It felt so distant. It felt so far fetched. It never felt like an eventuality. Well I was wrong. Every other child becomes 12 every other day and so did Anoushrayan; on 7th Feb 2019.
The naughty but innocent eyes were expressing feelings yet beyond his comprehension. The little toddling feet had grown taller and stronger than mine. His palm was bigger, his grip was firmer and we now held hands, more for me in need of support.
Flashback 2008. After his first birthday, which we celebrated in Science-city, Kolkata along with both the grandparents, I and Rajib left for Bangalore and my parents and Raspy left for Guwahati – Assam, where my dad was posted at that time in the capacity of a plant protection officer for the govt of India. We visited them off and on. The residence in Guwahati was in a delightful surrounding. It was some distance between the city and the airport and was like an isolated hamlet. Raspy got ample space to play and explore. He got introduced to numerous animals and birds. The two storey house faced the main road and the hill range thereafter. At the back it had a water-body and then fields.
Raspy was a happy child and very much at ease with my parents. Mom had been there since he was born infact before that, so he didn’t differentiate much between mom and me. Mom had put up two huge photographs of me and Rajib on the wall and used to identify them as mamma and dada to him. When I visited them the first time a wonderful thing happened. I had just settled in the drawing room, he had been sleeping when I arrived and presently he was coming out of the bedroom, he looked at me, looked at the photograph, gave a broad grin and ran back into the room. I followed and sat down. He slowly came to me and perched up. It was lovely to see the recognition and love in his beautiful little eyes. He also recognized Rajib with ease when he arrived a few days later and was very happy to have all of us around.
We got his mane cut, having got a barber over to our place and Raspy happily slept through it.
In October Raspy came to Bangalore for a visit with my parents. He was thrilled to see and board the train as earlier he had travelled by plane only. We went on a trip to Mysore and had a lovely time exploring the zoo and the animals through his eyes. Raspy’s jaw literally dropped as he saw the Giraffe. We also visited Udupi and Raspy was at a beach for the first time as we went to Malpe Beach. He loves beaches.
Back then we only had a scooty pep and he loved the little rides standing in front or sandwiched between us.
Flashback 2009. We had trouble toilet training Raspy. One such evening, I wanted to scold him for not trying to learn and took him into my room. I made him stand on the bed so that we became the same height and he could see me in the eye. After a short while I realized he was intently following my mouth and was very intrigued. All this while I was scolding in English, (as ‘am comfortable in the language when agitated or overwhelmed or want to make a point) and there stood my 2 yr old baby with an appreciative look and happy nod. I continued, trying to sound somber. When he had enjoyed enough he jumped on to me and started eating my nose. The last accident on bed happened when he was 6 yrs old which of course was a one off case, by 4 Raspy was well trained.
The time he took to get toilet trained is inversely proportional to the time he took to be english alphabet trained. When he was a little over 4, we were once travelling by train and he started reading station names, as big as Visakhapatanam. We are a family of readers so we have numerous books at our homes, be it Kolkata or Guwahati or Bangalore. So little raspy started reading voraciously, from bottle labels to magazines, one could see the pleasure in his cute almond eyes when he read. He actually always read ever since, he can’t sit without reading. Though now he has choices and preferences, that time he just read not knowing most of the things he read. It was very comforting in a world where parents were literally having to dance on their heads to make their kids read.
The first three years of his life we kept on travelling to and fro between Bangalore, Kolkata and Guwahati, sometimes I / we went, sometimes he came over with my parents or we brought him and dropped back. He was happy everywhere.
I went back to Kolkata with him to stay with mom. Rajib joined us for a short while. He was a little over 2 then and it was time for school. The scheduled day for school arrived and we were all very excited. He was very happy to hang the tiny bag on his shoulders which had a snack box and bottle, all decked up in new cloths. Thus three of us – me, Rajib and Roddur, hand in hand, walked down the lane to the school, namely Kidzee, a little distance away. Raspy’s official nick name is Roddur.
All went well till the lady help took his hand from ours and started to get inside. It was mayhem. We had to bring him back. We tried for a couple of days and then had to give up.
I started looking for other options and found one which had a more open atmosphere. The kidzee near our place was basically a huge decorated hall and apparently Roddur was uncomfortable to go in a walled place without us.
Welland Goldsmith is a school of good repute and they have a kindergarden standing separate from the main school building. Their round hall in a standalone structure had big windows on all sides and was quite airy and sunny. Somehow Roddur liked it to my relief. I wanted him to socialise, mingle with other kids of his age and he did fairly well in getting along with his mates and teachers in the school. All this while he had only been surrounded by adults, mostly people the age of his grandparents.
