Baby Steps 101 – Learning to be a first-time parent

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room! Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. The father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations in Urdu). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles more
  8. saying the Azaan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t already decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible (not imaginary) companions named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bleary red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what; a freezer full of her favorite ice cream seems to help (a lot!).

One of my daughter's favorite toys - may it rest in peace (or should I say 'pieces'?)

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

Five-month olds and coloring books do not mix - take it from experience

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can hardly restrain myself from giving her soft cheeks a loving bite. Besides being my favorite dessert, there’s a lot more she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress. But more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it is not a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. We spend all our lives trying to mold our children into ideals, but we somehow miss so many things our children can teach us, even as infants. Here are twelve things I learned from my five-month old daughter.

  1. Persistence is the key to getting what you want, when you want; crying always works.
  2. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it won’t kill you, as long as your parents are watching.
  3. Change is healthy, even if it’s just a loaded diaper.
  4. A sincere smile can change any situation from bad to good.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even if they are not edible.
  6. Appreciate the little things in life, even if they’re as mundane as the ceiling fan.
  7. Don’t care what people might think about you; just let it rip.
  8. Time shouldn’t limit your abilities to do wonderful things.
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; you’ll eventually learn to sit on your own.
  10. Hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them.
  11. Raise your voice; you won’t get any milk if you aren’t heard.
  12. Be content with what you have; drinking milk everyday is enough to keep you alive.

Raising a child can be nerve-wracking and fun, all at the same time. But more than anything, its an amazing voyage of self-discovery. It has its ups and downs (mostly ups), but most importantly, it allows you to appreciate the gift of life. You may have other children later on, but the experiences of raising your first born will last you a lifetime.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.

This article was published at the Express Tribune Pakistan Blog (International Herald Tribune) as well as in the October – November 2011 issue of Expert Parenting and Pregnancy, Pakistan.

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Parenting 101: Redefining Boundaries

Boundaries are what define us, make us who we are. Things that might be a norm for someone may be downright taboo for others. We build our comfort zone within these boundaries. Everything from ‘foods we like’ to ‘the way we dress’ are defined by these protocols. We seem to panic at the very thought of stepping out of this comfort zone. Anything that threatens the existence of these boundaries threatens our very existence; yet we  are instinctively hard-wired to procreate!

‘What was I thinking? I’m not ready to be a parent!”.

All expecting parents have anxiety attacks at some point during their pregnancy which, I believe, are totally justified, as you are about to embark on a life-altering mind-shattering reality-bending journey that will change your perspectives on boundaries forever (Phew! that was a long sentence). These attacks can be triggered by things as insignificant as dropping a glass of water (“OMG! What if that were my baby?”) or while inspecting your mustard-stained white dress (“How will I take care of a baby when I can’t even take care of myself?”). Being one of those parents, I can safely tell you that when it’s time to get down and dirty, you’ll be ready no matter what. You may forget your graduation after-party, but you will never forget the feeling of holding your baby in your arms for the very first time. That’s when you’ll say to yourself: “I can do this!”.

Having said that, being a parent can push you to the limits, and then some. Forget your ‘Personal Space’ because it is about to be invaded. Not only is it a major lifestyle adjustment, it’s also a time to put things into perspective and re-evaluate your priorities. As fairly recent inductees into parenthood, my wife and I have had to readjust (a lot of) our boundaries. A few examples are quoted for your reading pleasure (inspired from personal as well as peer experiences):

1. Paranoid much?

Street food? Street cricket? Street food after playing street cricket? Wiping off your hands on a pair of jeans that hasn’t been washed for a month (or two) after you have had street food? ‘Bring it on’ is what you say before the baby comes into your life. But after you have that little bundle of joy in your hands, you turn into the King of ‘What-if’s. “What if my baby picks up germs if she crawls on the floor? What if there is pesticide residue on the fruits I’m feeding to my baby? What if my baby’s diapers are hazardous to her health?” Every single baby-threat article you read on the Internet leaves a huge impact on you, debilitating your decision-making skills, forcing you to think ten times before doing ANYTHING baby-related (or letting the baby do anything baby-related, for that matter). You seem to develop super-powers overnight, being able to see the millions of invisible germs all around your home. Every time you see your baby with a toy, you feel the need to sterilize it before handing it over to her again. You may find yourself giving someone a piece of your mind (or even going all Kill-Bill on them) if you catch them attempting to slip something into the baby’s mouth without your consent; ice cream, chocolates, candy, and sodas are some solid entries on your things-not-to-feed-the-baby list.

