The first baby I remember holding in my arms was my nephew, Chimpu. I was around eight years old when his mummy, my cousin, came to stay for six months with her parents in our joint-family home.
My brother and I had excitedly decorated the bed in the room where the baby was about to stay with flowers (perhaps confusing the arrival of the new-born from the nursing home with the traditional arrival of a new-bride, when the marital bed is decorated with garlands). Sadly, our efforts were wasted because the hygiene-factor took precedence over the aesthetic-factor. The flowers were summarily removed, the bedspread changed, and then all was forgotten in the excitement of the arrival of the mint-fresh miracle.
Everything about the baby fascinated me – the oh-so-soft-skin, the bright-eyed gaze, the piercing yells, the tiny clenched fists, the paper-thin nails. I would visit him first thing in the morning, rush home from school - carefully washing my hands and feet before entering the sanctum sanctorum - to watch him sleep, or feed, or wave his limbs, or even do his surprisingly-yellow poop. To gaze, to sigh, perchance to touch (with a hand as gentle as a sigh), but I was happy just being near the baby - a living doll.
I especially loved to see him bathe, in his bright blue tub, splashing in the tepid soapy water, surrounded by all the Johnson & Johnson's paraphernalia and enveloped in the softest towels and sweetest smells.
As he was born in winter, my jethun (uncle) made a makeshift cradle from some tied to the then-unused ceiling-fan. As an extra precaution, the fan-switch was disconnected. And the baby would peacefully sleep or play in his rock-a-bye shelter.
When the baby was a few months old and his neck became steady and self-held, I was given the proud privilege of holding him for a few minutes, stiff and straight as a board, too conscious of my precious burden to really enjoy its warmth and wonder, till my nephew wailed loudly to make his (and my) discomfort known.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST BABY YOU HELD?