I was scared if I would be able to recognise him amidst all those tiny tots and an experienced teacher reassured me, “…even if you don’t, he will find you…” and every day he would find me and run back into my arms when the school got over.
We visited Pondicherry in October and once again Raspy loved the beach though there wasn’t much of it. He enjoyed Auroville, the famed concept village. He also loved the boulevard. On the way back we stopped for cakes and it had rum, the poor little guy could not process it and vomited.
Flashback 2010. After a short stint at the play school in Kolkata, Roddur came over to live with us in Bangalore. He was almost 3 then and we decided to get him admitted in a school called Fusco’s School. It is a missionary school run by the nuns. We liked the grounds and the classrooms. It was a perfect place for a tiny tot to discover his surroundings and he enjoyed his Pre-KG and LKG with the wonderful teacher Martha madam, who made him want to go back to the place; but the beginning was a nervous affair.
Anoushrayan was to face an interview the next day for admission in Pre-KG. The Principal would interact with the child, we were briefed previously. We expected her to ask him his name, our name, favourites and stuff like that. We felt it was most imperative to know one’s name; so we had taught him well, both ours and his.
Context one – few days back we had watched the movie Madagascar, and he loved it. He identified himself with Alex(the lion), me with Gloria(the hippo) and Rajib with Marty(the zebra).
Context two – Since his early childhood days my mom would read to him the wonderful Bengali poems and stories written by Sukumar Roy (Satyajit Ray’s father); it is a delight to read them even today. However we identified Anoushrayan with a character called ‘Hijibijbij’, which literally means nonsense. It is a seriously funny character who would make one roll with laughter. So was Anoushrayan, and thus the connect.
Starting a couple of days before the D-day, every time we or anybody else would ask him his name, it was either Alex or Hijibijbij. The eve of the D-day really got me nervous. This was a school in our proximity, a reputed one and within our means, so I wanted him to be admitted there. However hard I tried with the 3 yr old, rolling my eyes and making my voice demure, the answer would not change. Next morning we went all dressed up and as I repeated the question in the car, the little brat gave the most heart warming smile and said, my name is Alex, my mother’s name is Gloria and my father’s name is Marty. I knew not what to do and just sat there twitching nervously till the call came. I kissed him and he kissed back smearing saliva all over my cheek. We went in holding hands, Rajib tailing us. The principal, a nun with a sage like demeanour called him and he ran to her. She asked him his name as we were taking our seats and to my veritable relief, he said Anoushrayan Deysarkar. Man, it did sound sweet!
Every morning we would pack breakfast and drive down the short distance to his school as Anoushrayan was likely to throw up and felt sick if he had to ride after having food. Fusco’s has a big parking lot, we always reached quite early, played a little, fed him, cleaned him up and then walked down the beautiful pathway leading up to the classrooms. He would kiss me and hug me and then bid me goodbye to join his classmates. I would walk back to the parking lot with a heavy heart though I knew I’ll see him in just 2 hrs. It was a routine for 2 years and I re-learned and honed my driving skills in this duration, going over the same route each day.
At around the same time Anoushrayan was experimenting with the gift of his glib, Rajib noticed that he was unable to say ‘coconut’ properly; he could say Canada, Center, Cute, City but not Coconut, on further probing we found that he was converting the ‘C’ to ‘T’ for any word which had ‘CO’ to begin with. I said it’ll get corrected with time but Rajib was worried and started working on it. He would show him how to roll the tongue day after day and interestingly Anoushrayan would keep practising it, I often found him sitting with his toys or in the balcony and repeating the tongue roll. And after many days he was no longer saying ‘totonut’ but had mastered ‘coconut’ and the other words.
Over the years Anoushrayan retained his ability to overcome challenges by sheer hard-work and determination. But again he has to be really convinced about its utility, if he doesn’t feel the need he can be as obstinate as possible to resist learning or practicing. My biggest challenge being making him to do any physical activity / any form of exercise.
Every step that we had taken together had been so vibrant and high on drama that I have never missed the vivacious opportunities of work that I lost in lieu of being with my child 24 by 7.
We were quite invested into photography at this time; we still are but not so extensively, majorly due to lack of time, the pattern of our travels which has changed due to Raspy’s preferences and also to an extent for not being able to use the multitude of photographs we have, productively.
