For some time now I have found it heartwarming to watch Annabelle interact, more over crave the attention, from people around her, namely strangers.
It’s safe to say she’s a pretty social baby and she certainly loves the faces she knows; daddy, our friends, our cleaner, our driver, the watchman and the building sweeper. But lately Annabelle has just discovered that smiling at people keeps the attention on her for that little bit longer, or indeed draws the attention her way. And what’s so heartwarming is that she has no judgements on whom she gets her attention from.
A month or so ago we had to go to the doctors for a check up with her hips (being a breech baby there is a risk of hip dysplasia, especially once babies start to bare weight). We were sitting in the waiting room and the only other people there were two rugged and scruffy young ‘runners’ (boys that are employed to drop things off and pick things up from all around the city, usually on foot or by bicycle). These boys were curled up sleeping on a chair near by and Annabelle was smiling, laughing even, to grab their attention. Once they finally woke up and looked over, sure enough they smiled back and Annabelle was finally satisfied.
We’ve been in a lift before with a rather fragrant gentleman that had very dirty clothes, no shoes and sadly no teeth either. Did Annabelle mind, hell no… a smile’s a smile, whoever it comes from! So as usual, she went on her charm offensive to get him to smile at her. It’s a lovely icebreaker between the very obvious class (or caste) system here in India. Annabelle doesn’t mind who or what you are, just smile at her and she’ll accept you.
On a recent visit to the clinic where I help out (Foundation for Mother and Child Health) in the Dhobi Ghat, Annabelle was passed from pillar to post and she was in her element. I knew it was a safe environment, so I felt comfortable allowing her to meet all these people but a couple of times I turned around and she was in the arms of some other man, women or child. All of them with such different lifestyles and cultures to her own. I wish I could bottle this acceptance and sell it across the world. I know she will change in time and create her own judgements like we all do (however hard we try not to), but for now I think it’s a lovely reminder of how we all started off the same way.
Is there a downside to this? One small one and I have to be careful how I write this for readers overseas not to get the wrong impression. However, it is a fairly standard thing here to ignore beggars who rap on your car window for money and it’s something every person in the city struggles with, but for our own reasons it’s the best way to deal with such overt poverty. Annabelle, of course, doesn’t understand this and to her this beggar is just another friend she wants the attention of, so she’s there smiling and giggling and generally drawing attention, whilst I’m being all cold and hard hearted!! Perhaps she’ll grow up to work for UNICEF!