Mother An Evening
Diwali. Kolkata. Every time a firecracker went off I could feel my eight-month-old nephew wince and the frightened bawling would start again. As the evening progressed the frequency of explosions was unrelenting and so was my nephew's wail. Much like little pets, infants do not catch the fun in the loud noise that crackers make and the toxic smoke that rises making the air around all acrid.
Everything was tried, even earplugs, but the kid was hysterical. Bhabhiya, my sister in law, sat clinging him to her, of course she wanted to go for the community celebration in that South Calcutta society too. But that bawling and choking had us worried. Even my elder brother was traveling.
Out of sheer desperation, I decided to take the kid away to some quieter part of the city, covered him up and ran down to the car suitably instructing the driver.
He drove us to the lake. It is a place next to pretty posh localities in Kolkata, and yet detached, covered with a lot of fauna. Picturesque by day but a little eerie and forlorn in the evenings, the lovey dovies replaced by cheap commercial sex workers. Avoidable in normal circumstances. But today was Diwali, even they would have taken a day off.
The burst of crackers seemed a little distant and that had a calming effect on the little one, though he would still whimper and break out every now and then.
The greenery and the lake had added a nip in the air but I still thought that holding the kid tight and walking about a bit would see me through the peak hours of cracker terror, after which we could return. So I got out of the car clasping him tight to my male bosom and walked a few yards when I heard a female laughter behind me. I turned around and in the dim light of a distant lamp could make out a wiry female form coming after me with an exaggerated swagger. O God, not this, I thought to myself and increased by pace. But these women sure know how to be persistent.
A constant filthy prattle of lurid offers flowed.. And her voice was getting louder and bolder.
My nephew started waking up and whimpering. A jibe about initiating the kid early and then that godawful laughter again. By then I was almost running, and yet her cheap perfume was right upon me as was her offers of discounts and other entreaties. And then the nephew after a few whimpers started to bawl again. I was exasperated and angry and could have turned around and even slap the woman. Turn around I did only to scold her because she had woken the kid up who was being unhappy again.
"What is it, a boy or a girl," she asked stopping in her tracks.
Boy, I said irritated. She walked a step closer and literally snatched the bundle from my hands. "He is hungry, have you got his feeder?" I yanked it out of my pocket.
Again an unabashed tease, " I thought that was something else." I wanted to snatch my nephew back from her but somehow he was quiet, pretty well tucked in her bosom. She gestured for me to give the bottle and put it gently with trained hands into my nephews mouth. I asked if she was even clean and got a disdainful look for a reply. The nephew was busily suckling, gurgling, almost happy! We walked up to the nearest bench and sat down. She handed back the bottle to me and started humming a lullaby.
"Yours?" She asked.
"Not a job for men are they."
I didn't reply.
"Married?" she turned to me
I shook my head. 'No.'
The sounds of crackers were dying down and the chill was getting worse. My nephew was fast asleep.
"We will do business another day," she said teasing again, "take the kid back, else he will catch the chill." I tried to take him from her but she motioned to me to hang on. "You will wake him up again. Let me tuck you with him into the car."
Once comfortable in the back seat I proffered to give her some money
Again a tease," where have I had the fun yet!
Keep that for another time.."
And she broke out into that crackling laughter
Nemai, the driver was already revving up the car. Disapprovingly.
Her unabashed laughter faded as Nemai quickly drew away muttering a curse under his breath..
Back at the home of course I took all the credit for keeping the little one comfortable and even letting the mommy enjoy her Diwali party..
What else would I say!!