“Kanha stop running; it’s time for your feed,” said a mildly exasperated Yashoda as her son escaped her grasp and scuttled off. She loved late evenings when the flaming horses of Surya Deva had almost completed their journey, and the men of the house attended to the cattle. The women who typically milled around her courtyard, discussing titbits of their lives, had also rushed home to clean their houses and prepare evening meals.
She now had one muhurta of the last prahar of the day alone with her son. She had realized years ago that marrying the chief of the tribe meant she was intricately related to the entire tribe. Elders would bless her as she fetched water from the river. Women would stopover through the day to share their joys and predicaments, and young children would rush to hug her whenever they saw her. Her privacy was a small price to pay for such rich rewards.
Kanha stopped a few meters away and gurgled, “Ma pakdo”, teasing her to come and grab him.
He was only two-year-old and still lisped. She dashed towards him. He waited till the last moment, crouched, rolled on the mud floor, and reached the other corner of the room instantaneously. He had started playing this game just a month ago.
She thought back to the time when they played the first time. He had staggered all around the house, and she had followed him, anxious that he would stumble and hurt himself. Every time she came close to catching him, a stream of light from the setting sun seemed to streak in from an open window. She had blinked, and her toddler was, yet again, in a different corner of the room.
She recalled surrendering after half a prahar and collapsing on a dewan opposite the window. After a few moments, Kanha had come waddling up to her. “Mumu,” he said as he climbed onto her lap and started feeding hungrily.
Today was no different. She gave up − exhausted by the chase − and sat on the dewan. Kanha stood in the opposite corner leaning on the large stone mortar. His eyes were half-closed, and she could see them sparkle as he peered teasingly through his delicate eyelashes. He was waiting for her to begin singing.
She never remembered singing before Kanha’s birth. It started when he was refusing to sleep one night. She had hummed a song about Lord Shiva; She crooned about how he drank poison to save the universe. Kanha has chuckled as she sang about how he tamed Ganga in his matted locks and finally fell asleep with his fingers under his armpits. He had smiled through the night. She knew this because she had lain awake for an hour looking at his perfectly formed features. She recalled synchronizing her breath with his as she watched his stomach expanding and contracting gently with every breath.
She started humming Lord Shiva’s song again, and Kanha came running to her. She lowered her arms, he climbed up and started suckling immediately. She gazed at the full-length mirror that stood proudly directly across them.
Ripples of orange light flooded through the window, and they were both submerged in the sunlight. She giggled as Kanha’s peacock feather tickled her chin, and he gazed up enquiringly. She gazed into his caramel eyes and felt drawn into them. The circular eyeballs seemed to be expanding, and she felt she was falling into an infinitely deep vortex. Kanha chuckled again, and Yashoda steadied herself. She often had strange experiences when she fed him in the evenings. Even now, she felt wisps of wind tickling his hair, and the sun was kissing his cheeks. She almost always heard beautiful notes from a flute that would keep time with her song for Kanha. The first time she heard it, she had run out with Kanha in her arms. Her eyes searched for a stranger with a flute. She had strained her ears, trying to localize the location from where the notes originated. Bizarrely, it had stopped the moment she stopped humming.
The same notes kept pace with her singing again today. The muhurta of the day seemed to be much longer these days. The birds, the trees, the wind, the very sun seemed to stand still, willing her to spend more time with her son. Kanha had finished suckling and sat up. She hugged him tightly, pulling his cheek against hers, and thanking mother goddess for blessing her with such a divine child.
Kanha smiled, tangling his fingers in her hair and gazed into the mirror with her.