Today morning, I chanced upon an endearing sight, once again from my laundry area that overlooks the service lane behind our building. A young woman (in her late teens, and most likely the wife of a labourer working at the new construction there) had laid out a charpoy in the winter sun, right there in the open. A bonny, naked baby boy lay on her legs stretched out in front of her, mewing and squinting in the sunlight as she oiled him with thoroughness and much affection. Her other son, a four-year-old, played in the dirt with leaves and stones. As I watched with a delighted smile (I dearly love babies! That’s why videos like this make me go all ‘awwwwww’!), she rubbed the baby firmly up and down his little limbs, then turned him around and massaged his little bum as he lay contentedly on her lap. She wiped his armpits with a soft white cloth (which turned out to be his vest), cleaned his ears, and put on some kohl in his eyes to ward off the evil eye. It was a beautiful sight, speaking quietly and effectively of a mother’s love and care, no matter what the circumstance. I felt very privileged to have witnessed it.
Then, when he started whimpering, she clothed him in his vest and a warm sweater, glanced around at all the buildings to see if anyone was watching, and proceeded to breastfeed him. I left them to their privacy and went indoors, marvelling at how just the glimpse of maternal devotion had left me feeling so touched and so high.
One of my favourite de-stress activities is brushing my dogs — combing with a sharp doggie comb actually. It revs up their circulation and removes all excess hair that would have fallen off at home anyway. It’s like a massage for them, relieving all those irritating itches, and they very gladly come at my feet whenever they see me pick the comb up. As I squat or kneel on the floor, one hand around their head or chest, the other brushing up and down, I feel a deep sense of motherliness that is hard to explain. It’s been a long time since my kids were babies, and a long time since I’ve had the joy of massaging any little being, so this is the closest I get to that oxytocin high — or whatever hormone that is equated with maternity. When I get up after scrubbing them down thoroughly and giving them lots of hugs and kisses, I can feel my heart all open and my head all light. It is unlike any other emotion. I am not sure if men feel this way too with their babies and dogs, but it sure makes me eternally grateful for being a woman.
When we groom another being — especially a tiny, helpless one — they enjoy the unequivocal attention, of course, and there must be several scientifically proven benefits of massages and body care. But to me, the greatest benefit is not to the receiver but to the giver. We tap into our power of creation, into our compassion, empathy and love. We become tools of God, expressions of Life’s love for its little beings. It’s a sublime way of expressing our divinity. I just love it.
I went to the market this afternoon and bought colouring books and crayons for the boy to play with instead of stones, a rattle for the baby, and a Hindi letters book for the teen mother to practice in. When I returned, I went behind the house looking for them. But they had gone, charpoy, baby gurgles and all.
Glimpses of divinity are but fleeting, after all.