The flight is gearing up to take off. Mindful of the fact that I should feed Peanut as we take off to minimize ear discomfort, I bring her discreetly into position and wait. But she is having none of this silly thing called discretion. Her stomach is telling her it is time to feed and she starts getting excited, and pawing at me impatiently. I know that sometimes it takes quite a while before the plane actually takes off, so I try to distract her - but it isn't working. She starts getting upset, so I give up and start to feed her and she attacks, making embarassingly loud smacking noises. Soon enough, she has finished her feed and we are still on the ground. We start to take off and she is looking very suspicious at the rumbling sound of the plane’s engines as they get louder and louder. I am now very worried that she will experience discomfort, or worse, pain in her ears. Then as we start to take off, I figure it is the sucking action that matters, and since she is for once not trying to suck her own thumb, I offer her my finger instead. She looks even more suspicious at this unexpected treat but clamps down on it with what seems to me to be unnecessary force and sucks vigorously as Vijay laughs and imitates Peanut in an unfairly high-pitched voice ‘Wow Mama! Aaj aapko kya ho gaya? Mazaa aa gaya!’. I ignore him – the tactic seems to be working, and Peanut is still busily sucking on my finger as the plane leaves the ground - and we’re off!
However, it so transpires that Peanut has been concentrating on something else apart from my finger – indeed, it is now potty-time. I can feel her straining. It's going to be a big one, I can tell.
Now I've developed a quick,efficient methodology to check whether potty has happened– I just stick my finger into her diaper. This may not sound like the best possible method to you, but the thing is that the finger usually comes out clean because Peanut has fairly regular, one-a-day bowel movements. This methodology is akin to we folks in Marketing/Market Research call a ‘No gross negative check’. However, this does not work very well when she has actually done Potty - as I had discovered in McDonald’s the previous day, finding myself unpleasantly potty-fingered after an otherwise enjoyable meal. For this reason, I figure now that it would be better to just take off Peanut’s pants and check, as being potty-fingered is eminently avoidable while on a flight. So I take off her pants and lo and behold – it is indeed big potty which has leaked out everywhere – and despite my best efforts, I find myself potty-fingered yet again.
While Vijay changes her diaper and the K watches on with interest, I go to the toilet to wash my hands. I note with some disgust for the first time that Jet Airways has a ‘shampooing conditioner’ dispenser in place of a liquid soap dispenser. Why do we let them get away with this stuff? Somebody should do something, by Jove! (Another phrase I’ve always wanted to use. Yes!) I will write a letter! For the moment, I sigh and make do with the stupid shampooing conditioner to wash my hands. In general, I dislike public toilets with an intensity directly proportional to my immense dependence on them (caused by my unpredictable and disloyal bladder) – but plane toilets are particularly claustrophobia-inducing. I hurry back to my seat - to find Vijay dancing in the aisle with Peanut, who has chosen this most opportune time to throw a massive tantrum.
In a while, an air-hostess comes up to bat her eyelids at Vijay, in the manner that women reserve for fathers of cute, tiny babies - and asks him sympathetically ‘Having some trouble?’.
Vijay, who has just spent ten minutes undressing Peanut and changing her diaper while she wails at him and then another ten minutes swaying back and forth like a drunken palm tree to calm her down, responds immediately, over his shoulder in a smooth, charming manner
‘No, not at all’
We have discovered the flight has lots of seats empty – Vijay has sprawled himself across three empty seats, holding Peanut on his lap. I sit down in the opposite aisle seat, glad that the neighbouring seats are also free. The airhostess brings about our piping hot breakfast, and I wait patiently. I take a tray when it is offered, and also thoughtfully ask for a North Indian Veg meal for Vijay, as he is with Peanut. As I put the tray down on the table next to me, a sympathetic air-hostess tells me ‘Ma’am is not having anything?’ , referring to the K who is still sitting in our original front row seats. I realize the K is probably feeling too shy to eat, so I ask for another North Indian Veg meal for her. I place it on the next-to-next table so that I can give it to her when the meal trolley passes. Then I hear Vijay calling my name. I turn and see him leaning back on his seat with an amused smirk on his face, Peanut clinging to him like monkey. He then calls out, loud enough for a dozen people or so people around to hear ‘You know, you’re only supposed to take one meal. Don’t eat so much’.
I turn red and glare at him and he gives me a cheeky grin in return. I wait till the airhostesses pass and then take one tray to the K. She gets very embarrassed and says ‘Aap mere liye itna sab kya le aaye’. I tell her not to be shy and to eat. I am actually quite worried that without any sleep the night before, and with the lack of nutrition, she might faint – and that’s the last thing we need right now, although I must admit I have never actually seen anyone faint and am quite curious about how it happens in real life. Must try and make someone faint sometime soon. Anyhow, I digress. Back to the story.
Yes, so anyway, the rest of the flight passes without incident. Peanut falls asleep in my arms and wakes up dutifully to feed just as we are landing. We have reached Mumbai! I feel funny. It's been more than five months since I was here last. And it was just Vijay and a grumpily pregnant me that flew off to Delhi. How things have changed, I marvel.
We get off the plane and are now inside the Mumbai airport. I go for a loo break while Vijay collects the baggage. I am very tired. I look at myself in the mirror, and think, not bad for a mom – just ten kilos above my pre-pregnancy weight of 56 kgs. I try not to think about the fact that I weigh as much as my husband now. Another young woman wafts in through the door and stands next to me. She is not only much slimmer, but also one of those who manages to have good-looking, straight hair even in humid Mumbai. I tell myself I refuse to compare. I finish washing my hands and then put my hands under the automatic hand dryer. It refuses to come on. I wait. It still refuses. I wait a few more seconds. I can feel the young woman’s eyes on me, and I mutter ‘These stupid things never work’. I pick up my bag and start to leave the loo, and notice she is still looking at me strangely. Too late, I realize that I had been standing with my hands held out imploringly under an empty paper towel dispenser. Feeling like a fool, I beat a hasty retreat. I try to cheer myself up thinking it is just exhaustion, but at the back of my mind I am still wondering about the fact that I went to an IIM. It just goes to show, doesn’t it? There’s no real way to separate the wheat from the chaff, and right now I feel like the chaff of all chaffs. What is chaff, anyway? Never mind. It’s a nice word.
So finally, we have collected our luggage. Our driver is to pick us up and we hurry forth to meet him. We stand around looking and suddenly I see a familiar car being deftly manoeuvred into a parking spot up ahead at an unnecessarily high speed, and a short, thin figure leaping out off the driver’s seat in a sprightly manner.
It is indeed none other than good ol’ Vinod. He’s going to drive us home where Zareena is waiting for us. We’re really back!
And now because I am working with a stupid slow connection, I will finish this story in The Homecoming-Part 3. So stay tuned, and kindly appreciate that I am still doing this, despite having been spoiled by a super-fast wireless broadband connection in Delhi.