It was a cold, wintry night back in the early 80s when I had just started school. Naturally, most details of the event are from my mom’s recounting them over and over again at every family get together.
It was a wedding we were attending and I must have been 3-ish. I was dressed in a white wedding gown my grandma had spent a fortune buying, the types bridesmaids wear in English weddings. Looking all cute and chubby and adorable, I went there with mom and dad.
Now I wasn’t a kid who used to jump on sofas or break stuff. I was a well-behaved kid, outside home. So while all the other kids were running around like crazy, I sat dutifully beside my mom, happily clinging to her and basking in the nice smells of her makeup and expensive silk saree. I am sure sitting on a chair my legs wouldn’t have reached the ground then.
After a volley of compliments from the other aunties, something on the lines of “Wow, what a cute little daughter you have, and she is so calm and well behaved”, my mom insisted that I go and play with the other kids. Not that I wanted to, I was more comfortable sitting with my mom. But then, since my mom insisted so much, I must have reluctantly gone to make friends with those monkeys running around and pulling at each other’s hair. Even there, not comfortable with befriending anyone, I marched towards a vacant chair at some quiet corner.
Now there was this huge drain/gutter in this rented wedding place which, instead of these morons securing with wooden planks, decided to cover up with thick cloth. And then they placed a few chairs close to it.
And of all chairs, I had to choose a broken one to sit on (Refer: Murphy’s Law). The moment I sat, the chair toppled, and the next moment I was neck deep in the drain, along with the cloth and chair.
Word traveled fast and someone yelled to the aunties- “Someone’s kid has fallen in the drain”. Now, almost all the moms ran to the spot, fearing if their child was the one. My mom however sat in peace, convinced that I wouldn’t have been the one running around and thus falling into the drain. Soon the other moms returned partially relieved and yelling at my mom- “Go, it’s you daughter in the gutter”.
My poor mom must have run for her life. Soon, I was lifted off the gutter by the armpits, my pretty white gown all brown and muddy, my little frame stinking like horse shit (or may be something worse). In that cold December night was I taken to the tube well and gallons of ice cold water was poured on me to wash me clean. Dinner be darned, mom had to carry my shivering self back home, which was quite far away. From dressing like a bridesmaid, I had returned home like a beggar, draped in nothing more but my mom’s shawl. And then my poor mom had to put up with a stinking baby the next few weeks.
So that is the story of a quiet baby falling into a gutter. Later, we heard that a few days earlier, a poor old woman, all dressed for the wedding had similarly fallen into the gutter. Even now, mom recounts this episode to others, or tells my granny-“Remember how she had fallen into the gutter……”.
Anyway, a word of advice. Just watch your kids the next time you are in a gathering. Washing clothes from the gutter might not be a very pleasant thing to do. You can of course get rid of those, but you cannot get rid of the baby, can you?
Ever since, my mom calls me gutter-baby in jest.