You know the world’s doomed when a cop who spots evil in a nine-month-old kid, and seeks to nip it in the bud, is punished instead of the potentially murderous toddler.
I’m not sure when my fear of babies began. My two younger brothers may have contributed to it. So may a story I was told when I was in kindergarten – about a mediaeval seer of sorts, who snapped the neck of a boy while doing the rounds with his apostles. One of his followers objected, horrified, and the seer explained that the boy would grow into a cruel bully, having people tortured and killed, and he had not only spared the world by disposing of the boy, but also spared the boy a truckload of karmic revenge. The disciples were impressed. So was I.
Something about babies freaks me out. It has partly to do with my peladophobia – fear of bald people – and partly to do with my fear of disproportionate limbs (Google doesn’t have a name for this). As if it weren’t bad enough that babies have multiple chins, enormous heads, and tiny limbs, they also have empty, staring eyes. I sympathise with that cop, I do.
This seemingly incurable case of paedophobia has been aggravated by frequent travel – irrespective of the duration and direction of the flight, and irrespective of the class I fly, I’ve completed only two journeys without an infant wailing a stone’s throw away. Believe me, I know why they don’t allow weapons on board. I’ve often wished that larynxes grew over time – ideally, after children hit puberty, and are too ashamed of their hormones to keep yapping. And, of course, their voices do hit a slightly more bearable pitch at that age.
I think the best thing about children is that they grow up. Unfortunately, most grow up to become parents. And this is the one class of humanity I’m even more terrified of than I am of their spawn.
You know those birds that will attack you the moment you go anywhere near their nests? Well, the most aggressive member of that species is the mother whose baby’s cuteness you don’t entirely appreciate. This mother may drag her infant along when she’s taking part in a violent protest (and you’re screwed if you’re a cop trying to be fair and having the kid fingerprinted). Or, she may park it on an aeroplane for free, sans pacifier, because hey, why deprive her fellow-passengers of the sur of its ten-hour-long concert? Or, she may bring it home to toilet-train on your carpet, and display its creativity on your mahogany table.
The second most aggressive member of that species is the father, who didn’t realise what he was getting into until he inhaled the scent of his first nappy. You see him watching helplessly as you exchange glares with the mother. You see him getting ready to fight when you ask the mother if she can take her kid out of the cinema because you’re missing out on the dialogue. You see him sit back in relief when the mother snaps, “But she’s a child!” You see him stand up when you snap back, “She is, you’re not.”
As the kids grow up, you have two options. You can either sit through the child’s array of mispronounced nursery rhymes as its parents beam and sundry aunties ask you why you have not bred, and look on as it scribbles on your table, blesses your carpet and snaps the strings of your veena. Or, you could pretend you love kids, absolutely adore them, and keep them away from your table, carpet and veena by devising a game that involves running in an empty space. In most houses, the empty space is the garden. Occasionally, I’ve tried my luck with the terrace, but have not yet succeeded in staging a fortunate accident.
The problem with taking the latter route is that you may be just too convincing. A friend of mine lost his weekend to babysitting his nieces while his sister-in-law got her hair done, and his brother went shopping. I have been conned into escorting a little cousin to choose a birthday cake, because his father sighed, “I think he wants a break from me. Don’t you love hanging out with her, buddy?”
However, recently, I decided to stand up for myself. One of my cousins who has gone forth and multiplied suggested we “all” go to a movie in the mall. “Yes, Rio 2 has just released!” I said, and watched my nephew’s face light up. As my cousin opened her mouth to say she would give her son ‘fun time’ with his ‘favourite aunty’, I cut in, “But, I don’t like kiddie movies, so I’m going to sit this one out. Frozen was bad enough.”
As I saw the look on her face, I knew I’d cracked the code. I was finally ready to become an evil parent.