A good thing to know is that this paranoia subsides (eventually), albeit slowly. There will still be instances when it perks up again, but all in all, it does gets better with time.

2. Eww, gross!? Well, guess again!

Neat freaks find this the most unnerving of all. But the sooner you realize this fact, the better – BABIES ARE MESSY – Period! They pee here, poop there and vomit everywhere (it rhymes and sounds kinda catchy now, doesn’t it?). Babies are born with Extra Sensory Perception (ESP or sixth sense, as you may like to call it) and no matter how careful you are, babies seem to guesstimate the exact time to pee/poop between diaper changes (“Minority Report” that, suckers). The blow-out stories are all the rage these days and a favorite topic of discussion at parenting support group meetings.

And don’t even get me started on trying to feed your baby. Rule of thumb: If your baby doesn’t like something, don’t try feeding it to her. Otherwise, you’ll end up smeared in red cherry-flavored food that your baby is carelessly spitting out (with that aim sister, you’ll grow up to be a sharp-shooter).

My advice? Learn to control your gag-reflexes (mind over matter, baby – MIND OVER MATTER!) and don’t think too much about those nasty odors. The sooner you adjust to the situation, the better, because it won’t be improving anytime soon.

3. Fewer trips to La-La Land!

Scientists say that an adult requires anywhere between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every day; they sure must have missed out all the newbie parents (or parents with newbies) from this study.

Our kind thrives on power-naps, coordinating our sleeping pattern with the baby’s. A two-hour uninterrupted sleep seems like a blessing. A night when you get six hours of sleep comes once in a blue moon and is a memory to be cherished until the next one comes around.

Who cares about sleep anyways? You’d rather change diapers, fight over who takes the next turn preparing the formula (“Your turn”, “Na-aan! Your turn”, “I did it at 3:15 AM, now it’s your turn!”), burp the baby, etc. Take out your favorite varsity jersey ’cause you are about to pull more all-nighters than you could have ever imagined.

4. Health-(un)conscious!

Health is just one of those things that we take in stride. “This flu takes its time. It’ll go when it’ll go; no need for the doctor!”. This one comes straight from personal experience. My wife and I hate going to the doctor’s and taking medicine, so boundary-wise, the doctor stays out unless its a life-or-death situation.

Do you know that your health is as important as the baby’s health? Now, we rush to the doctor as soon as we ‘think’ something’s not right with us and get right to the pill-popping, so as to prevent something that may (or may not) happen to us in the near future. “Who’ll take care of the baby if I fall ill?”.

5. Welcome home, Mr. Fix-it-all!

Men are hard-wired to fix things around the house. Contrary to popular belief, some of us aren’t! We are the (lazy) kind that hire all sorts of specialized professionals to do the job (and do it right). We don’t mind paying a small amount of money to get the job done and have no ego-problems whatsoever; why dabble in something that you might end up ruining, right?

Unfortunately for the men belonging to my category, there are no specialists for fixing complicated baby gadgets. You will invariably end up (coaxed into) assembling these yourself when your wife threatens to fix them on her own (Egad! Who turned on the ‘ego’ switch?). Swing sets, strollers, feeding chairs, wardrobes, cribs and walkers are just the tip of the iceberg. These things keep on coming right at you one after the other as your baby ages, and thankfully, this whole ‘building stuff’ craze kind of grows on you. The trick is not to take this new-found power to heart; better leave the plumbing to the professionals (TRUST ME!).

