When the newborn girl was
placed in my arms, and her mother said, “Her middle name is yours”, I
felt invested with the atavistic protective powers those fairy godmothers
Sleeping Beauty must have had.
“No matter what,” I
whispered to her, while taking her for her first tango, with long strides,
her mushroom soft cheek pressed against mine, my hand spanning her entire
arm, “you will never be ordinary.” She made a “duh” face at me as
if to say, “That’s not very profound.” I answered: “I know, fairy
godmothers are meant to have magical elaborate wishes but my wand isn’t
working, and I will have to do it like humans. Chew it over, mull some
more, and then decide what I wish for you.”
She didn’t like that.
She is a budding woman and like every woman wanted her wishes NOW. She
crumpled up her face at me. “Don’t be so childish,” I admonished,
“and stop making faces.” She set up her mouth at me as if to say,
“Dear God I wish I had a normal religious godmother who would just get
over the business of conferring wishes on me. I wish I didn’t have to
get the neurotic one, who makes a big deal about a couple of wishes.”
“Look,” I said, “these things take time. You have been born at the
dawn of another century. Being a year 2000 girl isn’t going to be as
simple as a ‘90s woman, OK?” She began to wail and fling her arms
about like a drama queen. “Now shut up,” I hissed at her, arching my
back so she could kick in the air, wheeling her around and looking back to
make sure that her parents were out of sight. “You are not even ten days
old and you’re throwing tantrums. Hundreds of girl children are born
every day and not only will you not be ordinary but you will jolly well
share these godmothers’ wishes with all of them because they will be
your generation and your friends. It doesn’t always have to be about
only you, you know.”
She shut up and listened. The tango was over. We sat.
She looked at me impatiently as if to say let’s get this over with.
“OK, you asked for it. You’re very lucky you’re a woman. Even women,
even those who experience the worst pre and post menstrual syndrome,
cramps, mood swings and bad pregnancies, and more bad hair days than good,
wouldn’t like to be men.” The forehead creased, a tiny cry sounded
“Firstly, let me tell you the gifts that you are born
with, then we’ll talk about wishes, OK? Women have always been invested
with powers. The power of the ultimate creation. Birth. Such as yours. It
was a miracle to see your perfect rosebud face, and tiny hands, and lovely
eyes. No man could do that.
“We are gifted with instinct, and an enormous
capacity to link everything, to see patterns. We are nurturers,
protectors. That’s why men and children, although they run off and do
their thing, scrapes on their knees and wars in battlefields and
boardrooms, always come to us for comfort.
“We see beyond faces. We hear more than words. We
sense hate and anger, desire and danger, and envy. We see through false
smiles. When we love, we love with all of our being: our bodies and our
souls. Our hearts are not linked to our groins you see and so (I lowered
my tone just in case her parents heard me and thought it inappropriate) we
never have sex, we love.
“That’s why we can love pot-bellied and balding men
and men can’t love pot-bellied and balding women.
“Another thing. Even if men hurt us, we don’t shoot
them, because it takes a lot more strength to be able to deal with the
pain of rejection. And our hearts are more important than egos. We have a
tremendous capacity to forgive.”
She smiles. And starts pecking at my shoulder.
“Your feed can wait. That’s not all. Women
understand the law of Karma. That means that everything comes back to you
tenfold when you give. Not just materially, but of yourself: compassion,
“Back to this nature, nurture thing, it’s true. The
second time your mother brought you to see me, I had egg yolk, avocado and
honey on my face (it’s meant to be good for the skin), olive oil in my
hair (it’s meant to be a conditioner). We are part of this earth. We
pick sweet peas, tangy limes, half-ripe mangoes.”
We are now walking barefoot on the grass, crackling
with twigs and dried leaves. “See the colour of this season is yellow?
It’s there flaring on the hills, and here, in the flowers around us.
Against the glow of the pale pink and grey clouds, that flutter of white
is a flock of egrets. The jasmines mingle with the smell of burning grass
and we breathe it all in.
“You are beginning to look restless. Here are my
wishes for you, and all the women of your generation. I wish for you
education in the classics, humanities and sciences. I wish for you
independence, and an ability to take care of yourself financially, and
socially. In the 2000 years, self-reliance will be very sexy and won’t
take away from your beauty and grace, but add to it. I wish for you the
discipline to live hard.
“Work with passion, take care of your body, make it
strong and graceful, swift and flexible, with dance, and weights and
karate and swimming or sky-diving, anything that will celebrate your body.
“I wish for you fearlessness. I wish for you an
abundance of love and laughter, a network of family and friends who will
be your womb for a lifetime, who will bat in your corner.
“I wish for you resilience and courage: the ability
to shake off the dust after a fall, wipe off the blood and go again.
“Above all, lovely girl child, I wish for you
compassion and a burning need to give back into a world in which you will
see pain and wars, bombs and murders, poverty and greed.
“You’re nearly asleep. Not yet, my little love.
Wait till I read you a verse from your mother’s favourite book: Khalil
Gibran’s The Prophet.
“Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self same well
from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And
how else can it be?
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the
more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup
that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes
your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and
you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving
you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again into your heart, and you shall
see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’
and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they
are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at
your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed...”
She is Anoushka. She smells of milk, innocence, and a
single delicate petal. She is asleep. She is the hope of the next century.
There are thousands like her, and each one of them is a miracle.