the books always have these long instructions about travelling. that is the only section i never read in those what to expect books. the instructions were so ominous that i feared i would never travel. and travel i did. alone, in a plane, in a long distance train, in an inter city bus. and i was smug in my being an unruffled, much travelled mom.
and then there was that one journey that demolished all confidence in one simple stroke. the ominous signs were there for me to see in the morning itself. one phone call from the father giving me inane instructions and i turned back to see the girl having thrown everything out of the well packed suitcase. she looked so pleased that she had unpacked.
the next sign i did not read was when i was already running late and the car was waiting and i turned back to see the girl running off. to say bye to the mor. i had a heavy handbag slung over my shoulder, and a suitcase in the other. and madam upped and away.
and then in the hottest car ride from hell she dropped water all over herself. the efficient mother had a change. but somehow i knew that just this once i should have packed three more changes for the journey. its called mothers instinct, there is a sense of the heart sinking, then lurching then wiggling away into some dark corner. anyway my lovely khakhi bag that has become the baby bag was already bursting at the seams with food. ( low budget airlines give nothing! and for some reason even i feel very very hungry the moment the plane takes off. its called conditioning.) i did not want to spoil the chic element of the fancy new purse i had bought and was carrying, instead of my sensible bag that is stuffed with yet another extra diaper, t shirt, and box of raisins. all i had in my chic bag was my wallet and the tickets. ( chic bags not made for mothers!!!) so to cut a long story short, i squished the mother's instinct and did not dig deep into the suitcase to fish out yet another change.
every airline except mine anounced that flights to mumbai were delayed or cancelled. but yairline anouncer, pleased as punch announced that we were boarding. this announcement came minutes after jet announced that the bombay runway had been closed.
so we all trooped into the bus. the bus took three rounds of the plane and we came back. yipee. what a joy ride in the middle of a hot day, shoulder bag bursting at the seams, chic bag spilling even the two items it had, and the child in a wildly crazy mood.
we settled back into our chairs. i prepared for a long wait. just when the child began calming down and getting ready to nod off, another enthusiastic announcement! damn them and their ' we are so happy' training! back in the bus and this time into the plane. ten minutes later we are told to disembark and carted off into the arrival area. another bus back to departure and back to that ridiculous waiting area. and now the child, all twelve kilos of her, was asleep on my shoulder along wit the afore-mentioned two bags. all the bucket seats had arms, so no place to lie her down.
i threw a fit and asked the airline fellows to organise some lounge area. sweetly they took me into their back office. all tables and worse bucket chairs. i looked at them and asked where i should lay my daughter down. the floor was filthy. the tables suspect, and hard and cold! i spotted the fancy shancy business class lounge and restaurant and pushed my way through. the lady in charge took over, shooed the nervous airlines fellows away, put two very soft lounge chairs together and made sanah sleep on this wonderful makeshift bed. thank god for women!!!
i sat down and took my first long breath. sahib singh verma was dead. mumbai flooded. the biggest plasma tv i have ever seen blinked these lines at me, again and again, my brain already zapped i turned my chair away. after the third gross samosa i heard an announcement that we were to board the flight.
will not describe my mad rush, with sleeping twelve kilo child, two bags and slippery chappals to the security check only to be told i needed to get new boarding passes. because we had already 'arrived' once. so now we needed to check in again.
every detail is needed to explain why my self confidence as the cool and calm travelling with baby status has come crashing down.
so run back. run again. all the time the annoncement shouting, please hurry, plane boarding. finally me and sanah, and another couple, the last to board the flight, sat in our seats. one more long breath. thought i could doze off. but the child was awake. as the plane taxied i saw a single myna. in panic looked for another. there was none. do you remember -one for sorrow, two for joy...? well it was to be one for sorrow. minutes later sanah squeezed the tetrapack, the straw pointed straight at us. we were covered with guava juice. and guave juice is sticky, and grainy. no clean change available for sanah. the extra pair had already been used up.
the child would not sit in my lap at take off or landing. she jumped all over the place. and was the annoying toddler you dont want to travel with when you get into a plane. except that she was my child and i could not look the other way with a sour expression. nor could i roll my eyes at other passengers with that " why do they bring children" look.
the story does not end. chaos at bombay airport. sanah will not sit on the trolley. she wants to push it. her hands dont reach that silly push down lever, so i have to carry her so she can push it down and push the damn thing forward. i confess at that point quite a few tears slipped out of the corner of my eyes. twenty elbows jabbed into my eye, stomach, crotch, breast over six hours. back aching with having carried / held back / restrained twelve kilos for six hours. head pounding with only three samosas in stomach. ( i had carried food for the child but forgot myself). and at that point i wept.
who said mothers can travel alone. who said mothers should step outside the house. who said mothers sould run their lives as if nothing had happened.