Me and my niece

                                                                                                       Picture: Swetha (me) and Swarnika(my niece)


       It was a crisp morning on June 15th ,2005 when I got a call from my father,"Its a girl" he said. My joy knew no bounds and I danced around my balcony announcing the news of the new arrival to my neighbours.         

       My elder siste,Smitha(26yrs), delivered a girl on June 15th,2005. It was such a blessing for all of us.She stayed with us all through her pregnancy and it was a wonderful bonding time for us. I would take care of her sleep,food,etc and be extra cautious to her. I even decorated my room with posters showcasing 'cute' babies.

       I had to go to college on the day of delivery, as I had my exam.I took my friends to canteen and everyone was surprised on this sudden treat.They actually started calling me "new mom" as in some cultures consider the mother's sister to be close to the baby,next to the father.

       I was excited the whole day,eager to get to the hospital.I observed the nature ;Fresh flowers bloomed that day,I found chickens with mother hen,puppies playing with each other,piglets running around and even the egg in the nest of my neighbour's house cracked and a beautiful sparrow chick appeared! I wondered,was this the nature's way of giving the newborn a 'natural'welcome ?

       It was 8pm when I saw my niece.I took her in my arms and felt the little bundle quiver. She let out a short cry and I had to calm her. I looked at her soft face,warm little hands,and her tiny feet wrapped beneath the hospital's white towel.I marveled and gazed at the tiniest human in my hand.When I looked at her,I thought she must have come from a beauty parlour-her eyebrows looked like  a perfect symmetry and she had thick black hair! Her nails were big and I wondered was she filing them in the womb?

       I held her for 15 minutes.I never knew her arrival would change my life.I was just 17 years of age at that time and my life was filled with 'going to college and coming back home'.I felt that I am too young to be an aunt. I never new that taking a new responsibility will change my perspectives on being an aunt.

       I decorated my house for homecoming of my sister and the little one.It was from then on that I embraced my new role.I was overly cautious to my niece-putting her to sleep,checking on her from time to time,cleaning the whole house floor with 'Dettol' and so on.Everything around was spick and span .It was time for her naming ceremony and we named her 'Swarnika" which means "The golden one"

       That was just the beginning.What lay ahead was a roller coaster ride.It was really a tough job to put her to sleep,any tiny amount of noise would wake her up.We tried all means to make her sleep.It was like to don our thinking caps to find out solutions.My sister resumed her job after Swarnika was 3 months and hence I had to take care of her most of the time.

       As she grew,I felt that we all together crossed a milestone with her.Her first crawl,her first laugh,her first attempt to sit,etc meant a lot to me.I recorded all these in my diary.I would show her various things and teach her the names of colors,trees,animals,etc. She was 9 months old and she had been falling sick often. we suspected a new tooth must be the problem.We waited for her tooth to come,but with no results. One morning after she woke up, I took bread to give her.When i inserted my finger in her mouth with the piece of bread,she just chewed my finger and there was a sharp pain.I realised that she got her first tooth!.We could see it coming out slowly after a couple of days!

       She would sit in the balcony grill of our apartment and watch strangers come and go on the streets.I was returning home from college and she saw me and stood up on the grill base.She shouted  "SAYDA SAYDA SAYDA".My heart just skipped a beat when she said that!.I ran home and just hugged her tightly.I felt as if all things of the past are forgiven and something new lay before me.It was like as if a curtain was removed and new light was shown.(Generally Malayalees pronounce my name as "Sayda" instead of "Swetha".the "t" sound is substituted by the 'da' sound)

       I became close to her even more.I was her playmate and rhyme teacher.She would come behind me everywhere I went.It feels good to pick her up,carry her around,play witth her and also cuddle her.I would sing to her when she would sleep and when I stopped,she would get up and tell me to sing again

       As I sit back and think, I realized that the birth of my niece saw a new person in me. My thinking completely changed from self-centered to thinking for others, I started admiring nature more and also my heart opened the door of outpouring of love and care. My friends speak to me more openly because they trust me that I completely understand. I always placed others first before thinking about myself. Well, go shopping and first thing I buy is for my niece! 

       People may ask a father or a mother or a grandfather or a grandmother on how the arrival of a baby changes their lives, but rarely an aunt. Well, let me tell you, the outcome of being an aunt result in more love, care, and unexpected adventures. Above all, you realize that God sends His wonderful creation to bring out a new person in you.


 -Swetha Shenoy

(Swarnika is now four years old)


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