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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Something In the Way She Smiles...

A Glimpse of Immortality

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard that: a guy who gushes about his grandchild. This is different.

I had the most amazing opportunity of spending four days with my granddaughter Kiara at our house, Imagine, in Goa. It rang true to its name. Imagine: Goa had a cool Spring; even in March, people wanted wraps sitting out on our patio; unusual weather to herald Kiara’s first trip to Goa. Imagine: she is just two months old.

Her presence at Imagine blew away my routine: newspapers, tea, bread and cheese, figs and pineapples for breakfast. The papers were left unread and between bites of “poi” (fabulous Goan bread) laden with butter, goat cheese and blueberry jam, I sat in the patio with her. Granddad or whatever, I am her personal physical trainer, working her arms and legs, lifting her up and down, turning her side to side, getting her in training for whenever Olympics.

She seemed to love it. Her smile was to die for. And that sort of works: when the sixties refer not to the Beatles generation  but to the candles on your birthday cake.

The deal is everyone smiles with their eyes. Kiara’s bright black eyes were fascinating. Shining like full-beam headlights, they dazzled me. I kept staring at them and she looked back unblinking. “Dude,” her eyes seemed to say, “Look into my eyes. I am your glimpse of immortality.”

Whoa! That’s intense coming from a child that is younger than the vintage of the plonk they serve as Indian wines. I stared harder. And in them, I saw several films, only one of which I could understand.

This was the story of a guy born in Surat, grew up in Bombay and made his home in Chicago, where one cold, snowy winter his daughter (Kiara’s mother) was born. After a complimentary steak and champagne dinner in my wife’s hospital room, we brought the baby back next day to our condo in Oak Park and doted on her and continue to do so three decades later.

Hanging with Kiara on our patio in the cool of a Goa morning, I thought of every morning in Chicago, horsing around with her mother and she also smiled. Months later, the baby, at the smallest provocation, laughed like a certified lunatic and we have a cassette (remember those?) of her in hysterical gales of laughter. We hope to present that to Kiara when she is older; which is why I am saving my old school but slick Nakamichi cassette player.

When our daughters were born, we were too busy to think philosophy. We had to attend to them and love them; no time for bigger issues. As a grandparent, and mostly because I am so much older, I can look into Kiara’s eyes and see a continuity, once removed. It sounds weird but I see in her eyes an assurance that my life has not just been wasted making a living. Her look tells me: “Yo, 20th century man, you did well!”

In my mind, she is the Nobel Prize my daughter awarded me.