Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bus Journey in Mumbai city

‘Why can’t people, who have small children, sacrifice their outings?’ I wondered as I looked out of my window.

I was happily enjoying the bus ride, when momentarily I glanced at the standees that crowded near my seat. Amongst them was this young lady who cuddled a baby in her one arm and held the small hand of her 2-year-old son on the other side, simultaneously balancing the jerks of the bus and almost falling on the fellow passenger. My co-passenger immediately offered her the seat which she accepted with a smirk and plopped down on the seat next to me. The strong smell of vomit from her baby was very nauseating, I wanted to vomit too. The baby was fast asleep and lay against her mother’s shoulder. Her soft warm fingers caressed my shoulder carelessly with the movement of the bus. Her 2-year-old son squeezed into the narrow gap between the seats and stared at me. Nursery rhymes played in my mind as I smiled foolishly trying to get his attention, but the child seemed too tired to smile. I offered him a road side view from my window seat but he was not in good mood. He stood thus, between her legs, almost dozing, not knowing that his destination was one hour away.

With every jerk, he banged his head against the back of the seat.

One bang, two bang, three bang…..bawl……!

His mother rubbed his head lightly and tried to shield his head with her palm. The bawl stopped and the child was calm again. The baby on the shoulder was uncomfortable now and she tried to shift her tiny head, rubbing her wet nose against her mother’s neck. It was time to change the position of the baby now. The lady lifted her one leg and spread it across the seat, overlapping my thigh, and cradled her baby on the crook of her thigh. This removed the support of her son, who now fell down.


I wanted to offer him one sweet from my purse, but I was afraid that his mother would misunderstand me and might think that I was trying to drug her child.

“Stand up!” she shouted sternly in her native dialect.

She helped her son to get up and leaned him against her leg, her son held on to her arm.

The baby was not happy with this new position and stretched, lifting her buttocks up in the air and moving her arms angrily above her head and squealing. The woman started vigorously shaking her leg, trying to pacify the baby. With her vibrating leg, my thigh vibrated too. My free massage session had begun but baby’s squealing would not stop. Her son watched as his mother snuggled the infant closer to her breast, and covering her baby with her dupatta, she extracted her breast from the bra and thrust the nipple into the baby’s mouth.

Thus baby’s dinner time was taken care of. Thank God, women can carry basic necessities of an infant with ease! There is no need to sterilize the bottles, or boil the milk just pluck, thrush and feed! Voila!

The bus moved at a lightening speed and I was enjoying the stinging breeze. Suddenly there was a sharp jolt as the bus came to screeching halt.


Her son’s head bang hard against the seat. The baby was confused as the nipple oozed milk on her nose, on her cheeks and on her eyelids.

Squeal! Bawl! Squeal! Bawl! Squeal!

Shut up! Screamed the mother in her native dialect as she widened her eyeballs and stared at her son. I could almost see the fury rings from her nose!

There was unsynchronized harmony of sounds. All the passengers in the bus were distracted from their reverie and all looked in the same direction, first at children, then their mother and then at me. Why me? What did I do? Hello! I am innocent. Blame it on the driver, who is driving so rashly. Blame on the children, who are hungry and tired. Blame it on their mother who is so brave! Stop looking at me!

I started reciting ‘Hail Mary, Full of Grace……’

My destination was still fifteen minutes away. I contemplated taking a taxi for the rest of the journey. But how do I find my way from this trapped position? Lift this lady’s thigh away from mine and enrage this baby and her mother!? I dare not!

I continued reciting “Hail Mary, Full of Grace…’ as I closed my eyes and blocked off all the mixed sights and sounds for the rest of the journey, wondering, ‘Why can’t the people who have small children, sacrifice their outings?’ huh?

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