This post started off as a comment to Vidya’s post about Varun and grew into a separate post. Its about my niece, Shambavi. Shambavi aka shaamu aka jillu aka pappu and countless other names is about 550 days old and after starting off a little slowly on the talking front jillu’s vocab has soared off like Apple stocks over the last few weeks. She now says amma, appa(she used to call her dad balappa, him being Bala but now has settled with appa), tatha/tathappa, ammamma/paati, akka, anna, aunty, she calls my sister aninny thithi(harini chithi), and funnily enough she calls kids her size paapa. Yesterday she was toying with the cordless and accidentally speed dialed my place, my mom picked up and said hello, dont know how she recognized my moms voice but immediately answered ‘hello.. charu paati…?’. Then there are food words, maamum, pappu, nei, maamalam etc. But of all the words to come out of her mouth, the best has to be.. well.. the way she calls me maamaa. She has three modes for it.. a) the normal maamaa.. b) a maaaaaaamaa.. and c) when in josh, the musical maamaaaaaaaaaa… the second syllable going into a nice little raagam. I never knew being called maamaa would be so delightful. Between she also calls me arthy.If it is raisins for Varun its pottu kadalai for jillu. She ambles into the kitchen, points at the container, brings her fingers together in some kind of a mudra and says ‘ithoondu taa'(she opens up her hands on ‘taa’). My peripa, her grandfather, who is currently working as caretaker-in-chief of jillu spends a lot of time humming/singing to himself. On a whim my cousin asked jillu ‘tatha eppadi maa paaduva’, for which jillu did this. She raised her hand like a baagavathar, put on a half-mocking, half-shy smile and went into an ‘aaaa…’ that put sudha raghunathan and nityashri mahadaven to shame. Nobody has even dared kalaachufy peripa, him being the patriarch of the clan, there had to be a first time, besides who else could have done it? Jillu is also very responsible. She turns on the AC when it becomes too hot and turns it off when it becomes cold. When the phone rings she runs to the cordless and carries it to her tatha. One day, her tatha had just finished brushing his teeth and noticing that he was looking for his towel jillu ran to the cupboard pulled out one and rushed to her tatha. My cousin, like most first time moms is pretty much clueless about raising the kid and has decided that it is time jillu took her education seriously. Apparently, it is never too early to learn abc.. 123.. johny johny.. twinkle twinkle.. differential calculus.. molecular biology and special theory of relativity, I will leave that for another post. Sometimes I envy jillu. Before she was here, I used to be treated like a king at my peripas. I still am, except that jillu usually ends up stealing the spotlight by doing something incredibly smart and/or incredibly cute. Aaarrr.. I tried imitating her by saying ‘ithoondu kaapi taa’ at home, all i got was blank stares. She is already better than me on so many fronts. She is more musical than I will ever be. She does a nice little jig that is way awesome than my monkey dance. She is cool, she has been hi-fiving since she was one, I can never pull off one without looking stupid. She is brave, did I tell about the time she was toying with a lizard, quite a big one, and only dropped it because her amma and paati freaked out and screamed? And last time she was at home she was eyeing my cube rather curiously. I have a sneaky feeling she is solving it in her head. That would really wipe out my uniqueness in the clan. Anyway, I have decided to buy her sunglasses. She is gonna need it, ’cause her future is gonna be real bright.