Cursed be the voice that told me to pack my earphones in my back pack- which is safely in the compartment above my head. Where is loud music when you need it?! The movie they played on the huge screen ended ages ago and now they are playing slow Taraab music which is far from distracting. The past three hours have been long!
The younger kid has been screaming for the past I-don’t- know-how-many minutes because her brother snatched a biscuit from her hands. The mother clucks and hits the naughty kid- and then there are two cry babies. I want to wink at the mum and tell her “Genius!”
The conductor who had come around handing out bottles of soda and biscuits placated them for a while by giving them both a soda each and biscuits even though it’s supposed to be a soda/biscuit per seat. Then the mother takes one of the kid’s sodas and has them share the other one, and we have a problem once again!
The teenage girls next seat have been casting no-so –friendly looks at the mother and she’s been trying to avoid their eyes but I can see she feels judged. All of a sudden, I feel sorry for her.
Mistake number one.
I give the kids my soda and so everyone is happy. They both shut up and contentedly gulp their sodas down but it’s the mother who just can’t say “Thank you” and let it rest. She takes it as an invitation to tell me baby stories and how they can be a blessing and a menace sometimes. I really want to tell her I don’t care for kids but I can’t do it being outright cruel. So I just nod at her stories and look outside at the barren land we are driving past. We must be in Taru.
Twenty minutes since story-telling session begun and she still doesn’t take a hint.
So I take out my novel. And start reading. And she’s still talking!
I decide to be as subtly rude as possible; I shut my novel and feign sleep. It works; only, I am not really sleepy and I just wish I could be staring out the window thinking my own thoughts with no one sharing stories of child upbringing.
Mistake number two: I pretend to still be asleep when the naughty kid says that he needs to take a piss. The mother admonishes him and tells him to wait a while longer. I want to laugh and tell her that we are one hour away from Mtito and a kid won’t last that long. The kid shuts up for a while and resorts to wiggling in the chair. Then minutes later, he whines a little and says that it’s coming.
That’s when I open my eyes and Ta-Da! It has come! In between us. Right next to me and his mother, the naughty kid has pissed on himself and is looking fearfully at me like I would hit him. I look to the mother and she is mortified!
She hits him on his head and shakes the part of her skirt that is wet. My jeans have a small patch on the side but I don’t have much time to think about it as the kid starts crying yet again. I have to fight the urge to roll my eyes.
Then the mother does the most shocking thing I have seen so far. She gets up, and goes to the driver. And a minute later, we are pulling over, and she’s taking her small suitcase from the overhead compartment- all the while complaining about how now she has to change.
She barks at the boy and he walks after her, tail between legs, since everyone in the bus is casting looks at him to see what’s happening and why we are stopping in the middle of nowhere. He follows his mom to an outside bush where she changes herself and her boy.
And even with the mild smell of ammonia now hanging next to me, I burst out laughing. People are peeking at me from their seat as the news has spread but I don’t care for their stares. I just can’t believe how stupid someone can be.
This woman can stop the bus to get herself changed but cannot do it so that her kid can take a piss in the first place? I shake my head and dab a wet hanky onto the small patch of piss on my jeans.
The younger girl swings her legs up and down on the seat she now has to herself and as she looks at me with her innocent and somewhat fearful eyes, I can’t help but feel sorry about how some kids get stupid parents.
And in a rare moment of generosity, I reach into my hand bag and break a slab of white chocolate which I hand to her. She takes it half heartedly, smiles a little and bites off half of it.
As she sucks on it and casts looks of doubt my way, I notice that she keeps the remaining slab in her hand and closes her fist over it.
Minutes later, the brother and mother come back. The mother is waging a war with the suitcase while the boy with a pair of shorts this time, settles in next to his sister. The girl hands him the remaining slab of chocolate which he takes in delight, swinging his legs too next to his sister and the act of sharing is so beautiful that tears come unbidden to my eyes. I immediately catch myself and realize that this is how kids screw you over. I resort to ignoring any of their cuteness.
So I get back to my novel and when the woman sits back down, having dabbed at the wet spot between us, she apologizes to me and I quickly brush it off- just so that I don’t look too interested for her to begin sharing more baby stories.
Thankfully, her phone rings with a Riddim tune that’s as loud as it is offensive. She does not look pleased as she answers the call and launches into a vernacular language I do not understand. She sounds agitated as she speaks to whoever is on the phone but I don’t care. I go back to my novel.
That was mistake number three.
Now that I think about it, that was one phone call I really should have paid attention to. It would have meant all the difference to the kids and to me…
*To be continued*