Your own children come with large doses of both heaven and hell. There are moments of heady joy, pride and a foolish heart filled to the point of bursting. But there are also moments of terror, panic and immense fear that goes deep down into your gut.
This dichotomy does not apply to nieces. Nieces are pure heaven. The hell is left to their parents to sort out. Surprisingly, my theory does not apply to nephews, who can barely stay still enough for a decent cuddle. Yes, it’s nieces who take a big chunk out of your love and hold it tight to themselves well after they are grown. You just can’t get enough of them.
Take my brother’s four-year-old Anaya for instance. The past 12 days I’ve spent with my brother and his family in Singapore have been a visit to nirvana and back, primarily because Anaya’s lithe, skinny, browned little body happens to fit snugly, perfectly, addictively into the space between my arms and my hips. That she is witty, easy-to-please, playful and charmingly perceptive is irrelevant when it comes to the growing respect and bond between us. We are in love, plain and simple.
She reminds me of my other niece Sneha, who was exactly this age when I moved to Delhi in the early 1990s for my graduation. I spent a lot of time in my uncle’s home, and this little girl showed the teenager I was a whole new way of looking at life. She too was playful and amazingly intelligent for a mite her age, and our bond has grown over the years, enriching both of us in the process. Now she’s in her 20s, a sensitive, compassionate, loving woman with a heart of pure gold. I sometimes tire her with my high expectations from her, but how can I expect anything less from a being that God sketched with the most tender, perfect strokes She’d reserved for Her favourites?
There are other nieces, other delights in my life with whom my relationship is still growing — Suchita, Siya, Priya — who are either too close (Suchita works in my office) or too far (I meet Siya and Priya once in a blue moon) for me to inspect their loveliness and invest in our bond with objective passion. But the common factor remains, and every time I see, hug or have a conversation with them, the impression is reinforced.
Yup. Nieces are pure heaven.