6. Old dog, new jargon!

Growing up, we all have this innate fear of spellings, of learning new words, of somehow being able to express ourselves more eloquently. Throughout our formative years, we are coaxed into learning words that only a handful could know, let alone pronounce (try ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ on for size). Whether you are preparing for your SAT or your GMAT, your GRE or your TOEFL, this curse keeps haunting you. But once your educational nightmares are behind you, you just learn to slide by with the bare minimum (unless you are an author), letting the word processing software take care of all you vocabulary needs.

And then you decide to have a baby! It all starts with an innocent ‘weaning’ here, an idle ‘septic’ there, and without even realizing it, you are drowning in words like ‘meconium’, ‘nebulizer’ and ‘asphyxia’. You would be ridiculed in the presence of other parents if you dare ask the meaning of one of these words. What happens next? Well, the words just keep coming at you full-speed and all you can do is absorb them as fast as you can; dodging them is not an option as you never know when they might come in handy.

7. Count and Lady Ga-Ga!

I have always been a big fan of people who are not ashamed to ‘express’ themselves in front of babies; we were born to make funny faces, talk gibberish and produce strange sounds. Even when I was single, I used to love doing silly things to make babies laugh (they just seem to make this world a little brighter). Most of my male peers acted as if such people were stark raving mad for pulling such stunts in public; sorry if I sound too sexist, but most (see? no stereotyping!) females are born with a mom-switch, which turns on as soon as a baby comes into their field of vision, and I personally love this fact. Now, I can’t help but stifle a laugh (or chuckle) when I see one of these holier-than-thou (male) friends of mine (nothing short of a big-can-o’-crazy) pulling all stops at trying to make his baby smile/laugh – talk about pushing boundaries!

At the end of the day, you may think you can’t take it anymore, or that you deserve a break. Well guess what? You’re in for the long haul. Life for a parent revolves around a series of firsts. Just when you think you have reached your breaking point, the baby will do something so trivial, yet extraordinary, that will make it all worthwhile. The first time your baby smiles, the first ga-ga, the first step, the first caress, etc. are just some examples. This and the fact that you get to watch yourself grow right in front of your eyes is downright exhilarating. Forget the days when you used to hang out with friends as soon as you got off work; now all I can think of is getting home and sweeping my baby into my arms.

Note to self: BE PREPARED FOR EVERYTHING!

NOTE: This article was intended to give you a peek at the lighter side of parenthood and in no way discourages you to be parents. My life is a million times better with my daughter and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

The Peace of Paper

Floral Kirigami Ball

Look around you: there’s despair everywhere. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be back in the good old days. Watching television is like taking a depressant; a pill that drags you down into the abyss of melancholy, draining out all your optimism and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. Same is the situation with other entertainment media; be it a viral Youtube video of two brothers being mercilessly beaten by a heartless mob or a newspaper article tallying the number of buses burned in the previous night’s riots. Sure, there are a few avenues promoting light entertainment, but invariably, you end up tuning into one of the news channels to verify whether there’s a strike tomorrow or not, or how many lives were extinguished in the city of lights today. We are so wrapped up in this entertainment (seriously?!) revolution that we fail to recognize a multitude of activities that can help nurture our constructive side and even introduce a degree of calmness in our otherwise chaotic existence.

Paper is perhaps one of the most readily available materials on earth and believe it or not, can be used to make beautiful creations. The various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and textures of paper make it a unique medium to work with. As kids, most of us would have folded a boat using a sheet of square paper; that’s Origami! Origami (meaning ‘paper folding’) is an ancient Japanese art-form that can be traced back to 17th Century AD, but was popularized outside of Japan in the mid 1900s [1]. The main idea behind Origami is to take a flat sheet of paper and fold it into a finished sculpture using basic folding techniques. The use of any glue, threads or scissors to create/stabilize the sculpture is a taboo for Origami practitioners. A variation of Origami called Kirigami (meaning ‘paper cutting’) allows the use of scissors to create your sculptures [2].

