Everyone loves to give advice. EVERYONE. In Mumbai, our bai used to tell me on how to make sambar, ignoring the fact that she was Maharashtrian and I was a south Indian. The lady at the salon, who wields that little spool of thread, likes to tell me how to shape my eyebrows (and, that it’s not a sin to wax certain areas). My husband likes to tell me how to arrange the contents of our fridge and dishwasher. Get knocked up and the advice increases proportionately to the size of your stomach. So you can just imagine how much advice a woman carrying sextuplets gets in her ninth month. So when I ‘fell pregnant’ as one friend said, as though my bump was some kind ebola virus I had caught, everyone had some words of wisdom to pass on to me.
“Listen to only good things. It will make the baby happy.” “Don’t watch violent films.” “Listen to shlokas.” “Don’t watch English films or listen to English music.” “Don’t walk so fast.” “Don’t walk at all.” “Don’t wear jeans.” “Don’t cut your hair when you’re pregnant.” And after the baby was out, of course there was more to come. “Only breast feed.” “Don’t look nice so soon after the delivery. People will cast an evil eye.” “Don’t drink cold water. The baby will catch a cold.” “Don’t keep carrying him all the time” some say before scooping my wailing son into their arms. But the best advice I received was just a few hours after my baby was born. There I was, lying in bed. Sore, bewildered and wondering if they administered nitrous oxide post delivery. Wondering when I could get up to pee, what was for lunch and why on earth there were so many people in a room the size of a supply cupboard. And then, in breezed a family friend. Let’s call her Aunty X. Aunty X is lovely. She brought me fresh snacks every week when I was pregnant. She made me kozhakattais and seedai. She was responsible for about three kilos I gained in my last trimester.
So Aunty X cooed at the baby before, snapping “Keep your legs together.” I raised my head a fraction of an inch and gave her an uncertain look. Surely it was too late for that? I mean that advice would have been fine before I got pregnant, but what was the use of keeping my legs together now? “Keep your legs together, or all the air will enter your body. Through down there.” she whispered. All the air? So my vagina in addition to being a human Suez Canal was now a vacuum pump? Aunty X spotted the bewildered look on my face. “I know what I’m talking about. Keep your legs together now or else you’ll be sorry later. You’ll be full of wind and air and then there’ll be whistling.” Whistling? As in the ‘put your lips together and blow’ kind? Aunty X lowered her voice conspiratorially “Whistling…down there. When you sit down you’ll hear this ‘feeeeeeeee’ sound. Now be a good girl and put your legs together. Have you fed the baby?” Of course, being the good Indian girl I am, I listened to her and did as I was told. Now I wish I hadn’t. I should have let all the wind in and taught myself to whistle show tunes. My home could do with some extra income in these credit crunching times and I’m sure Evita could have used me in their chorus line.
This piece appeared here.