Have you heard of Lady Sneerwell? Met her and her sly sidekick Snake?
If you have read Sheridan’s ‘School of Scandal’, chances are that you already know them both. It doesn’t matter even if you haven’t. In my stories, Lady Sneerwell is that woman who can be anyone from my mother to that nameless woman whom I met at the coffeeshop, who thinks it is her duty and responsibility to poke her hooked, straight or flat nose into someone else’s business, and if possible provide a manual on how to look and live -‘The Sneer manual of appropriate living, appearance and existence’. Snake solves the question of gender equality by being the male version of this very respectable (according to Sneerwell standards) woman.
So in the years that I have existed in this beautiful world (if you slough off the cankerous human kind, it really is beautiful – the people and the world), I’ve met and continue to meet a lot of Sneerwells and Snakes that it is impossible to talk about all of them in a single post. (Please do not be misled by my doodle. Sneerwells come in all sizes and shapes) However, I will inaugurate the Sneerwell chronicles with this story of an April night (or was it July?)
Well, Mrs. Sneerwell paid us a visit at our family home that night with her daughter and grand daughter. She looked radiant as always and greeted me with “Have you gained weight again?” I smiled politely and told her that there might be a problem with her vision considering the fact that I had lost almost 10 kilos at that time. That’s when she noticed the subtle glint of a little diamond on my right nostril. Sneer well gasped and pointed at it.
“No one pierces their right nostril”
I glanced left and right, and tried to recollect all the faces I’ve seen that has had a little pin stuck on to their many shaped noses. I couldn’t recollect any. I calmed myself and said “Depends, North Indians pierce the right side, South Indians get the left pierced and other countries don’t even care which side. In my case, I happen to have a right nostril that is a bit more defined than the left. Meri marzi (My wish)”
The woman pointed her chin up and tried snubbing “Well, I have never heard of – ”
I didn’t hear the rest of it as i made sure whatever she was telling me now was well received by my ass.
Since we Indians believe in the much unwanted “Athithidevo Bhava” which apparently put us under Colonial rule for a long time (but we never learn, do we?); someone brought the usual sorts of munchies and chais and soon she settled down comfortably at the front porch with her little grand daughter who was eight months old at that time. As she bounced her up and down on her knees, she turned to my three year old son who was saying something and unleashed her wisdom
“Your child can’t talk properly yet. It is not clear.Show him to a doctor.” Not a bad advice, considering his speech was not that clear at that time as he was a late talker. She continued “Had you spent half the time you spent on facebook with him, he would have talked fluently by now”
And that. was. it.
I straightened up, smiled and told her this:
“Well, you know what. Your grand child is eight months and you are still bouncing her on your knees, telling me that your poor daughter needs help to look after a child and that’s why you moved in with them. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but before you judge me, you should know that I was back in that flat of mine in UAE with a three month old, without any help, and clueless as to how to look after him. I cooked, cleaned, looked after my child – bathed him, fed him and played with him. Days on stretch, he would not go to sleep and I’ve stayed awake with him. There were nights he would bawl continuously when he was sick or just cannot sleep. Those days, I stayed with him throughout the night, all the while exhausted and tired. I couldn’t call my mother over to bounce him on her knees so that I could take a nap. She was too far away. I’ve had days when my house was a mess and I would sleep with my baby, unconcerned about the thrown around clothes and uncooked food. There were days and nights when I have cried, finding all of it over whelming. And yes, I am proud of it – I’m proud of the fact that my child and I had learnt together our new roles in life. I’m proud that I did it all alone when most new mothers sought the help of their mothers. And yes, whenever I get time, I face book. I don’t watch television at all. When others spend their time before the screen, I catch up with my friends, relatives and connect to a world outside the four walls and find my ‘Me time’ on internet. When my baby wakes up, we play, we sing and we talk.”
“And if you have not known, kids develop differently. We have already taken him to a doctor. He says the child is fine. He will pick up eventually. People around me in UAE tell me that children there start talking late and if the doctor says it’s fine; it’s fine. ”
Thanks to those good souls, the burns from the the fire Mrs. Sneerwell had set upon on my mind was soothed. Some of them shared their experiences and told me that their kids too were late talkers. The second one picks up early since they have an elder sibling. It’s because they don’t see many people and don’t have the opportunity to interact with others of their own age. And no matter what we do as adults, sit and talk or show them videos, they pick up language easier when they are with their own kind. My son started talking fluently and singing rhymes when he was two and a half, thanks to my neighbour girls who always took him around to play with.
If your child has not started talking by the age of two, consult a doctor. If he says it’s ok, put him in a play group. And ignore Mrs. Sneerwell and her theories of her own making.
When he was four, one of my colleagues told me that it’s fascinating that he talks beautiful Malayalam. Last year, when I was doing my CELTA course, my trainer came in, a native English speaker and after talking to my boy who was seven at that time told us that he might be a good test subject for us to practice on as his English is quite good. I don’t know why but Mrs. Sneerwell flashed through my mind’s eye on both instances and all I could do was smile.