Origami is universally associated with peace. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand Origami cranes shall be granted a wish by the crane. A little girl named Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) contracted leukemia after being exposed to the radiations from the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945 [3]. She was only 12 when her disease progressed to a terminal stage. It’s an age where you still haven’t let go of the possibility of a miracle, so on the insistence of a close friend, Sadako started folding paper cranes with whatever paper she could get her hands on. Unfortunately, Sadako could only make 644 before meeting her maker. Her friends and classmates finished folding the remaining cranes after her death. Now every year on August 6, while Hiroshima conducts a Peace Memorial Ceremony, people from around the world send paper cranes in batches of 1000 to commemorate the child’s tragic death and her words:

“I will write ‘Peace’ on your wings and you will fly all over the world”

I started practicing Origami in1998, but went on hiatus from 1999 to 2007.  It all changed in 2008 when I was inspired to fold a single paper crane after watching a TV show; and I haven’t looked back since. I started working on more complex and challenging designs and in most cases, finished off the models. Once I start working on a model, I lose all track of time. An unnatural calm surrounds me; the only thing I focus on are the folds, taking each step carefully, making sure I don’t make any mistakes. I’ve made stars and center pieces, cubes and cranes, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons, arabesques and florals; I just can’t seem to get enough. Sparing free time gets increasingly difficult but I find an hour here, a minute there to work on my latest project. The video below shows images of some of the models I’ve made:

Origami’s many positive attributes have been researched for quite some time now. A brief list follows [4]:

  1. Nurtures creative, inventive and constructive abilities
  2. Develops motor skills
  3. Helps your visual and spatial co-ordination
  4. Explains geometric and angular relationships elegantly
  5. Makes you more patient and attentive
  6. Instills a sense of pride and joy when you finish a model

In this uber-destructive world we live in, we should promote constructive concepts. Origami is just one road that can lead to inner peace and tranquility; there are other art forms that help take your mind off the current state of affairs. I think it is high-time we started talking about something other than all the bad things happening around us. I don’t want my daughter to come up to me one day and say, “Papa! I want a gun that goes bang-bang-bang”; I’d rather want her to walk up to me and say, “Papa! I’m out of paper.”

Note: ‘Peace’ in this article refers to peace within as well as peace in general, because we cannot attain global peace unless we have inner peace. 

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami
[2] 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirigami
[
3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki
[
4] http://factoidz.com/why-you-should-adopt-origami-for-skill-development-among-children/

Parenting for Dummies: The First Trimester

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room. Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. Just like in the movies, the father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles
  8. saying the Azan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste (honey, in most cases)

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible companions (who are very real in every other sense) named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bulging red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what.

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can barely restrain myself from taking a bite off of her cheek. There’s so much she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress, but more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it’s NOT a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. Read my other post entitled What my five-month old taught me for further details.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.

Battery-operated Ears

With the recent advancements in bio and nanotechnology, we can now safely assume that we will have at least some easily replaceable body parts in the future, if required. Prestigious institutions put in billions of dollars in this research just to make life easier for people in need of such prosthetic organs. But this article’s not about that; I put the enticing title to this entry to hook you in so that you’ll end up reading it (and hopefully get a few laughs). So do I have your attention now?

Women tend to fall sick a lot, so I had to take my wife to the doctor (yet again). My mom was really worried about my wife’s health so she tagged along. Funny how I find the finest insights into life at the doctors’ – this visit was no exception. This particular doctor (let’s call him Dr. Abe) has a clinic in a relatively posh Karachi locality and runs a very successful practice providing care to the rich as well as the poor. He is one of those kind souls who unselfishly hands out his cell-phone number to his patients so that they can get him when they need him; surely one of the few doctors who does justice to his Hippocratic Oath.

Dr. Abe is a highly intelligent guy with a keen sense of diagnosis, which makes him really good at his job. The only downside of visiting him is the condition of his clinic; it is in such bad shape that a makeshift clinic in the middle of the Congo jungle would seem like a palace. The walls are a drab shade of brown which, believe it or not, is the tolerable aspect of the clinic. In most places, these walls are stained with dried liquid spills in red, white, green and black (makes you wonder what goes on in there) and the stain-free portions (one can only imagine) are plastered with advertisement material from various pharmaceutical companies. If those walls could talk, they’d scream,  “Oh for the love of God, please get me a new paint-job and wash these filthy stains off of me”. Moreover, these walls are paper thin and as Dr. Abe talks really loudly, so everyone in the waiting area is privy to the doctor’s diagnosis even if the patient inside is talking in hushed tones (if you have a “special” problem, Dr. Abe is NOT your man).

