There is a hardly a happy occasion in India that doesn’t call for the distribution of sweets मिठाइयाँ (mithaaiyaan) — the birth of a baby बच्चे का जन्म (bacche ka janm) is no exception. In many places, and also where I grew up in cosmopolitan Mumbai, if you are offered पेढ़ा (pedha) by the joyous family, then you can safely infer that a baby boy has arrived into their midst. On the other hand, the birth of a baby girl is celebrated by distributing बर्फ़ी (barphi). [Both are milk-based sweets with different preparation methods and with some variation in taste and form.]
Then follow the string of traditions that begin with the naming ceremony नामकरण (naamkaran) which is a rite of passage in Hindu traditions. In a religious ceremony presided over by a priest, the baby is given its name. In olden and more traditional days, this was a privilege reserved for an aunt or a family elder. My name was chosen by my aunt, although my sister, who is much younger, was named by my parents.
It is common in Indian homes to see newborns bundled up at all times, sometimes regardless of weather. Tradition also doesn’t allow the mother to go outdoors for nearly 40 days after the birth of the child. Explanations for these are varied and can be a topic of discussion in themselves. [In modern times आधुनिक समय (aadhunik samay), however, such practices are difficult to follow, especially with the increasing number of working women in India, who don’t have the luxury of abundant maternity leave.]
To ward off evil, Indians place large dots of kohl काजल (kaajal) or सुरमा (surma) at the temples, cheeks, and/or center of the baby’s forehead. This is not just a practice with infants, but also with toddlers and older children.
So, what do you say when you are introduced to someone with a new baby?
बधाई हो ! आपका बच्चा कितना प्यारा है।
Badhaai ho! Aapka baccha kitna pyara hai!
Congratulations! Your baby is so sweet!
बधाई हो (badhaai) = congratulations
आपका (aapka) = your
बच्चा (baccha) = child/baby
कितना (kitna) = how! or very
प्यारा (pyara) = sweet
If you’d like to take the conversation further …
लड़का या लड़की? क्या नाम रखा है?
Ladka ya ladki? Kya naam rakha hai?
Boy or girl? What have you named him/her?
लड़का(ladka) = boy
या(ya) = or
लड़की (ladki) = girl
नाम रखना(naam rakhna) = to name (literally, to keep a name)