My ears were on alert the minute I heard the familiar laughter. I put my Kindle aside and listened some more. My almost 17-year-old son, Sid, continued in the room next door. As his voice laced with elongated vowel sounds made its way to my room, I smiled automatically.
It filled my heart with cheer and brought back memories. Little Sid, now no longer little, was next door, using the same voice and sounds I had used for him — except he was reading out a story for a bunch of six year olds online.
It almost feels like another lifetime when I flipped those colourful pages with my boy. I still remember the whole journey beginning with just two books. They were a gift from my good friend Kani. She had walked in one evening with those books with colourful shiny pictures.
We read every single day, many times during those hours, creating funny situations, describing those colourful pages and feeling them come alive. We went to exotic lands, rode on dinosaurs, worked the choo-choo trains and even solved a few mysteries before we gravitated towards more words and fewer pictures
Sid was then, just six months old. “Do you think babies will like books?”, I had asked earnestly. “It is about holding the book and turning the pages — one at a time”, she had said. I didn’t believe her but handed the books to baby Sid. The rest, like they say, is history.
We read every single day, many times during those hours, creating funny situations, describing those colourful pages and feeling them come alive. We went to exotic lands, rode on dinosaurs, worked the choo-choo trains and even solved a few mysteries before we gravitated towards more words and fewer pictures.
At times, we ended up with reverse role plays when Sid read out full books without knowing how to read but reeling out the sentences from memory and I reacted with surprised wide eyes.
I was never ready for Sid reading on his own till it hit me one early evening when he carried a huge book to his bed. He curled up cosily inside his comforter and read the bedtime story on his own. He was quiet, turning page after page.
Slipping into 'independent' phase
That day, I sat at the edge of the bed and watched my son as he strung those sounds into words and then sentences. He leafed through that book without a pause as I blinked away my tears. I remember feeling a bit sad but happy to see him slip into the ‘independent’ phase.
But, independent, he surely turned out to be. At 16, going on 17, he hardly needs us. He is busy, typing or laughing as he stares at a screen. On a rare occasion, when his eyes tear away from the digital gadget and engage in human interaction, his vocabulary has many words and phrases that have skipped a generation.
He is a far cry from the days when I thought that I have the world’s cutest baby in my arms. He is lanky and towers over me. If I want to hug him, he usually decides if it is a good time to do so. Given the circumstance, I had to be sure if it was indeed Sid’s voice when I heard him next door.
It took all the will under the planet and common sense to stay put and listen in as his tiny voice made its way through the door.
I never taught Sid how to tell a story. “Is there a mistake?,” I chuckled to myself. “How does he know all this?”, I shook my head in disbelief. Is he reading it from memory like he did years before or is he learning on the job — it is hard to tell.
But, for now, I shall revel in this little truth — that my son is all grown up to tell a story to little ones. This, in itself is a sweet thing, I wish to cherish for a long time to come.
— Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman