Mangala Rao


'No! Samana, no!'

Hiiiiiiiii! My name is Samana; I'm almost a year old. Today, we are going have a big party at home; all of Amma's friends and Appa's friends will be here. This morning, just like every other morning, I had to wake Amma and Appa up. They are such big people, but they can't get up on their own! I have to crawl all over them, pull their hair, poke my fingers into their mouth and ears; only then will they get up.

Soon, Amma and Mangala Dodamma are in the kitchen, cutting stuff. If I go into the kitchen now, they will surely say "No! Samana, no!" So let me see if there are other interesting things I can do.

I think I'll go into the bathroom. It's a fascinating place. There is a box in the corner, filled with paper and hair. It's very light and I can easily tip it over. See! I've done it again. I'm strong!

There is also a big white thing there and, if I can find the right place and pull, it gets longer and longer! My! That's the longest I've ever been able to pull it. Oops! There's Amma yelling, "No, Samana, don't play with the toilet paper! And I've asked you so many times not to overturn the dustbin!"

What I don't understand is: Why have such interesting things around the house when I'm not allowed to play with them?

Amma is looking pretty cross, so I better go to Dodamma. She is really easy to fool. Any time I want to be carried, all I have to do is to go to her, grab her legs and look up. She falls for that look every time! Amma and Appa pick me up only if I cry for a while.

Yesterday, we went out in that big, covered thing -- the car. I don't like it when they tie me up in my car seat. The elders get to do all the nice things, like sitting in the front and turning the wheel round and round. If I try to do that, everyone starts saying "No! Samana, no!" Sometimes, I think that's their favorite word!

Harish dodappa is also very nice. He allows me to play with everything, including that black thing he carries with him all the time -- the one that sometimes makes a ringing noise. Other adults don't allow me to play with things I really like. Like the pile of shoes and socks there, in the corner by the door. I keep trying to pick up one of them and put it in my mouth, but I get scolded every time. Adults are buddhus. They don't know how much fun doing something like that is!

It's time for my bath. Amma just went into the bathroom with a towel and my soap. I love taking bath, but not when water is poured on my head or when it goes inside my eyes.

Now comes the dressing-up part. Amma has stitched a nice long dress for me. She calls it langa-dawani. She makes me wear a long gold chain around my neck. It's rather nice, especially since it is long enough to go into my mouth. Amma also has a long chain of black beads around her neck. Whenever she carries me, I try to chew it.

She combs my hair and puts a long bindi on my forehead. She tells me sternly not to get messy, not to play in water, not to roll around and not to lose the chain.

Sigh! Life as a baby can really be hard!

I think the party is about to begin. Many people have come in all of a sudden. Hey! There's someone my size and he's coming near me. I think I'll try and talk to him. Hmmm! He's kissed me -- a wet, sloppy kiss; just like the ones I give. I think he's nice; besides, he has a nice big toy in his hand. I wonder if he'll let me to play with it?

Oof! He's trying to pick me up! I don't think he can. He is not big enough. Aaaahhhhh! He's dropped me! Waaahhhhhhh! There's Amma and another lady, his amma, I think. I'm sure Amma can make the hurt go away. His amma spanks him and says, "You are just three. How can you carry a baby when you are a baby yourself? Don't ever try to carry Samana."

I hope he doesn't come near me again.

I see another baby, he's even smaller than me. Hmmm! I wonder if I can carry him. He seems about half my size, it should be a breeze. I crawl over to him as quickly as I can, but there is a lady sitting near him. As soon as she sees me, she picks him up and says, "No, Samana, you can't carry Vishnu. You are way too small." How do they know that when they will not even let me try?

I like this party, except for the fact that there are so many men. They look scary and ferocious. One man -- Amma says he is Prasad uncle -- starts clapping and talking to me in a loud voice. I don't like that! Dodamma catches the expression on my face and comes running to pick me up. She is angry with Prasad uncle, "Why do you make such loud noises? You are scaring Samana."

Another uncle heads towards me. I cling tightly to Dodamma. He sticks his tongue out and makes the kind of funny noises Amma tells me not to do. But this uncle is doing the same thing! I really don't understand these big people. They make life so complicated.

Actually, I think the uncles are okay as long as they don't try to pick me up. I like only two men -- Appa and Dodappa. Everyone else looks rather untrustworthy! Luckily, Amma or Dodamma are always around to protect me from guests who try to pick me up. If they are not, I just let out a loud howl and the uncle concerned quickly puts me down! These people are so big, yet they are scared of a little baby like me!

Now comes the interesting part. Amma brings a big white thing, with blue and red and pink designs on it. It even has a candle, which Appa lights. Amma picks me up and asks me to blow the candle. But I don't want to blow it; I want to touch it. This is the first time I seeing a candle from such a close distance. Amma, though, is holding my hand tightly; she must have guessed my intention. Everyone is looking at me and saying, "Blow the candle, Samana." Wahhhh! I can't take all this pressure!

Amma holds me close and consoles me. Appa blows the candle, cuts the cake and quickly puts away the big knife with its bright red bow. Cheh! Bad luck. I was hoping they would forget to take it away. These adults don't trust me at all! Dodamma and Dodappa take lots of pictures. Everyone sings 'Happy birthday to you.'

Appa gives cake -- that's what I heard him call it! -- to all the people. Amma gives me a big slice on a plate; I am really surprised. But there is no fun in eating from such a small plate, especially when there is a soft, white carpet all around me. Things are definitely tastier and easier to eat if first smeared all over the carpet. You should try it sometime.

We kids understand such things very well. All the other kids come near me with their plates; we sit together and make nice, colourful designs on the carpet with our cakes. This is so much fun that something tells me the elders are going to be very angry. Luckily, everyone is busy talking.

Hey, look... Someone has left a big glass filled with some orange liquid on the floor! I think I'll add that to my design; it'll look even more colourful. There! Now it looks like an orange sunrise over a blue-and-white sea.

Looks like the party is coming to an end! Everyone comes and pinches my cheeks, says strange, funny-sounding things and leaves.

Most of the people who came gave me big boxes covered with bright coloured paper. I want to get my hands on them. Amma has just opened one and they are all looking at something. But I don't know what can be more interesting than the coloured paper! Let them keep what's inside the box, as long as they don't take away the paper.

Hey, look! If I lick the paper and then touch it, my fingers turn the same colour. I should ask Amma and see if she wants to try it. I tap her and show her my hand and tongue. She immediately says, "No! Samana, no!" Hmmm! I should have known.

Amma immediately washes my hands and my mouth. She removes the chain from my neck and makes me wear my favourite pink nightie. Aaah! Peace at last.

I had so much fun today! I think the party was a great success. I got to taste a lot of stuff I'm normally not allowed to eat.

I'm not at all tired, but Amma, Appa, Dodamma and Dodappa are all looking exhausted! I think I had better not make any more noise. Actually, I am feeling a little drowsy. I think I'll just suck my thumb and go to sleep like the good little girl I am!

Samana, who is the apple of her parents' eye, wrote this diary with Aunty Mangala's help.

Page design: Dominic Xavier

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