happy family
Photo: JESSICA ROCKOWITZ/UNSPLASH

Happy families

My mother once told me that I had come into this world much before my actual date of arrival. And because of that, I was always in a hurry and reached places well ahead of the appointed hour.

In fact, it was a freezing morning in January when I had decided to make my presence felt. But the kicks my infant-self gave my mum from inside her stomach were so gentle that she did not even consider it as labour pain and refused to go to the hospital.

Her Irish doctor, who used to love to cycle to my grandparents’ estate, had dropped in for a courtesy call and examined her, almost as an afterthought. He was horrified to discover that my mother was on the verge of giving birth to me, so hot water and towels were sent for immediately.

My grandmother rolled up her sleeves to step in as a nurse substitute, while my grandfather shouted out incoherent instructions, and then, within moments, I was welcomed into the family fold, roughly three weeks before schedule!

As I was the only grandchild to be born in that ancient matriarchal mansion, the occurrence of my birth became a kind of folklore that was filled with many twists and turns, depending on who was recounting it.

Also, in all the confusion, nobody thought of informing the registration authorities, so I did not have a legal birth certificate for a long time.

When I complained to my parents at a later stage, they said I must look upon it as a blessing because my date of birth was nobody else’s business but mine, and it was entirely up to me to decide how old I wanted to become.

Right! But this also meant that I could never get an astrological chart drawn up because no one could pinpoint the exact time of my appearance. I requested for one when I was older, but my father stressed that he did not believe in such claptrap and the idea was unceremoniously dropped.

However, like any other fifty-something woman, I get depressed on the eve of my birthday. No matter how hard I try, the feeling of melancholy drags on to constantly remind me of my mortality. Till my parents were alive, mine was a normal happy family, but somehow after their passing, a few disagreements spoilt relationships. It pains me deeply to acknowledge this, but I can’t seem to be able to do anything about it.

Swami Vivekananda, the famous Hindu monk and philosopher, had said, “if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way”.

With the 161st birth anniversary of this great man coinciding with my own birthday this year, I decided to take a leaf out of his book and let everyone go whichever way they wanted to.

“Birthday quiz,” our daughter announced suddenly.

I pretended not to hear her.

“If you want to be happy, be,” she read out.

I snorted in response.

“Who wrote that?” she asked me.

“Complete the quotation first,” I demanded.

“That is the full quote,” she emphasised.

“I’m old and can’t remember anything,” I frowned.

“Happy families are all alike – same author,” she prompted.

“Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” I replied.

“Exactly,” she beamed at me.

“Leo Tolstoy! Opening lines of Anna Karenina,” I smiled.

“Happy Birthday, Mom,” she twinkled.

By Nickunj Malik
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Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.