Vyka Anjali Mahabal is a little girl with tons of energy who always has her mother Karen constantly on the go. At 18 months, the girl, whom her mother fondly calls Anjali, loves to say her ABCs.
Though still breastfeeding, Anjali can count up to 20, recognise colours and is able to get her feelings across in an "adult manner", her mother says, with "No", "Yes", "Thank you", "I want" and "Mine." Dressed in a purple dress with pigtails with tiny white clips in her hair, Vyka, who responds to the name Anjali when called, eventually gave me a toothy-grin as I sat down with her and her mother at Express House recently.
Karen was thrilled for the opportunity to have her daughter say her ABCs and count but Anjali did not feel like saying her ABCs and remained silent.
Mahabal laughed and said, "Just before coming here I was wondering if she would do it around people she is not familiar with."
More interested with the table in the interview room and meal time from mom, Anjali was snuggling down into her mother's arms and acting just like any child her age.
Approximately 45 minutes into the interview, Mahabal opened up an alphabet book and pointed to the letter on top of the page and said, "What letter is this?"
Anjali said, "A"
"What sound does the 'A' make?"
"Uh," Anjali said.
Mahabal does this all the way to Z and began pointing to the letters randomly, which does not faze the 18-month-old, who takes her time to look at the picture and answer "R, rrrr."
Born on February 4, 2011 Anjali is not just the first child for Mahabal and her husband Vyas, but a miracle child.
Mahabal, 31, said, "I feel very fortunate to have Anjali. I have a pre-existing medical condition that I was diagnosed with at 17 which made it very difficult for me to have children.
"When Vyka was born at two months I started showing her flash cards of the alphabet and used sign language to form the letters to keep her attention. You know when they are that small you can't hold their attention for very long. People would often tell me why you are showing her the ABCs she too small to understand. But I know from the time a child is born they are like a sponge they would soak up any and everything to get a better understanding of their environment. Through signing the alphabet, I was able to hold her attention long enough for her to focus on me and what I was saying to her. She then started to pick it up," Mahabal said.
"By six months I started her on the Leap Frog programme," she said.
"I just want to make this clear, I never pushed my daughter. All I would do is probably spend like an hour showing her flash cards and have her say her ABCs. I think for me the real reason I started doing this with her was to find something interesting to do to pass time. I am a stay-at-home mom and I really love spending that time with her. She is still breast-feeding so the closeness there that truly develops between mother and child is such a joy for me.
A regular day for me is not that much different than any other parent. I do the usual. I get up on mornings, feed her and then put her in front of the television to watch cartoons and go about preparing lunch and doing some housework. However I pay close attention to what she looks at," Mahabal said.
"I did not think I was doing anything different from any other parent who is at home would do. My mother did the same thing for me and she had nine of us so I didn't think I was doing anything out of the ordinary. I am happy that the Express thinks my child is special enough to be featured, however I believe every child has the capability to do what Anjali does but sometimes as parents we tend to underestimate our children. This can in turn limit and even hinder their progress. As parents we have to keep in mind that we are the first role model our children have and they learn from us," she said.
"At nine months I realised Anjali started repeating everything I said from the ABCs to making sounds she heard off the phonics programme and because of the teaching methods there she began to talk. I decided to do some research on the Internet to look at early development in children. I found a lot of information online which convinced me that this could be true. This encouraged me to keep abreast of her learning milestones. From there I realised she was not only meeting but surpassing her milestones.
By ten months she was walking. I noticed she was very attentive and if I asked her to do something she would understand and do it," she said.
According to Mahabal, she just started teaching her daughter how to write her own name and they have also started the first primer book.