What’s that? What did you ask ? Where have I been for the past two weeks? Singapore. Remember my Everest, Outer Mongolia? Well, this is the first leg of the journey. I have accepted a marketing job that will see me working out of Singapore for the foreseeable future. So, Majulah Singapura.
The flight to Singapore was not without incident. This was my first overseas journey, and the immigration officer at Trivandrum international airport and I were both understandably concerned. We were both worried about our jobs, you see. I was worried that I would lose mine if he didn’t let me through and he was worried that he would lose his if he did let me through. But he eventually relented, and I found myself seated onboard Silk air flight MI497 bound towards Singapore. I was ready, prepped and excited to be finally airborne. I had heard that Silk air served good beer. Majulah Singapura indeed.
Until the kid came along. The seat next to me was occupied by a harried mother of two, who had managed to book only two seats for her menagerie. One was about six years old and the other, barely one, was cradled in her hands. She managed to stow her baggage and plop down onto the seat next to me. The six year old, who was busy killing ogres on his PSP, climbed onto the other seat. The mother then turned to me and asked in the sweetest voice possible, “Can you hold onto my baby for a while? I have been carrying him for a long time now and my arms are hurting.” Now, the United Guys of Trivandrum chivalry code dictates that there is only one course of action under such circumstances. Besides, it was just a small kid. What harm could it do?
The kid came into my arms easily enough. He was about as long as my forearm and had abundant black hair framing a perfectly round, small baby head. Rounding off the impression of the helpless bundle of joy was a cute dimple on his left cheek. I let my guard down so far as to offer a friendly smile. The kid sized me up through big, watery black eyes. Not being very impressed by what he saw, he cleared his throat, looked at his mom and started wailing.
This is where most moms take their kids back with an apologetic smile and a sigh. But this little devil’s mom was enjoying her brief respite from hell and was understandably reluctant to go back. So she gave me precise instructions on how to hold him so that the sound became as muffled as possible, and went back to her in-flight magazine. I was flummoxed.
After about half an hour into the flight, manna came in the form of a tray of drinks carried by a cute air hostess. She had orange juice and beer, and was freely distributing them to the passengers. I licked my lips and tried to contain my anticipation. A mug of beer would go a long way towards calming my frayed nerves. Meanwhile, the kid was taking a brief nap, to get rested and ready for round two. The air hostess reached my seat, looked at me and smiled questioningly. “B.E.E.R”, I mouthed. Her hand slowly inched towards the beer. I licked my lips again. At this poignant moment, the kid woke up, and smiled at the airhostess. Her face broke into a “coochi-coo” smile in return, and she mouthed back “B.A.B.Y” to me, as she handed me my regulation orange juice. I swear the kid chuckled.
He waited for me to finish my juice, as if to savor his victory. Then he launched into round two, with even more vigor than his first appearance. I tried rocking him back and forth, whispering sweet nothings to him, and cursing my luck, but to no avail. Finally the mother rose to the occasion and declared that he probably needed to relieve himself. Just as well. I was about to relieve him myself.
While she was gone with the baby, I noticed that the airhostesses were generally pointing in my direction and whispering excitedly. Normally I would have felt on top of the world, but by now I was too tired to care. The mom came back with a now silent kid, smiled at the world in general and triumphantly handed the trophy back to me. The air hostesses were whispering furiously now. I was defeated. I took the kid in my arms, closed my eyes, and shut myself off while the kid, with nothing to keep him from his goal, launched into his third round.
By the time the flight landed, the mom and the kid were fast asleep. The kid’s brother, having wasted all the ogres, was now furiously jumping about tall buildings. I was a nervous wreck. As the flight rolled to a stop, the captain made his usual welcome announcements, and signed off by warning us to immediately report any suspicious persons to the concerned personnel. The kid woke up on hearing the announcement. We viewed each other suspiciously.
As if all this wasn’t trial enough, I forgot my jacket onboard my flight as I came off. Truth be told, I was so exhausted that I briefly considered leaving it behind. But it was an IIM Bangalore memento jacket. There is a certain code to these things. So I rushed back, and bumped into the team of airhostesses from my flight. They were going into town to take their day off. The one who had served me juice immediately asked me what the problem was, and I told her. She replied that she had handed over my jacket to the security, which by now would have dropped it off at the lost and found section. She offered to show me the way.
I and my jacket were reunited at the Singapore airport lost and found section. As I turned to thank my savior, she brushed off my gratitude. “We saw the way you were taking care of your baby”, she said. “You did a great job, even though you are so young. I wish more fathers were like you.”
Majulah Singapura, indeed.