So there we were at Thanjavur at the Brihadeshwara temple. Raspy was tagging me as I clicked and for the most part either I was holding him or he was holding me. Rajib was somewhere happily taking shots of the temple. This one place I had to focus a bit at an extraordinary angle so I made him sit and said he should keep sitting till am back. I was about a yard away from him and yet in his vicinity. I took a couple of shots and possibly had to be out of his sight for a minute or two. As I turned to go back to him, he was not there.
That was the first time in my life, my heart skipped a beat. I had been happy and sad and angry but never never never so scared. I had literally lost him. I ran to where he was sitting, it was a big open space and he was practically nowhere to be seen. Kumbakonam temple is famous for child lifts and Raspy would be an easy target. I called out his name and started walking past a smaller temple structure in whose shadow I had made him sit. A minute later I saw him walking a little ahead of me amidst a crowd calling ‘mamma, mamma’. I ran to him and picked him up.
The lost and found episode must have lasted for a max 3 mnts but those were the longest 3 mnts of my life. I continued to have nightmares about losing him for months thereafter. We lost him a couple of times in supermarkets as he would never stand at a place. He kept moving and if I would stop for a moment to checkout something he would have trotted on somewhere.
Flashback 2011. This was a challenging year. I was finding it very hectic to manage Raspy, a bundle of energy – curious and hyperactive. I mismanaged myself and was diagnosed with diabetes type 2.
We went to kolkata in Oct. Fusco’s was very reluctant about granting leave and I had to make up a lot of stories to get a few days extra. We visited my ancestral village, Karanjali too and Roddur enjoyed wadding around in the pond with my dad.
Flashback 2012. We celebrated his fifth birthday and our tenth anniversary with pomp and show amidst friends and family in Kolkata, the idea was to get him introduced to the multitude of our far and near relatives. I let him choose the cake and to my dismay he chose an airport, I had grand plans for a tiered cake.
Anoushrayan joined a new school Shishya BEML Public School in UKG. The major reason for changing school was the second language. Fusco offered Kannada as second language but we preferred it to be Hindi. Nevertheless he started learning kannada as a third language. This school was even nearer to our residence. It had big grounds and huge classrooms and a number of staircases.
Rashmi Menon was his class teacher in UKG and I was amazed by the way she managed a class full of chattering bundle of energies. She did not pamper them and yet she took great care. She taught them little things like tying shoelaces, stacking the notebooks neatly, eating the snacks in a tidy way. The kids loved her.
Anoushrayan was never any teacher’s pet as he somehow never warmed up to anyone, teacher or classmates, though he liked them all and never complained. The teachers also liked him because of his amicable nature and outstanding performance from the very onset in anything academic.
A lovely boy named Swaroop befriended him in grade 3 or so, otherwise, Anoushrayan turned out to be more of a loner since childhood.
This year, one fine day shortly after moving into the apartment – Dalli Sai Residency, I and Anoushrayan then just 5, stood atop the elevation holding hands. The apartment had a basement parking and one had to drive up an elevation to get to the road. It created an excellent opportunity for a downhill or uphill run. He was scared but we walked down side by side hand in hand. We went up and down, first walking then running, day after day, he trailing me and for years I outran him.
Flashback 2013. Anoushrayan in Grade 1. The respective class teachers would bring the kids to the gate and call out the names at dispersal. I went when she said Anoushrayan. He looked at me, top to bottom, with surprise and suspicion, then he hugged me and then smiled. Moments later, in the car he said, I could not recognise you at first, as you are wearing a full pant (a salwar, I usually wore quarter pants) but when I hugged you I recognised the smell.
We mostly travelled the less than 1km distance to school in our scooty, initially Anoushrayan used to stand in front but as he grew taller than the handle, he had to sit at the back. He would hold tight and my back would have a good backrest. Years later when he grew a lot bigger he would sit a little further back and my comfort was gone.
Well this was the year little Anoushrayan started winning accolades. He reported one afternoon as we were heading back home that he wants to take some exams. I gathered from his diary and his incessant blabbering that he wants to participate in the exams conducted by SOF World which goes by the name Olympiads and he was asking for my consent. I willing gave it and also guided him with his preparation. Anoushrayan was exuberant with joy when his name was called in the assembly, he had stood first in all the three exams he took, namely Maths Science and English. He later told me that he was almost trembling with happiness as he made his way up to the podium to receive the medals and certificate.