So back to my story! When you stand are about to enter the clinic, you see two doors; one marked “Ladies” and the other marked “Gents”. I peeked inside the ladies door and happened to see a man sitting inside with his wife (or sister or mother – who cares?), so since I had two ladies with me, I squeezed into that section too (and also because the patient-in-question was a female; duh?!). As soon as we entered the clinic, the first thing that hit me was the stench of antiseptic and sickness (if it has any particular odor) that never fails to make me nauseous; the second thing was the wailing and screaming of a child from inside the doctor’s office. Dr. Abe (who, as I mentioned earlier, is quite a loud-mouth) was heard saying, “Beta kuch nahin hoga; tumko pata bhi nahin chalay ga” (meaning: Son, nothing will happen; you won’t even notice it).

After a few moments, a stout short bearded man came out of the doctor’s cabin holding the child-in-question’s hand. The screams had thankfully turned into sobs and a chant that went something like, “Abbu please, main nahin daalnay doon ga isko” (meaning: Please daddy, I will not let him put it inside me). The context was totally lost on me as I had not been privy to the doctor’s full diagnosis (having arrived just moments before the father-child duo came out). The child was not more than five or six, and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. My wife gave me a look that was filled with pity for the child. My mom said, “Bechara kitni takleef main hai. Pata nahin kya howa hai usko?” (meaning: The poor child is in such agony; I wonder what happened to him). The father’s exit was the doctor’s assistant’s cue to enter his office. He came out with a weird looking contraption designed for extraction (something out of a SAW movie – no wonder the kid was so scared) of something or the other and a huge flashlight. The assistant beckoned the dad to follow him into the adjoining exam room, which acted as a push-play on the child’s scream player; and there we were again. The kid went on and on saying, “Abbu please nahin, nahin, please nahin, isko mana karain” (meaning: “Daddy no, no, please, no, no, tell him not to).  I could vividly picture the father trying to console and coax his son into letting the assistant extract whatever he was supposed to extract from wherever (mysteries, mysteries…. ahh).

My mom apparently had heard something I had not (another insight – female hearing is way better than ours), thereby solving part of the mystery and shedding some light on the child’s plight. She said, “Beta, is ne kaan main kuch daal diya hai” (meaning: Son, he has put something in his ear). Although I am not a parent myself, I can very well imagine the pain a parent feels when his offspring is in pain. The child’s unceasing screams ticked Dr. Abe. He was well into his next consultation but he apologized to his other patient, stormed out of his cabin and with a determined look on his face, walked straight into the exam room the child was being held hostage in. Dr. Abe said, “Iska sar pakro, aur aap iskay pair pakrain. Isko hilnay nahin daina.” (meaning: You hold his head, and you hold his feet. Do not let him move); this triggered a series of no’s from the child (something very annoying) and within an ear-shattering scream that would scare the ghosts of Spooksville, this whole episode came to an end. The weird extraction thingy wasn’t as painful as it looked (we could only assume) as the screaming suddenly stopped and the child’s sobs (and countless sighs of relief) were heard by everyone in the clinic.

Now the final piece of the puzzle – what was in the child’s ear? Again, Dr. Abe and his loud-mouth came to the rescue. In fluent memoni (a language spoken by some Pakistanis who migrated from India), he said, “Kan main sanni wari battery wiji gini howi gharyal ji” (meaning: He had put a small wrist-watch battery in his ear). With that and a prescription for the residual pain, he handed it to the child’s father and said, “Yeh battery to kharaab ho gai hai; ek nai la kar de dijiye to main kaan main daal doon ga. Phir iska kaan sahi kaam karay ga” (meaning: This battery is drained; go get a new one and I’ll put it in his ear so that his ear can function properly); and everyone burst out laughing.

Moral of the story: No matter how much pain and suffering you have around you, there’s always time to share some laughs.