The boy, typical of his age, is restless. He runs the length of the aisle to and fro, climbs the steps to the upper berths. In between he shouts out songs. He interrupts conversations between the elders, asking –‘Which is this station’, ‘When will we reach
The boy is the brother of the toddler in my last post. The entire family is either talking among themselves or coddling the toddler. The boy is ignored except for an occasional rebuke – ‘Sit down, Naveen! How many times do I have to tell you not to run about!’ The boy is a child – 7 or 8 years – how could they expect a child of that age to sit? The grandma is crooning to the little girl – the boy breaks in and teases his sister and she sets off a long bawling. ‘Shut up, Naveen, go away!’ cries Grandma. The mother sitting atop the upper berth shouts a warning call – ‘NAVEEEEN!!!’ ominously. The father, pulls the boy and force him down on the seat. ‘Shut up, I say, SHUT UP!!’
The boy sulks for a while. After sometime he gets up and tries to play with his sister again. ‘Sing, sing Waka waka’, he asks her. He turns to Grandma – ‘Grandma, I’m hungry, give me something’. I had noticed a large food container with 6 or 7 sections being carried in. ‘You will get dinner when others eat’.
Around 2030 hrs, the family gets ready for the dinner. The large container is opened and the air is filled with aromas of a dozen kind; fried fish, chicken, vegetable curries and rotis. Paper plates are distributed. Grandma sets the toddler on her lap and feeds her little bits of fried chicken. I take a peek and my mouth waters; I have to be content with the three flaccid, cold chappatis and vegetable curry from the railway pantry.
The boy watches the little girl eating. ‘Can I have mine, now?’ He asks. ‘You can have it when the baby finishes eating’. ‘But I have been hungry for a looong time!’, the boy exclaims. ‘Shut up, I say!’ chides the father.
In time, his turn to eat comes. After dinner he is back in his seat having washed his hands. His elders are still eating. He looks at one and asks – ‘Can I have that Chicken leg?’ He bites into it and finishes it within seconds and wipes his fingers on his jeans. ‘You dirty, filthy little boy! How DARE you wipe your hand on your trousers? DIRTY FELLOW! Where are your manners? Go wash NOW!’ thunders the father, a doctor. I am pained. The boy looks so embarrassed and is on the verge of tears.
Suddenly I overhear the young boy asking his father sweetly – ‘Dad, you know Karate?’ ‘No, I don’t’. ‘Vinu’s papa knows Karate. He is a Black Belt’. A pause. ‘Dad, you know swimming?’ Dad couldn’t care less. He says brusquely – ‘No’. The boy stands up and exclaims- ‘What? You don’t know swimming? You don’t know Karate, either?’
‘This Dad knows nothing!’ The boy declares to the world at the top of his voice. ‘See, my dad knows NOTHING!!’
************* Balachandran V,