"I am fond of children - except boys."Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll is the nom de plume of Charles Dodgson who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He also likes photographing little girls naked in his free time. What a creepy, creepy man.
This is the last entry from my North Indian travelogue series of posts but don't be afraid (or alternatively, be very, very afraid), I am embarking on yet another backpacking trip in the morrow and will return When September Comes to tell you all about it.
Before I proceed, I just want to make this as clear as I can; I hate children. Can't stand 'em. They are dirty, sticky, rude, cruel, mean-spirited, selfish little buggers who talk too loudly, scream too shrilly, and have absolutely nil sense of etiquette and decorum. I have no idea why so many kids like me but I suspect it has something to do with their inherent evilness which compels them to bug whichever person in any given room who least want to be bugged by them. There are several instances in which they damn near ruined my vacation for me - like that Himalayan Zoo episode. Kids shouldn't be allowed in zoos, if you ask me. Or in amusement parks. Or on board planes...
I recommend just caging the lot of them till their 'ickle spirits are broken. Maybe then they would stop running around screaming like their tiny asses are on fire.
Then occasionally, on a bright sunny day when you least expect it, a little kid comes along and just... gets through to you, you know what I mean?
It all started when I asked the little girl sitting opposite me on the Darjeeling Toy Train for her name because she kept looking at me shyly, and looking away every time I met her eyes.
She immediately launched into a practiced recitation in an Indian dialect; "Blah, blah blah, ARJUNITA, blah, blah, yada, yada." It doesn't matter which dialect it was because I don't know any of them. Then immediately afterwards, as if embarrassed by her loud declaration, she started staring at her own knees, glancing up coyly to see if I would approve of her name.
"English. Speak English," chastised her mother who was sitting beside her.
"I no speak English," she piped up instantly, making a seamless transformation from demureness into outright cheek. "I Bangla!"
And that won me over completely.
This is the best photograph I took on the whole trip. Just a little girl on a train, loving every minute of it. Whatever happened to our own simple childlike wonderment of the world around? How did we lose it?
Arjunita was a really delightful subject to photograph. I have never met a little girl half as expressive as she was in all my time before,
2. "Hi hi hi..."
1. Disapproving grandmuvver
4. Cat, "MRAAAW! HISS! SPIT!"
1. ... and it gets downright bizarre, sometimes
2. "Come in, Mission Control! Send in Mecha support! I repeat; WE NEED THE FRIGGIN' MECHAS"
3. Doing The Rock's eyebrow thing
4. "Tis' true, I'm born laik dis."
Some time in the middle of our ride, she took my bead bracelet and proclaimed proudly that she was going to perform "MAJIK!" on it. Methodically, she asked her mother and then her father to blow on them before placing it behind her. And ta-daa! She waved both her empty little palms in my face as if she had just performed the most miraculous feat in the world, and everyone clapped and cheered - even the passengers sitting on the other side of our car. Everyone found themselves inadvertently drawn to the impossibly charismatic preschooler.
After she brought the bracelet back from her err, personal nether dimension, she refused to hand it over, declaring that she wanted to perform another "MAJIK!". She got her parents to blow on it in turn again and... she repeated the whole act, pound for pound and part for part.
And she did it again. And again and again and again... I guess what they say about kids under a certain age is true - they simply won't tire of the same game no matter how many times they play it.
At about the sixth or seventh time she announced "MAJIK!" to her entire audience on the train, her mother chided her, saying that "Uncle is bored" (what? moi, uncle?!) and asked her to perform a different magic trick.
"NO NO! SAME MAJIK!!!" she refused theatrically. Some guy sitting five seats away snorted in laughter. You simply don't negotiate with the maestro.
Her father finally decided to take matters into his own hands at the ninth encore and spirited the bracelet away from behind her while she was busy showing everyone her empty hands. And in the prestige segment of her act... OHNOES, WHERE DID IT GO? She stood up and examined her seat closely, searching earnestly for any sign of thaumaturgic malfunction while her dad stealthily passed the bracelet back to me over her head.
She squealed when I reproduced the mysterious missing bracelet and snatched it right out of my hands possessively. You don't mess with her props.
"SAME MAJIK!" says Arjunita obstinately. She simply couldn't understand why her mom and dad wouldn't consent to blow on the bracelet anymore.
According to her mother, Arjunita's talents weren't just limited to the art of repetitive prestidigitation. She took tae-kwando lessons as well.
She showed me, natch,
I'm not kidding you when I tell you that the little girl can really pack a punch. I never knew that kids can hit that hard. And it actually hurt when she twisted my thumb!
"Trust me - your thumb can point in the opposite direction of where your index finger's pointing, LOL."
I couldn't keep up with her at all. She was relentless, tireless and totally hyper. After spending a few hours entertaining her kiddy whims, I found that I simply couldn't go on anymore. So I feigned dozing off (but I finally dozed off for real because I was just that exhausted).
Joon Keat, who was sitting beside me, apparently took over the job of playing with the kid while I was cutting Z's. When I woke up goodness knows how many hours later, I found that both Joon Keat and Arjunita were on the verge of doing something dastardly to my hair.
I never did find out what they were planning though.
Before Arjunita and her parents got off the train at Kurseong, she borrowed her mother's camera phone and snapped a picture of me - me, that weird Chinese Uncle on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway who couldn't understand half the things she said; who spent hours playing stupid games with her and introduced the concept and pastime of camwhoring into her life. Am I tucked inside a holiday photo album or in a memory card somewhere in their home? Will she remember me a year from now? Two years from now? Ten years?
I wonder if there's a chance that she would read this post someday when she's all grown up. I have some questions which I would like to ask her then.
Like what was it that she and Joon Keat were plotting to do to me while I was sleeping, for one.
We rode the diesel engine train, not this steam one, regrettably.
Some old blokes sitting in one of the stations we passed who looked as if they have been sitting there since the time when photographs were still sepia-coloured.
The train runs right alongside the road and at times, right past shop entrances. It's easy to swipe stuff as you roll along.
... or swipe other people's underwear right off the clothesline, if you're inclined that way.
How many of you have railway tracks laid just inches from your doorsteps?
Smell the scent of freshly, slaughtered poultry as you chug-chug by.
I wonder if a truck ever rammed into the Toy Train when its driver lost control while rounding the corner.
Damn garbage spoilt this picture.
My best picture of the Toy Train, in my opinion. I wished I took it with my own camera though.
P.S. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is overrated, in my opinion. If you have a low threshold for mind mushing boredom, just take the steam train till Kurseong for a joyride. It's a lot more antique than the Kalka-Shimla Railway, and it will rock your boat if you're the right sort of enthusiast, but the Kalka-Shimla line covers kick-ass sceneries which totally blew Darjeeling out of the water.
P.P.S. Yes, I took these pictures. Except the sepia one with the steam engine. Torng Lei took that one.
P.P.P.S. Beverly will be blogging in my stead while I'm away. Play nice.
Misses childhood so damn much,
k0k s3n w4i