My friend, a green tiger

May 11, 2008

The little one has a companion – a dear friend who is always there with her. He sleeps with her, plays with her, fights with her, accompanies her to the day care, shares her books/toys/dolls/everything, joins us for walks in the evening and best of all, takes all the blame whenever she is naughty or does anything wrong. I’m sure all parents of three year olds would describe this as an ideal situation! And all three year olds would long for such a companion. Only the companion here is a tiger!! No, we don’t live in wilderness or anywhere close to forests or woods. This is a imaginary tiger and a imaginary companion!! I mean, imaginary for the outside world. For us, he is a very real person, a family member!

The little one has been talking about a tiger ever since she started recognizing animals and started talking in sentences. I don’t remember clearly when she chose a tiger over all other friendly beings from the wild. But, its always been – tiger ne paani gira diya, tiger ne book phaad di, tiger ko music sunana hai, tiger ko baahar jana hai (tiger spilled water, tiger tore this book, tiger wants to listen to music, tiger wants to go out). Back then, this Mr. Tiger used to be green in colour. He wasn’t little one’s age, but slightly older than her. Maybe a couple of years older, or may be in his teens, I’m not too sure. And if he got angry, he’d run away to his jungle. But, he spent most of the time at our place. And just in case you’ve started wondering if he lives in my imagination too; well I used to keep probing the little one to see how far this would go and she would keep giving me these tiny tidbits.

Not sure its just a coincidence that I used to be, and for that matter still am, a great lover of Calvin and Hobbes. I particularly loved Hobbes and his pearls of wisdom. Now I have one staying in my very own house 🙂 To complete the picture, I actually got a stuffed tiger home last month. Not sure if it sounds way too wieird? Ah, well. By the way, the stuffed tiger has been a favourite at home ever since he arrived. And needless to say, he isn’t only little one’s favourite 🙂

Over the last year, things have changed. The tiger is no longer green, but he has turned nice golden yellow with black ‘lines’. When I told her, her tiger used be green when she was small, she laughed and said, “Tiger bhi kabhi green hota hai he he he. Mamma buddhu.” (Is the tiger ever green? Mamma is so dumb). And it is no longer about one little cub, sometimes it seems we have an entire family of tigers living with us. Its almost feels like a joint family! We have two “bada tigers” (big tigers), who I suppose are mamma tiger and papa tiger, and two “chotta tigers” (small tigers). Somehow these tigers don’t have a name. If asked about the name of her tiger, the little one responds – “woh only tiger hai” (he is only a tiger). Whatever that is supposed to mean! And we are spinning stories around these tigers day-in and day-out. “Mamma tiger ko bhi chocolate chahiye”, “Tiger ne newspaper phada, who suntaa hi nahin hai”, “mera tiger mujhe bahut pyaar karta hai”, while returning from the day care “Aaj tiger ki mamma tiger ko jaldi lene aayi thi”. I play along. Mostly.

At times the water starts flowing above the head when Mr. Tiger starts becoming a scapegoat for everything that’d raise mamma’s eyebrows. I couldn’t bring myself say there is no tiger. So, one day mamma got her very own companion and calls him ‘Ram’. Ram gets cross when the little one doesn’t do things she knows how to do, like – wearing her shoes, keeping her books in place, eating at the table, drinking from a glass without spilling. So, we have our house full of people, real and imaginary, all bumping into each other. Who said we are a small nuclear family?

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