Thereafter he kept on bagging many prizes in the field of academics. In grade 5 he received an excellence award for outstanding performance and a hefty amount in prize money. In grade 6 however he wanted to take a break and didn’t appear for any external exam.
This year Anoushrayan got introduced to the idea of a pet. We got two cockatiels from a pet shop and named them Murray and Darling as they are indigenous to Australia. I had taken them for a check up and a lady brought in this little puppy who had been running amuck at a signal, he was hardly 2 months old. She was ready to pay for food, medicines and vaccines but since she had cats at home and a large number of them, she was unable to take him home. The clinic was not in a position to let him be there as he was too young. The only option was to take him home and foster him till he would get adopted.
The lady, the clinic and a few good people tried hard, I and Rajib went to an adoption camp and sat there all day. Anoushrayan was very happy when we came back home with Limca since he had not been adopted, well not that day.
It broke our hearts when he finally had to go. I was not in a position to take care of a pet dog as I was still trying to do some work in the external world and Anoushrayan needed a lot of mamma time.
Among other places we visited Kanyakumari with Anoushrayan, both for the train ride that he loves and the beaches. In fact Anoushrayan took a lot of photographs himself; he has quite a steady hand.
Flashback 2014. I love Art; music, drama, drawing and painting, sculpting; just anything creative, romantic and beautiful. I found a wonderful art (drawing and painting) teacher and would take him there in the evenings thrice a week. I was still committed to professional work at the time, so I would sit in the car working while he, I supposed, would make an inception into the creative world. His drawing copy would have lines and a few drawings which he needed to copy or colour. After about three months, one evening I stepped into the studio where the kids were all spread out and were at different stages of drawing and painting. I found Anoushrayan standing at the teacher’s table and looking at the drawing that she was making. I repeated the visits and always found him standing and watching. The other kids told me that he always does that and never does anything on his own. I had a hunch as his drawing book was rather empty and one day asked him why he is not doing anything and just watching. He said he just likes to watch.
This was one of those rare years when we didn’t go on a vacation out of town. We instead bought a dream flat making a huge investment, which turned out to be a bad debt as it never got constructed, atleast not until feb 2022. Rajib went to London for the first time on office work. Anoushrayan watched chicks hatching from eggs for the first time as our finches went on to extend their family.
Flashback 2015. Starting with Karate at around 5 yrs, we tried Kung fu, dance, Lawn Tennis and Skating before giving up. I felt very humbled at the Tennis court and felt a beautiful balance. In school Anoushrayan was the topper winning accolades in any exam internal or external, so I had to face both appreciation and concealed jealousy. At the court I was the mother of a very dumb player and a subject of sympathy. The coach even told me that he is really worried about my son’s future because if someone can not pick up tennis after almost 2 yrs then how would he manage maths or any subject for that matter in school. I just nodded suppressing a smirk.
His curious mind was ever hungry and school books not being enough I introduced him to the internet. We would watch youtube videos on many topics and thereafter discuss at length. Anoushrayan got lovely teachers in Shishya BEML as he went up the grades, one namely Nisha Madam who taught maths was his favourite. She was strict yet polite and jovial.
Anoushrayan loves energy and energetic people.
We did two wonderful trips this year. One where Anoushrayan had his first stint with mountains – Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal and the second where he had his first encounter with the jungle – Kanha in Nagpur. Anoushrayan was fascinated when we came face to face with a Royal Bengal Tiger but wasn’t much impressed about the snow capped mountains and rather grew distaste for the cold accompanied with it. He loved the vintage toy train ride in Darjeeling though and of course the pony ride.
Flashback 2016. A 9 year old Anoushrayan was all excited about his first trip abroad, and so was his 41 yr old mother as it was her first too! Unless Nepal is considered foreign which I and Rajib visited in 2013 without Raspy.
So Singapore was the destination for the summer of 2016. The zoos and the wonders of Sentosa were overwhelming for Anoushrayan but he thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Being accompanied by my parents on this trip added the extra pampering he always enjoys around them.
In October we plunged into another kind of sea – the sea of sands. Anoushrayan was thrilled to ride a camel in Khuri desert where we spent two nights in an unusual tent like setting. Jaisalmer is a household name, thanks to ‘Sonar Kella’ by Satyajit Ray and Anoushrayan was extremely happy to be on the scene that he had seen on tabloid so many times.
Flashback 2017. Here we were at the same elevation where in 2012 I outran Anoushrayan, now he could outrun me by far more number of seconds. He sometimes even dragged me up as I got out of breath, helped push the scooter up if need be. My little boy had grown up.
