It is growing dark. Pattu’s flashlight bobs up and down in the dusk. I am walking beside her and watching her try to stamp on the beam’s focal point. It is like watching a dog chase its tail. Exhausting and entertaining at the same time. I throw a question at her and hope to catch her off guard. Sha pauses doing what she is doing and slows her pace to match mine. The rest of our walk is interesting. I ask questions, she answers. I wonder if she will initiate conversation. It does not happen.
This routine of ours is fairly recent. Most nights after dinner, she is standing by me as I load the dishes, urging me to hurry up. Sometimes, she helps. Mostly she hops around the kitchen waiting for me to get ready to step out into the cool air. It is dark on most days. We carry a flashlight and follow the concrete pathway that encircles our development. We pass friends’ homes. We remark on the people who live in these homes. We talk about school. I tell her about my day, about my work. I talk to her about what it was growing up in days before technology. I talk to her about my fears, my aspirations and my failings. I hope by showing vulnerability, she understands it is okay to share the not so happy parts, the raw moments, the moments of failure. I hope it tells her it is okay to have dreams, unattainable dreams. Mostly, I try to model the kind of parent I want to be to my daughter.
The baby years were fun. I tend to like this phase more. This fascinating space between girl and woman. The threshold for so many momentous things to come. The way Pattu looks forward to this evening stroll tells me that these are things she will carry with her into her own life. I am torn between wanting Ammu to catch up, be part of this girls club that daddy is not privy to and having this time with Pattu alone. Some evenings are droll, with both of us repeating the same things in the same order. Some nights are rewarding with Pattu deigning to share parts of her I have never seen before. She is fascinated by the universe, stopping at times to squint into the dark sky, being awed by the stars and the canopy that makes one feel insignificant. Sometimes, her voice lowers when she talks of things that matter to her. I feel privileged to have earned that trust.
This whole routine, this bond between us is tenuous, fragile. I realize just as quickly as we fell into this routine, it can morph into staying indoors, hunkering for the cold weather to pass. In counting down the days, I am trying to make them count, one walk at a time.