of her own. She agreed to look after Siri during Ria’s working hours.
Baby Siri was active and easy-going by nature. She was happy playing with her toys and the people around. She wouldn’t cry or throw tantrums, when her mother left her in the morning at Ratna’s house with her lunch, milk and other things she would need during the day.
One day, Ratna was talking to a neighbor while Siri played on the front porch. After sometime, with a teddy bear in her arms, she stood up and wobbled down the two steps leading to the street.
Suddenly, a crow swooped down and startled the girl. It was trying to get the slice of bread left at random on the porch. The little girl was accidentally scratched by it. She started crying. Ratna rushed to the porch and found Siri, bleeding. “Oh no Siri, why have you gone out?” asked Ratna, much panicked.
Siri pointed to her house. “You wanted to go home?”
The baby nodded. Ratna took her into her arms and comforted her.
When Ria hear about the mishap, she felt sad. She rang me up and told me of the incident. She repented over her haste in moving out of her in-laws’ house. Nothing like having a family to look after an infant, she realized.
Quite by coincidence, her in-laws wanted their son’s family to return home to them. They missed their granddaughter as well as her parents. They reunited without much ado.
However, within a short time, Ria was allotted quarters in the Steel Plant colony exclusively built for the staff. Much to their delight, there was a play school and a park in the vicinity. So the family moved out once again, this time in a happy mood.
Siri progressed from play school to the elementary school. Ria and Surya took special interest in their child’s welfare. During dinner they exchanged their day’s activities. On weekends all the three would bike around their colony. Surya would take her on fun rides to the ice cream parlor on his scooter. Siri loved these outings. On one such trip, they had a minor accident. Siri was slightly injured. She had a gash on her cheek. The scar remained for a long time.
Siri was thrilled with the arrival of her baby sister, Tanvi, younger to her by six years. Their grandma stayed with them to help till Tanvi was able to walk.
Ria would drop them both at the school and by three in the afternoon, Siri would collect her baby sister from play school and together walk home and play till their mom returned from work.
Weekends spent at their grandparents’ house were memorable for the girls. Siri’s main attraction as Ria told me was their garden with a variety of plants, seasonal and forever- green trees. As a third grader, she had science lessons covering both the plant world and the animal kingdom.
On one Sunday, in the garden of grandparents,
“Siri, look at those ferns and those green croutons. You can see them throughout the year. Some of these short ferns with white flowers that smell like a lemon , do not live in winter. They spring up only in summer.”
It was obvious that Ria was equally fascinated with the plant behavior, and loved to talk to her children about them.
Showing fruit-bearing trees like the Mango, Batavia orange and the Guava, Ria explained to them, their season of fruiting, the nutrients they bear and the oxygen they supply.
The air was laden with the scents of roses and lilies and an Indian special flower called Sampangi, also known as Champa. Siri loved both the green and the orange varieties that smelt heavenly. .
As her mother showed them, Siri looked at them with curiosity and tried to match them with their names in her note book. Tanvi tagged along her with older sister, staring at the trees and birds in wide-eyed wonder.
Even as they were on a garden tour, Siri spotted a birdie tapping rhythmically on the branches of the Mango tree.
“Well, that’s called a woodpecker, sweetie. Look over there! See that orange-breasted sun bird! You have them in the notes your teacher gave you, don’t you?”
Siri was endlessly amazed at these close encounters with the plants and birds.
"Ma, today I saw a parrot, eating fruit on the guava tree,” she told her mom excitedly. “Its colors are really beautiful.”
Equally fascinating were the creatures and insects during rainy season such as frogs, caterpillars and butterflies. Ria never missed out on an opportunity to show something new to Siri and Tanvi in the garden.
These object lessons given by their mother went far in laying a firm foundation in their education. Exams became a fun activity. Games and projects kept them productively busy. During summer holidays they would camp out with their classmates as arranged by the school. They had several such excursions during which they could mix and make new friends.
Birthdays and holiday trips to grandparents' home and to our place, gave them a chance to relax with video games, swimming and reading books they loved.
A few years on, they joined college and pursued careers of their choosing. Thanks to parents, grandparents, friends and teachers, they had plenty of freedom, security and love that went into their growing process.
Ria and Surya were the proud parents of Siri, now a well-known Botanist and Tanvi, a wild life photographer. All of us were proud of their career choices and felt sure that future was going to be brighter for them.
Word Count: 1255
Note- This is based on the true events in my sister-in-law’s life.