I was born old, skin leathery, wrinkled, folded into a million furrows and solid ridges.
When they saw me there was a collective gasp.
My mother’s hand quivered when she reached out to touch me. She didn’t want to, but the maternal instinct is strong and primal. Even a beast likes its young, so my mother learnt to hold me and let me suckle. My dried lips bruised her.
They tried all kinds of remedies to soften my skin. They plastered me with turmeric and soft cream to smoothen it. They used homemade scrubs to polish it. They let me soak in oil but it dribbled through the furrows and dripped.
When I opened my mouth, instead of saying goo ga, and sounds babies are wont to, I rattled off Sanskrit chants – the Gayatri Mantra. ‘Om Bhu Bhavah Svah’– ludicrous when they were trying to teach me to say mama, dada. ‘Row, row, row your boat’ – they sang. Tat Savitur Varenyam, I shouted back. My voice loud, feral, I couldn’t bring it down to the level they wanted. I couldn’t whisper.
They clothed me in silks and ruffles and suits. They tamed my straw hair into oiled plaits. They taught me their alphabet and genteel whispers.
They tried for years. They told me my story over and over again. That babies are not born old, babies are babies because they are new. They have to learn about life, blossom in the rules of society. They told me and they did more. They brought their machines to mould and form me.
Perhaps they succeeded.
Now I wear purples and brocades and my hair is in faultless chignons. My skin is baby smooth and shining with the moisturiser and glimmer sticks they coat me with.
When I try to speak however, it is a whisper. Garbled, my mouth mimics what it was taught. The chants do not form.
But with that, they are happy.