Oishi took her time to take her well-thought out first steps. As a first-time mother, my stomach clenched up in knots every time a well-intentioned person, including my mother, asked me, “Is she walking yet?” Every weekend when I called home I dreaded my mother’s inquisition on Oishi’s walking skills and her futile attempts to speed up the process. One of those weekends she plainly commented, “I don’t understand this. You started walking when you were eight and a half months old.” I was feeling helpless with every passing day and was desperately hoping that she’d be walking before first birthday. But she didn’t.
I took my first trip to India with Oishi right after her first birthday. After a torturous twenty-hour plane journey and another four-hour train journey, when my mother saw Oishi after eight months (she was here for Oishi’s birth), she took Oishi from me, both thrilled to see us and worried that she still was not walking yet, and handed her to my limitlessly patient Baba, my father. She said, “I want to see her walking before she leaves India in three weeks.”
Baba held her two little hands every day and walked for hours in our home. However, one day Baba asked me, “Mamoni, why does she not want to walk when I hold her hands? She only walks when she can grab my index fingers. Otherwise she just sits down until she can do that.” I smiled and told Baba, “I think, she likes to be in control.” A couple of days before leaving, I was able to videotape Oishi’s first steps towards Baba, while Ma was screaming with joy in the background.
Last weekend, Oishi, petrified of public speaking, gave her Girl Scout Gold Award acceptance speech in an auditorium full of adults and children. She did not waver. She did not falter. She stood tall in front of more than a hundred people and gave her impeccable speech. Every intonation was perfect and rose to a level that left me and many others in awe. She spoke like a passionate leader.
While she uttered the last words, “Thank you,” the baby picture of Oishi directing my Baba about how she wants to take her first steps on this world crossed my mind and I thought with a grin, “I should have known!”