Friday, March 02, 2007

Monsters bawl

Warning note: if you think human children are adorable little angels, run along now, because this column is based on the understanding that they are Evil Incarnate.

The condom failed but at least there’s berth control

As a child I remember thinking adults were all part of some secret club, privy to information about life's mysteries that I would miraculously learn the day I joined their ranks (it had to be a specific day). Nothing of the sort happened, of course, but today I feel the same way about children, except there's no chance of joining their ranks if one doesn't believe in reincarnation. I'm convinced they are Satan's minions, their minds forever bent towards the task of making my life intolerable.

Not having a fondness for children (the human variety, that is – I do like kittens, and even baby crocodiles can be tolerable when they aren't teething), I can't be bothered to give them sweet smiles or say sentences like "So what's your name?" or "Coochie coo gumchie gumchie." And even if I were inclined to break the ice, I lack the comfortable smugness, the natural sense of superiority, that many adults feel when in a toddler's presence. (Maybe I never grew up.) So I avoid eye contact altogether, hoping the thing will toddle away and leave me alone.

But it never does. One thing I learnt on recent train journeys was that children can't stand it if you don't acknowledge their presence.

"What is that man doing?" one of these creatures asked its parent loudly. In fact, I was doing nothing more obtrusive than reclining by the window with a book in my hand, alternately reading and looking outside – but this was unacceptable to the child, for I was paying it no attention. It fixed me in a vise-like stare.

In Enid Blyton books one routinely comes across parents telling their children not to stare at strangers, it's rude. But India is a country of starers (we call it "being warm and neighbourly and interested in other people"), so no parent here would dream of issuing such a command. Instead the mother started glaring at me too.

When I continued to pay no notice, the child came up to me, placed a finger in its half-open mouth in that sinister way children have, and commenced kicking my shin. I ignored this for several minutes but then the wound began to fester and throb, so I moved my foot away delicately (still without making eye contact), whereupon the reproachful eyes of both parents burnt into the side of my head. Who is this man, they seemed to ask, and how dare he be so heartless as to resist our oiley-woiley's charms?

I thought I had won the mini-skirmish, but train journeys are tricky things, and over the next few hours the child exacted its diabolical revenge. It screamed incomprehensible satanic verses into my ear while its parents looked on fondly. (Briefly, I considered reprising an episode of Beavis and Butthead where the scatalogical Beavis gives a nonsense-burbling infant some of its own medicine.) It overturned a tray into my lap just as I had finished pouring out my tea. I returned from the toilet to find my magazine in shreds. And then it resorted to the oldest trick in the book - howling loudly to gain the sympathy of its parents and fellow passengers. For a few alarming moments, I feared I would be ejected from the train on the grounds of hurting people’s sentiments.

Eventually, on getting home, I discover that our Railway Minister has presented a shockingly timorous Budget - no special provision for sealed compartments with cages for all the little humans. I propose this measure be incorporated with immediate effect. Protesting parents can be put there too, and preferably chained to the wall and made to sleep upright. On balance this would be better for humanity than that Garib Rath everyone’s going on about.


  1. Sheer reading pleasure :-)

    The style reminded me of Jerome K Jerome's account of the different characters he encountered on a train journey.

    Please to oblige us with more such posts.

  2. Laughed out loud :). I always get the weirdest looks when I confess that I'm not terribly enchanted by children. I almost expect people to accuse me of being half a woman or some such thing :D.

  3. Yes. Once, on a train, I resolutely refused ot acknowledge the presence of two horrible (and smelly) brats, whereupon, nearing journey's end, the mother said to me, "Aapne unko nahin bulaya na..." in distinctly sinister manner. I shudder to think what would have happened for 26 hours if I had bulao'd them.

    Even now, as a parent, I heave a sigh of relief if there are no (other) kids in the compartment. heh!

  4. Totally empathise. I can't go all coochie coo with young ones of humans though puppies and even dogs make me go "awwwwww". Most ppl think it is expected (Esp of women) that if you see a newborn you would want to snuggle up to it like it was your ticket to maternal heaven or something! And when I prefer staying away from their bundles of joy, mothers appear to be cursing me through their eyes.

    The worst is that one can't even scream at them because they are "kids" after all and they are expected to scream/howl/wail/create a ruckus/be a pain in the a$$!

    Anyway, the kind of kids mentioned here, can be dealt with in a Calvinesque manner. One can always tell them horrible stories of what happens to such kids and let their parents handle a shocked kid whilst you read your book and look out of the window. :D

  5. U know they make saas-bahu type manipulative tv abt one involving equally devilish children??

  6. Tzoy, you are such a wuss! Not one vivid image of Boiled Baby or Impaled Infant. Or even Fricaseed Five-year-old.

    Me, I deal with them by sic-ing 'em back onto their parents. "Mummy's hiding a chocolate from you" or "Did you kow Papa can swing from the overhead rail? He just showed me when you were in the corridor!".

    And my father can make ANY baby howl just by looking at it for (on an average) 6 secs. Don't ask me how it works.
    But I'm willing to loan him to you for a consideration.


  7. JAP: Plead guilty to wussiness. Images of Boiled Baby, Impaled Infant and many others are all in my head, but can't bring myself to describe them - would lose too many readers.

    The "sic-ing em back onto parents" method wouldn't work for me - one has to be willing to talk to the kid.

