26-Aug-2013

Travelling with a Baby - Part 2

D was wearing a baby carrier, had a backpack on his back, a diaper bag slung around his shoulders and two groaning suitcases in each hand. He was taking the steps two at a time. I was right behind, running with a puzzled Bobo in my hips and my handbag swinging behind me. We stopped on top of the stairs and took a quick look around the railway station and spotted Platform 3. Then it was back to running.  We reached Platform 3 and jogged alongside the sedately parked train, dodging the crowd scattered along the train.

I am never ever late for trains or flights.

So, how did we get here?

It all began when we had to go to Andhra Pradesh for a wedding and it involved a car and train trip while going and a train journey on the way back.

Bobo did the first leg in the car quite well, alternatively sleeping and alternatively looking out. We did our scheduled stop at D’s uncle’s house and set off to the station as planned. Except as we left, D’s uncle looked worried and told us that the train would leave earlier than what we had assumed.

Thus all the huffing and puffing. This turned out to be useless exertion since the train left at exactly the time we had thought it.

Once we had recovered our breath and shoved away our luggage into various nooks and crannies, we decided we needed plenty of sustenance to get over this traumatic experience (and ignored the fact that had we been fitter, we would have not cut such sorry figures). So began the gastronomic journey into Indian Railway’s culinary offerings, starting with hot and peppery tomato soup.

Bobo, meanwhile began to attract attention.

Indians love kids. Everyone wanted to make faces at Bobo and play with him. (I also think that Bobo is really cute with his silky hair and big eyes. But that is probably just smitten-mom-speak).  In return, Bobo put up quite a show, shooting dazzling smiles at perfect strangers. Before I knew it, one of our co-passengers grabbed him and started showing him a movie on her giant phone. I am ok with strangers making faces at Bobo but not really holding him. Besides, I could not think of a polite way of telling her that we thought he was too young to be watching TV, let alone the crap she was showing him. Finally I took him away and informed her that it was time for his dinner.

It was indeed and he ate his packed food. The station rolled in a little later and we had done quite ok. Hopefully Bobo shares my love for train journeys in India.

For the return leg, we reached the station 45 minutes ahead of schedule to take into account both the actual timing and the guestimates provided by various relatives.

However, there is such a thing as reaching too early with a baby who can’t walk yet. D walked around with Bobo. Then I walked around, holding Bobo in my baby carrier.

If I had been moonwalking, I could not have attracted more unabashed, open-mouthed attention. Everyone in the station paused to watch the baby carrier. And to think, I had specially remembered to pack proper Indian clothes to make sure I did not attract any attention.

Finally the train came, our coach stopped three coaches away from where it was supposed to stop and we repeated the running episode all over again.

We reached our seats and the first thing I spotted was a cockroach. One of things I wanted to do with this trip was to give Bobo a chance to build immunity and get used to Indian conditions. We were clearly getting more than we had bargained for.

I immediately cleared up all the food junk left behind by co-passengers and then cleaned the entire area with wet wipes. Then we spread out a blanket on the seat for Bobo and let him play and watched in resignation as he lovingly licked the blue chrome seat covers.

Yup, we were going to be building lots of immunity…

18-Aug-2013

Travelling with a Baby - Part I



When we made plans to go to India for Bobo’s first visit home, we consciously decided to book night flights both ways. Google had told us that the best approach would be to travel during the baby’s usual sleep time so that the baby would just sleep through the flight

So there we were at the airport for an 8.20 p.m. flight to Chennai. Bobo was fed and changed in the airport and we boarded the flight.

I nursed Bobo at take-off. Bobo slept off without a protest. D opened a can of beer and began to sip it. I put on my headphones and settled down to get my dose of mindless Bollywood. All that was remaining was for the steward to fix our bassinet. Bobo would move from my arms to the bassinet and we would relax for the rest of the flight.

The steward came to fix the bassinet. It was a contraption that required D to move out, much grunting and straining by the steward and a final couple of loud knocks.  D’s beer began to leak down my arm, I hissed at him loudly and the third passenger in our row watched stoically as his knee was subject to much damage by the bassinet.

Bobo began to stir in all the noise. We looked at each other, panicked.

In a moment of startling stupidity, instead of patting him back to sleep, I hurriedly dropped him into the bassinet. The tight fitting bassinet space was the wakeup call he needed.

Bobo opened his eyes, looked around and decided that it was too fine a party for him to miss.

And so began a four-hour flight trying to entertain a baby who was sleepy but would not sleep. D played with him. I played with him. I sang songs to him. D rocked him. We had a game of ‘Bobo touches the video screen to turn it on’ and ‘Mummy leaps forward to turn it off in line with policy of no TV for Bobo’. Our stoic co-passenger played with Bobo for a wee bit and then slept off. D and I took turns to eat our meals. I nursed Bobo again. Bobo played with the toys we had got for him, all of which were dropped in quick succession. 

Finally when it all became too much, I began to walk up and down the aisle holding Bobo.

And there was that moment I was dreading – Being watched by a bunch of strangers whose expressions varied from ‘poor woman’ to ‘poor baby’ to ‘thank God it is not me’ to ‘I am in TV heaven and I don’t care about the rest of the world’ to ‘what a useless mom’

This last expression is something I have used in the past. I wearily resigned myself to getting those looks. One needs to acknowledge when Karma decides to bite you in the bum.

After my hands and legs got weary, I finally went and quietly sat in my seat and Bobo, by some miracle, went into a long and peaceful slumber.

Bobo slept through the landing, slept through the noisy immigration queue, slept through the noisy airport exit, his grandparents’ exuberant greetings and the horn-filled ride home.

Oh, did he sleep like a baby or what!