Comfort objects – Part I Nayi

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(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan
February 17, 2018)


“My mother was from a traditional background and biased towards sons over daughters. That is perhaps why when she gave birth to twins – one of each sex, it was me who spend most of the time in her arms during our infancy rather than my sister. Thus my sister (needless to say that these details have been given to me by the then adults, including my mother, colored to make me special) would have to cry a lot to get the same attention for a few moments which; I got all the time without least effort. When she did get attention, she would fall asleep holding my mother’s hand (something on offer, only after my mother was done with putting me to sleep). Though she was a light sleeper and would wake up as soon as my mother tried to steal her hand from her little fingers, and start crying.”

“This was troublesome for my mother who would have to sit there letting her daughter hold her hand and this didn’t exactly help her like the daughter. My grandmother finally came up with a solution; she created a small bag – the size of the breast pocket of an adult, of a cotton cloth and filled it with more cotton, such that it was soft (at least in the beginning) and gave it to my sister. My sister held on to it like a playtoy while awake and, afterward, went to sleep by herself holding it nearto her neck and chest – just as she would hold onto mother’s hand, without crying for mother’s attention.”

“This object, nayi, she called it (and so that was what others took to calling it too) became a necessity for her to be able to sleep. It was impossible for her to sleep without it, she would cry for hours if she was denied it – though not alive as her mother’s hand, it was just as soft and perhaps as indifferent to what it meant to her.”

“My sister never lost this ‘nayi’ except for once at age of nine, when seeing her going to tears three nights in a row, my granny createda new one for her, though she was of opinion that the girl was too old for the toy now. Aside from her weakness for this comfort object, my sister grew up to be a rather strong and independent woman. In due time, she got love-married and took ‘nayi’ along with herself to in-laws. It was her husband’s arm that finally replaced the ‘nayi’.”

(The story was told by a suicidal patient to a psychiatrist whose own story forms the material of a different story here.)

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