  8. Mystic Bard: gulp. I used to be a Jerome-and-Wodehouse hack in my mid-teens. Clearly I haven't grown up at all.

    N: "Not terribly enchanted" - so euphemistic!

    Twilight Fairy: yes, I imagine women have it much worse in these cases. Guys can get away with everything short of actually flinging the bawling infant out the window.

    Space Bar: parent!!

  9. JW, rising to the defence of kids all over, let me put a hypothesis on the table: the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the little one's blank brain but with Ma and Papa. Parents who don't understand personal, private spaces (may their tribe dwindle!) never feel the need to tell the kid not to bug others. The kid who kicked you in the shin will one day kick his Dad in the ass -- metaphorically, I may add. And then wisdom will dawn.

  10. Finally,someone has had the courage to tell it like it is. Kids suck! :-)

    Oh, and I've been in plenty of trouble simply b'cos, like you, I've been known to refer to a child as "it". So, beware of the wrath of some enraged your back, friend!

  11. Well, I like children. I find them fairly entertaining if they are articulate and you can carry on an nonsensically logical conversation wtih them. If they are the nasty, ill-behaved ones its even better. Then I can channel my inner bullying me and stare solemnly but sternly at them. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to watch a sickening three year old get all confused and figure out, with a mounting sense of panic that is deliciously palpable, whether to howl or move quietly away from Evil You. The thought that I have traumatized (even if only temporarily) a spoilt toddler is utterly, luxuriously delicious.

    Was it Simone de B who wrote that she hated it as a five year when adults patronized her and vowed she would never behave that way to a 5 year old?

    And when you lose all faith in children, only think of that Agatha Christie where nine-year old Josephine writes "Today I killed Grandpa".


  12. ha ha. funny.

    the thing is i do like kids. i have done a bit of baby -sitting and after-hour school care, so lots of experience in keeping things under control.

    You got kicked at the shin and you still continued to ignore!! You wanted to punish the kid or you wanted the kid to leave you alone - two different things.

    But as long as it is you going thru hell with the devils, we are having fun. :D keep posting!!

  13. Kidrock: such an impassioned defence, I half-suspect you were a child yourself once. I agree with the kicking-parent's-ass bit - but then all kids will do that in one form or the other anyway, right? To paraphrase Larkin, "Man hands on misery to man, and gets it back with compound interest."

    Was it Simone de B who wrote that she hated it as a five year when adults patronized her and vowed she would never behave that way to a 5 year old?

    N!: Not sure who wrote that, though I imagine many writers would have expressed similar feelings. I certainly felt the same way as a child myself. (You commented on this post.)

    Yes, there is great pleasure in tormenting a spoilt three-year-old, but one must have the stomach - and the energy - for such a battle.

    Neha: I doff my hat to you.

  14. In the words of Philip Larkin:

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another's throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don't have any kids yourself.

  15. Anon: yes, I alluded to that poem in the previous comment...

  16. Adults are merely aged children. Ferdydurke. Ferdydurke.

  17. enjoyed reading it and laughed loudly at your plight

  18. In France nowadays there are a lot more open carriages in the trains than there used to be. Twenty years ago when my three children were young we used to get into six seat compartments and whenever the train stopped I told them to get up and shout and fight ... a very good way to make people walking down the corridor looking for a seat, peer in, shudder and move on. They really enjoyed it and had a tremendous time leaping about and yelling as loudly as they could.

    A propos your funny post, Jabberwock, isn't it amazing how the majority of parents never seem to bring things for their children to do on train journeys and then spend the whole time reprimanding them (or not) for not sitting still and being quiet.

  19. 8 seat compartments in fact, and they do still exist, more in Spain and Italy maybe.

  20. Kids are OK. Try travelling with teens - ouch, assault on all senses and the most inane chatter.

  21. Deborah: on Indian trains, the majority of parents spend the whole time reprimanding other people for reprimanding (or just ignoring) their precious little lucifers. There's this whole "but it's the fruit of my loins, how dare you be apathetic to it, you Sub-human!" thing going on.

  22. I detest kids too, though nowadays I am a little more tolerant, needless to say that I have been dished out my fair share of grief from doting parents. I wonder if in other cultures people are expected to go "goochie goo" with the little fuckers as well.

    Nowadays I try to teach them cool (IMO) variations of the high five, mainly a byproduct of the slight influence of the Ebonics culture on me. Try it out Jai Arjun. It keeps them busy and preoccupied for a long time. I know you would rather have zero interaction with them, but its a large return in exchange for a little investment.

  23. Oh...this post was a I can say I hate kids without wondering if people are going to lynch me imm...or stop worrying that am some kind of inhuman/ half woman for not liking kids!!! there are people like me! *sobs*

    as for the solution, I suggest a separate compartment for all kids...let them all kill their own kind!!!

  24. Well I like kids as a genral rule but that one would have tested me - more for the parents' reactions than the kids actions.

    But maybe Jai, right at the start you could have politely told him of the wrong he was doing without caring for reactions. The kids generally love it - but that is another story you wouldn't want to hear for the implications.

  25. Ha! As a parent of a two-year old who sometimes drives me to distraction, I can sympathise. Jai, of course, is not interested in communicating with the little tykes, but if he were, there's perhaps nothing more satisfying than emulating the young man in Saki's 'The Story Teller', what? Good stuff, Jabberwock, and sorry about commenting on something you posted aeons ago.

  26. sorry about commenting on something you posted aeons ago

    Feanor: because of your blog name and your "About Me" description, you are forgiven.