This used to be our favorite game. I would say a random word and Baby Kalyani would repeat her own version of it. The words didn’t have to make sense, and didn’t have to be in any order. With her four teeth, two above and two below, she said whatever she could. Although Tamil should be her native language, I was insistent on teaching her Bengali, Hindi, and whatever languages I knew.
I once gifted her two toys, and much to my delight, both of them became her favorite ones. One was Dolly the dolphin, 2 times as huge as Baby Kalyani is. The other was Teelu, the white mountain goat from Glacier National Park. On one hand she dragged Dolly everywhere, oh, what a Herculean effort for an 18 month old. On the other hand, Teelu had his nose almost dislocated with her showering of love whenever she rubbed her cute little nose with Teelu’s and did nosy nosy.
“Teelu nosy nosy”
“Noshy noshy teeyu”
I don’t think I’d heard anything that sounded sweeter. Baby Kalyani, right from the day I saw her first when she was a month old, held a very special place in my heart that few other babies (and even fewer adults) have ever occupied. In a way, she was my friend, my partner in crime, my subject whom I experimented my linguistic teachings on, the one and a half feet mini-version of me.
I left Seattle, and for months I repeated the same on the phone. I would say a word and she would say her own version. I loved it.
However, at some point, my little baby grew up, and like all cute things, this too ended up being another happy memory. I asked G to give her the phone.
I didn’t think I heard right. Wasn’t she supposed to say “Doyiii”? I tried again.
Her “L” was now as clear as any adult’s. That was when I was engulfed with a sad feeling. Baby Kalyani has grown up. And even before I know, all the baby talk, the cute words, vowels, and enunciations gone haywire would soon be replaced with grown up and perfect diction. Soon she will no longer scream “beebee” in excitement when she spots a baby half her size. She will say “baby”.
Wish all beebees remained beebees. Sighs.