The dream flat (Skylark Ithaca) we had booked, was due in march 2017 and the work was going on in full swing, there was a possibility of a delay as is normal with most big projects and to be on the safe side we decided to change Anoushrayan’s school from the next session that is next grade and also move our residence closer to Ithaca. In effect he would not have to travel a longer distance in case we got the flat in possession any time during his school year.
We bought a small 2bhk in Sai Sarovar Apartment near Skylark Ithaca with our remaining means, thinking we would live there for at most 6 months before moving into Ithaca, and Anoushrayan was admitted to Mount Litera Zee School nearby for grade 5.
Combining farewell and birthday we threw a small party for his friends from school and it was good fun. This time the cake was black forest with fruits.
In the summer of 2017 we shifted to Whitefield on the outskirts of Bangalore. We were fortunate to find the last remaining white fields of eucalyptus plantations from where the area got its name. Our balcony became home to sparrows eliminating the need to keep caged birds. We had anyway given away all our birds before we shifted to this smaller place.
Anoushrayan not only managed to fit in the new school but also managed to win the hearts of his classmates, teachers, and even the principal. It was in this school that Anoushrayan gained humongous confidence regarding his abilities and emerged as a beautiful all-round soothing personality, thanks to his wonderful teachers, Bharati Madam who had been his class teacher and mentor needs a special mention as she had been largely instrumental in his growth. Anoushrayan made two good friends, Saket and Premraj.
The school has a swimming pool – half Olympic size, and swimming was part of the curriculum as was skating. He also started taking additional swimming classes in the evening and to our delight was eager about it and picked it up rather quickly and learned well enough to hold on till the rescuers arrive in case of any emergency situation. It is imperative to mention here that earlier when he was younger we had enrolled him for swimming classes and it was a complete failure, as he was outright scared of the coaches and their strict methods, he preferred free-floating and a little doggy paddling as my dad had taught him at our village pond. The coaches won’t allow that and hence his aversion towards swimming.
This was again another rare year of no travels but Anoushrayan didn’t complain. We went for a short trip to Horseley Hills nearby. He loves to spend time at home with his computer and books and is happy playing with me and one or two select friends.
Flashback 2018. The onset of 2018, namely the month of February his birth month, marked his first big stage performance as an anchor of the Annual Day Program for his school. He was enthused by the appreciation and applause.
A few days before the annual function in January, Anoushrayan was given braces in an attempt to correct his mole teeth look.
In his summer vacations, we went to Kashmir via Delhi. This was Anoushrayan’s first visit to the capital of our country. He liked Delhi. In Kashmir the most significant event for Anoushrayan was the pony ride in Pahalgam. He enjoyed the Gondola in Gulmarg but it was too cold for his liking.
Once again a change of school was on the cards. NPS came up in the lane next to Zee school; this was even nearer to our residence, Sai Sarovar Apartment. NPS is known for its academic orientation and that aligns perfectly with Anoushrayan’s demeanour. He loves to gather knowledge and can be at it for hours. No other vocation attracts him, neither sports nor cultural activities. So we decided to give it a try; I filled out the forms and Anoushrayan appeared for the written entrance exam and interview in October.
Winters took us to Madurai and Rameshwaram. Anoushrayan tried snorkeling and loved it. We tried banana boating but it turned out to be quite strenuous for us. Anoushrayan was fascinated standing at the last land point of India at Dhanushkoti.
Flashback 2019. Anoushrayan witnessed a ceremonial wedding for the first time. My niece got married in Kolkata and we all went to attend it taking special leave from school. I would not say he enjoyed the ceremonies cause it was too complex and crowded for his liking with all my cousins and their families around but it definitely gave him a sense of how big families can be. Being out of Kolkata for the most sensible part of his life till now, he had never known family apart from just his parents and grandparents.
We also took the opportunity to take a peek at the Sundarbans – the famed mangrove forests that are the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Anoushrayan loved the boat rides, he is too happy when he doesn’t have to walk, doesn’t have to write… in a nutshell doesn’t have to do anything which involves engaging his physical self actively. And yet he loves to ride… horse, camel… don’t know what else…
Back in Bangalore we had a lot to look forward to… one of them was to arrange for the party we had planned for Anoushrayan which was again going to be a farewell cum birthday bash.
And then he was 12. 155cm tall, 54kgs.
Time doesn’t fly; it stands still; in those images, that the camera lens creates and our sweet memories that never fade and need no technology to preserve.