Vantage point

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Best Method of Population Control

What is the best method to convince a person to have as few kids as possible, maybe no kids at all?

Do what fate/destiny has been consistently doing to me since time immemorial. Make the person travel alongside children all the time.

It is uncanny, the frequency with which my co-travellers end up being kids! It all started when I was a kid. In those days, this trend was a welcome one, for I would always get other kids to play with in the train or bus. The trend became unwelcome, when i kept growing up, but the co-travellers remained in the 0-10 age bracket.

It is a very meaningful fact that so many scary movies use kids as the means to scare. Travel like I have and you will come across specimens scarier than the kids from Exorcist, The Ring, and Omen combined. I can't recount all the incidents. It would be just too traumatic. But here's a sample.

Once when I was travelling alone from Mumbai to Delhi in AC 3 Tier, I was unfortunate enough to share the compartment with a Gujarathi couple with 4 kids! One was obviously a baby with what was definitely a bad case of colic. This is a common feature in almost all my journeys - a baby with a definitely bad case of colic, for how else would you explain the constant bawling at the top of its tiny but formidable lungs? So one was a baby that kept expressing its dissent at the general state of the world in paranormal decibel levels. Another was the rottenly spoilt Indian boy.

The Spoilt Indian Boy (SIB) is one of the topmost annoying species in the universe, with only Kirsten Dunst and Justin Langer as competition. The SIB thinks he is the king of all he surveys. He will yell at the top of his voice, and will not think twice about invading anyone's privacy or ownership rights. What makes these occurences recurrent is that the parents look on dotingly and approvingly, with a benign smile on their faces, as the kid proceeds to tear up someone else's magazine, or dance on someone else's luggage. This species owes its existence to the unhealthy obsession that Indians have for the male child.

Others kids were two girls with extremely high pitched nasal voices. These four children combined to make my existence in the train hell. I will spare you the lurid details and let my description of the four tykes suffice.

Then there was the time I was coming from Bombay to Pune in a Volvo bus, and having booked the tickets at the last moment, was stuck with an aisle seat at the back of the bus. At this point I faced a kiddy-attack from the remaining three sides. The fellow in the window seat next to me was carrying on his lap a boy of about 2 or 3. The kid kept fidgeting, crying, and yelling at the slightest possible reason. In front of me, there was a boy who kept playing with the pushback seat, pushing it back, and pulling it every two minutes, bruising my knees in the process. And on my right was seated a couple with their 8 year old daughter who fancied herself as the next one in the line of those Remix Rambhas that infest TV screen nowadays.

The bus was playing songs, and this girl, as soon as a song would start, would jump to the aisle, and start doing what she thought was a dance. And that for her constitued keeping her hands on my arm rest and jumping up and down, rocking my chair at an unpleasant frequency. With the left armrest already commandeered by the yelling kid, it left me with no space to rest my elbows. And the parents of this girl kept looking, yes, you guessed it, dotingly and approvingly, at times even adding "Uncle ne uu doosra waala step dikha ne". The topic of grown up people referring to one-self as "uncle" is a touchy one which one shall not go into due to lack of time. But anyone who has been referred to by a 40-something as "Uncle" will understand my pain.

This misfortune has followed me up in the air on some occasions. I remember looking on with horror as children of various sizes proliferated the seats all around me on a Pune-Bangalore flight. The kid next to me kept insisting throughout the flight that the plane was not going fast enough, and was flying at 60 kmph tops. He was sure we would not reach bangalore before at least 15 hours had passed. His cousins and siblings around us made the journey livelier by spilling everything the stewardess brought them, and crying in horror both at take-off and at landing.

These are just three instances in a long past chequered with tales of horror wrought by children. As a result, I am convinced of the hum-do-humara-ek adage.

Of course there are times when i am feeling vengeful and sadistic, and so I decide to have as many kids as possible and take them on as many trips as possible to get back at the society for what I have been put through. But then by and large, I am not sadistic.