I just got back from a quiet holiday in the state of Jharkhand. My days began with the sun streaming across disheveled sheets, a stroll around the guest house among football-sized marigolds waving their heads in the gentle chilly breeze. Tea in an earthen pot followed and helped me gulp down piping hot puri-sabzi. A car ride to the outskirts and up to the Dolma hill top, sambhar deer spotting and petting an elephant calf. Back to the resort with one litre of mohua, I danced to the beats of the dhamsha-madol played by tribalfolk. On my journey back to the city pent, the quaint railway station built with old bricks and whitewashed, a lone thrush warbled somewhere on a treetop. The chugging of the incoming train broke into the lazy landscape. Refreshed, I found my seat near the window and settled into a peaceful reverie.
A Bengali family accompanied by its extended family and friends boarded from the next station. The wails of the toddler were louder than a fire alarm. The lady handling the child, turned out to be, obviously, the mother. In the next two hours I learnt precisely how and why the child vomits, what kind of food leads to what kind of vomit, its colour, texture, consistency and frequency. Often, I learnt, the child would be fed to capacity and made to burp which would invariably lead to a fresh spout of vomit. I never turned to look at the garrulous lot but it was easy for me to guess that the poor kid was probably lactose intolerant. All the while the lady spoke, the chomp-chomp of potato chips being chewed and devoured by her and her family, the child included, never stopped. On one instance, she even showed some concern that her child wasn’t eating properly and that it (unable to guess the gender, I hereby refer to the child as ‘it’) needs to be fed more potato chips. Bags after bags of potato chips were crumpled in a span of 30 mins. As if that wasn’t enough, the lady pleaded her husband to buy some egg chops. Which he obediently did. The child was fed some more. The lady went into the details of the kind of vomit egg might cause. Her discourse was interspersed with loud chiding. She rebuked the child for not swallowing its food before asking for more. Egg chop was followed by copious amounts of jhaal muri. And then, vegetable cutlet, fruit cake, more potato chips and bourbon biscuits. The decibel level never receded. Then only good part about the train journey was that the child spared its co-passengers the horror of having to witness it regurgitate the contents of its tiny gut-turned-compost pit.
I found it difficult to fall asleep that night. Even more difficult was to have dinner. I dreamed of drowning in large pools of smelly stuff. No prizes for guessing what those might be.