Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Bus Stop Club

(Woman's Era Oct.(Second) 1996)

Early winter mornings. Reluctantly, I forsake the warm cocoon of my bed to step onto the cold floor. That’s enough to shock me into total wakefulness.
Not for me the enviable luxury of waking when I please. The alarm clock is a strict disciplinarian. Won’t take no for an answer. Nor a sleepy “mmpf!”
You see, I am the mother of a school going child. A very young one at that.
Across the city, thousands of mothers like me will echo my feelings: the only thing worse than having to get up at an unearthly hour in winter, is having to wake up your little one. What torture to drag the warm bundle out of its protective quilt! She is too sleepy to open her mouth properly for me to brush her teeth. The moment I let go of her, back she stumbles into her welcoming nest.
I struggle with her, physically, and mentally, every minute, until at last she is ready. All bundled up, armed with all her paraphernalia, we set out for the bus-stop.
The bus stop is a sort of club. Like so many homing pigeons, Moms zoom towards Moms, and dads shake hands with dads. The occasional gramps nod benevolently at everybody in general.
Everyone has a fixed spot, more or less. So while the kids enjoy an impromptu game of catch, the Moms catch up with each other.
It is here that we get a breather. Having achieved a minor victory in bringing a small child properly fed and kitted out up to this place, we can now relax.
Later, we might plunge back into the frantic chaos that the house is at this time of the day. There may be other people at home waiting for their breakfast, clothes needing to be ironed at the last minute, and so much else besides, but all that is later.
Incongruous as it may seem, this place, with buses rattling past every so often, seems like a quiet pool in the midst of a jungle.
There are so many things to talk about. The kid’s progress at school, and the problem of long bus journeys. A new tailor discovered and a new boutique tried out. The comparative merits of saris and “suits”. Bollywood gossip and dinnertime serials. Recipes exchanged and kitchen shortcuts shared.
Mrs. A unburdens herself to the others about her in-laws. She speaks freely and without venom. Just describing the situation seems therapeutic.
No advice asked for, none given. Only understanding nods.
Mrs. B is annoyed about hubby’s frequent tours. She has to single handedly cope with the day-to-day problems of running a house. Mrs. C is anxiously keen that this bus be on time because she has to send another child to a different school.
A couple of ladies go out to work. For them, the wait at the stop is that much extra time spent near the children. Never mind that the kids may be oblivious of the fact!
Some way off, newspapers rustle-----a few Dads can’t wait to read the news even if there’s no cup of coffee by their side!
Meanwhile the kids manage to scuff their well-polished shoes, scrape their well-scarred knees and muddy their pristine white uniforms, all in the space of ten minutes.
Suddenly the bus arrives and the children are gone in a flurry of bags and bottles, charts and models, warnings and instructions. A couple of us might linger to wind up whatever discussion we were having, but most quickly disperse to resume the rest of our waiting chores.
Very often, I crib about having to rush out after putting in a solid hour of concentrated effort in getting my daughter ready.
“Can’t you at least take her to the bus stop?” I grumble to my husband. But when he offers to do so, I put on my most martyred expression and take on the duty myself. After all, I am not going to give up my membership of the Bus stop Club in a hurry!


Blogger the Monk said...

Hey, first time here. Linked to your blog from the One's.

And that was a great story.

11:42 PM   
Blogger Shankari said...


This brought so many memories. Mornings, esp. winter mornings in Delhi, measured in visibility levels and waits at the stop.

How come you haven't mentioned the favouritest topic- the comparison of academic performance of the kids, the poor devils! And of course parents rushing in to settle scores in the fights that kids might have started and forgotten!

8:54 AM   
Blogger LAK said...

Welcome,Monk,and thanks. Do go to my other blog too.
Shankari, when I wrote this, my kid was in the nursery, so I was probably not clued in to that side! And strangely, now that you mention it, I didn't come across score-settling until much later---maybe all the mothers were enlightened souls, ha, ha!

8:18 AM   

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