Can you sense when your child is hungry or feeling sleepy? Can you differentiate the different cries of your baby? Is it crying out of hunger, pain or some other discomfort?
Mata Amritanandamayi (The Hugging saint) used to say this about her mother. “My mother at times would be busy in some chores outside the house. I would be assisting her. Suddenly she would straighten up and say ‘Go bring the baby from the house. It is feeling hungry; it must be crying now’. How does she know? Actually breast milk in her would start oozing out automatically at that time and wet her blouse! I would rush to the house and sure the baby would be writhing in the hammock and crying; I will bring it to mother and she would start breast feeding it immediately. That’s the type of natural instincts that my mother possessed”
Perhaps such type of natural instincts could be very rare in today’s mothers. Particularly with the first child, with no prior experience of motherhood, many present day woman may find it very difficult to grasp the nitty gritty of rearing a baby, understanding its only communication language of crying and taking action to meet the exact need of the child. With single baby becoming practically the norm nowadays amidst sophisticated couples, the mothers really could not make use of any experience gained in rearing a baby for the future!
A scenario I had witnessed decades ago at a temple festival near my native village is very vivid in my memory. After the temple festival was over, traditional south Indian lunch had been arranged in a house especially for devotees belonging to a specific upper caste well-to-do community who have come from far off places to attend their temple festival.
It was a hot and humid mid-day; space in the house was limited when compared to the crowd that had come to eat there; it was a typical old-style village house with an open courtyard at middle and halls on 3 sides. No fans. Food serving was slow and unprofessional; people were waiting for eating with hunger writ on their face. This young and sophisticated couple too was waiting impatiently for long, to have their turn. They had a baby hardly 9-12 months old fortunately sleeping on the mother’s shoulders.
When they finally got their turn, they got seated on the floor; plantain leaf was spread and food was being served. It was at that point that the child woke up. After a while it started writhing and crying. The mother was trying to pacify it while she herself was engaged in eating. She tried to feed a little sweet pudding to it perhaps thinking that the child was hungry. The child refused to eat it; She attempted to feed a little water to it thinking that it must be thirsty. The child drank it but continued to cry aloud. Causing lot of embarrassment to all those who were sitting and eating, the child continued to cry louder and louder. The couple somehow managed to finish eating in a hurry and rushed out of the house.
I too was eating in the same batch and as I finished and came out to wash, I noticed that an old lady had voluntarily taken the child in her arms and she was soon able to stop the child’s crying! Guess how?
Being a baby from a well to do family, it was attired fully with tightly fitting upper and lower garments, a pair of socks and shoes. The lady was hastily removing the shoes, socks and all the garments from the baby to make it naked; she got a hand- fan from someone nearby and started fanning the baby briskly! The baby was virtually wet in sweat! That was it. What a sense of joy that the baby’s smiling face now radiated for the relief of one and all around!