Friday, October 16, 2009
There’s something invariably sticky about trains and small kids.
I love trains, the traveling part, I mean, you know, looking out of the windows and watching the passing landscape and stuff. But these second-class compartments are forever dusty and sticky with tiny cockroaches running all over the floor. I spent a small part of train traveling stamping and squashing these creatures before settling down to stare at the landscape or read. There are also those overtly friendly fellow passengers hell bent on striking up some inane conversation with you.
But the worst part of train journey is the abundant, overwhelming presence of those particularly whiny, sniffling, noisy kids. They are an inevitable part of every train journey. Their screeches, tantrums and idiotic jabber add to the constant rattle as I try to make myself as unobstreperous as possible.
It made me come to the conclusion that my life is an exaggerated example of Murphy’s Law gone berserk. (I always come to such conclusions about my life).
It was the journey back from a recent visit to my hometown. It was as usual horribly hot. Sun heated up the air inside the compartment and since I am normally an unpleasant, crabby, depressed human being, this cramped uncomfortable atmosphere made me even more depressed. I sunk into a crushing vortex of self-pity and crankiness and pictured myself as a silent suffering saint.
At the next station a woman got in with two tiny, big-eyed brats, a toddler barely a year old and its bigger sibling probably about 3 years old. I already made up my mind to avoid all eye contact and pretend to be part of the limited interior decoration.
Her husband had disappeared somewhere to watch the landscape probably as I guess most traveling husbands do. It seems that once they have impregnated their wives, made them bear as many kids as they could manage and convinced themselves of their manliness and appeased their ego, men drift into a sort of nonchalance from which they resurface when these offspring turn into surely, cranky adolescents. Then they yell at their wives for not bringing up the kids properly and letting them have all the freedom and get upset over the fact that these smart-ass beings are not turning into disciplined, obedient, meek little chips of the old block.
This woman had that typical strained, worried look on her face, which many interpret as the ultimate, pure, all-encompassing motherly love. The toddler had a disfigured piece of a toy car dripping with saliva and remnants of its previous meal stuck to the wheels. The kid waved that wet plastic thing dangerously near my face; I sunk further down into my seat pretending to blend in with the surroundings. I could see this attempt at camouflage wasn’t too successful. The woman was trying to catch my eye.
The baby banged the poor woman on her head, tried to kick its big brother or sister (its difficult to say) and went off into a babbling stream of unintelligibility. The older one was like a neurotic clockwork mouse. It tried to scramble up the window bars, pull off the blinds, kicked almost all the passengers, upset a bottle of water and proceeded to climb out of the emergency exit while all the passengers shrilled ‘Ayo Mone….’ (Roughly means ‘Oh dear boy’ or something like that) It was like a cycle, repeating all over again.
Each time the poor woman dragged that fidgety mass of arms and legs back to the seat, it sat still for a fraction of a second and went off again to repeat the same set of senseless activities from which it got a queer sort of pleasure.
The baby was excitedly watching its sibling’s antics. To show its frustration it started kicking and squirming and giving short piercing yelps.
The child eventually got bored with the wandering and came back to its mother. I thought perhaps now things will just settle down and plunged comfortably into my own morose thoughts.
Soon a screaming match started between the two. There was a murderous glint in the toddler’s eyes. Given a chance, it would have smashed the big one with that soggy toy car.
The woman was slowly cracking under the strain, she glanced anxiously towards the door where I saw the dark head of a man lazily leaning on the door and looking out, I suppose that is the father.
Eventually seeing some trace of kindness on my face, she placed that tiny, sniveling, sweating inanity onto my lap. It looked at me with its large bambi eyes and proceeded to pull my hair and gouge my eyes. All the while bloated lumps of drool dripped down its chin onto my arms.
I glared at its mother hoping it will yell some words of rebuke, but she was resolutely, almost rigidly, staring out of the window taking a sudden, exaggerated interest in the arid landscape outside.
Seeing that my eyeball was not coming unstuck, it jabbed my face with its stubby fingers and shrieked for no reason.
Out of sheer panic, I fished out the last of my precious dwindling horde of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and gave it unwilling to this grubby, wriggling lump of petulant restlessness. It grabbed it viciously; my heart broke seeing that divine morsel being squished brutally. The mother beamed benignly at me, probably mistaking this generous move as some sort of an inherent maternal instinct.
I guess she was seeking in me what all women look for in other women, compassion, a capacity for tenderness. There are a lot of people, who believe that I am capable of both and another lot who think I am monstrously loveless and selfish.
I guess I have a sort of pitiful love and consideration for my fellow human beings, and because of that, I end up doing the weirdest things for making life easier for someone less fortunate.
The baby licked the squashed fragments with great relish sending chocolate colored drool all over my lap. Occasionally, when I am on the verge of giving it a good shake, it stared at me with its large, melting bambi eyes and I had to restrain myself with a sigh.
Most kids have those wide, big eyes. I guess it’s a very clever ploy on the part of nature to ensure their survival and thus guaranteeing the survival of the whole human race.
Babies can drive you to insanity; they are irritable and cumbersome, but just when you reach the verge of doing something drastic they look at you with their large, baby-eyes that can melt even the toughest heart. Hence, these drooling, sticky pink things aren’t strangulated but instead taken care of until they grow up into another set of stupid adults.
But even the eyes can lose their charm after a point. Luckily they had to get down at the next station. Amidst a lot of bawling, and scuffling the mother managed to pull out both the kids and disappear into the anonymous crowd.
I found a battered copy of an evening tabloid wedged on the berth above me and immersed into the swirling images of blood splattered bodies and exaggerated headlines detailed in every page.
The the next bunch of kids have just got in, one of them’s got a large lobotomized doll in her hand and the haggard mother was looking hopefully at me, I stared fixedly into the newspaper and switched off the outer world.
Ps: For those who don’t know, I have emerged from my months of reclusive life and finally got an underpaid job in a children’s publication as an editor. Occasionally I write random articles for a highly experimental and completely unoriginal tabloid with a very limited readership. I have a feeling it is destined for an early death, the paper I mean.
Ps: Picture above, titled Deflated, MS paint.