It usually involves pain, discomfort, lack of sleep or rest, being ready to face the unexpected or the unreasonable anytime, leads to crankiness and exasperation, and can entail a thorough revisiting of primary studies or embarrassing situations outside. But despite all, motherhood is special, especially moments like when her hand suddenly finds a small, warm one thrust in for reassurance (or swatted away few years hence) or when they become glad of a ribcage to keep in a heart swelled with pride.
Stories of motherhood are in essence the stories of humanity itself, but most of them are not recorded – the ups and downs, the bonding and the battles, the frustrations and the fears, the hopes and happiness, and the tenderness and temper tantrums (latter not restricted to kids.. sorry, mothers!)
Unfortunately only a few happen to be shared outside family, and among these, most deal with celebrity moms or kids. Among the exceptions, and an outstanding one, was Erma Bombeck, and Kiran Manral, the author of this rib-tickling but endearing account of the roller-coaster ride in delivering and nurturing a new life, is a worthy successor. A prolific and popular blogger and author of three witty, readable books, Manral proves her credentials with her first non-fiction work, growing out of her blog posts, spanning moments after childbirth to her most spirited boy’s 10th year.
She strikes up a fondly irreverent tenor right from the beginning, referring to her son as “The Brat”, but her real – and composite – sentiments are evident in the dedication – to “the sprog of my womb, sparkle in my eye, the tenor in my yell, the grey in my hair, and the beat of my heart”. The first glimpse of her newborn actually becomes an attempt to see the “little mewling ball of flesh” – with the “first moments of the mother-child bonding were marred by the fact that I couldn't see too clearly” (her spectacles were with a solicitous mother who had promptly kept them away).
Consequently, “my first view of the offspring was that of a red blur that looked somewhat like a newborn kitten or puppy..”, confessing “maternal love did not well immediately in the maternal breast”.
And that was even before he began bawling!
Manral takes us down the years, in her same inimitably witty style, chronicling various milestones of not only her son, but also in her own life and role as mother. These encompass visits to the paediatrician with a long list of questions till the long suffering man sighs and tells her he thinks she ought to “stop Googling up things and worrying about them”, the days of playschool, where the kid runs in without a backward glance and she joins a group of mothers sniffing into their hankies, the desperate struggle to institute a sleep routine (and get some herself), and the routines of “frenship, besht frens and second besht frens” (Manral reproduces the cadences of the kid’s speech perfectly – and mercilessly) and more.
Then there are experiences of travels and holidays with a child in tow, about healthy food, dress codes (he is most happy with “jakkid wid jeans”), sensitising the child to learn and report any sort of abuse (which leads to a piquant situation when he complains against his own grandmother to the parents), the tickling issues of explaining sex and death (including the sombre happenings of 26/11) and the biggest problem, getting “boreding”, whether it is at school, friends’ birthday parties or family functions.
Complementing her recollections is advice on a range of issues by experts - some of them being more seasoned mothers too - and some as subversively funny, eg. Shunali Khullar Shroff, author of "Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother" and frequent traveller, who suggests leaving children with grandparents - the reason is not very altruistic!)
A book not just for mothers or mothers-to-be, this book about the
magic of shaping life needs to be read by everyone – including the other part of the parenting team, and especially by children. A sequel would be eagerly awaited and welcome. IANS