January 1, 2009
I have fond memories of train travels in India… If you have time, and a pair of dirty jeans, it’s wonderful.
Once, in the train to Sawai Madhopur (a tiger reserve in Rajasthan), there was a baby crying a few seats away. He was absolutely hysterical and nothing seemed to soothe him. I couldn’t see him but I could feel my head threatening to implode.
After an hour of earth-shattering screaming, I finally got up and looked for the baby. I had no idea what to do, but I knew the screaming had to stop. I found him easily, about six months old, red and kicking. His family looked helpless, but not too concerned. I nodded to them and grabbed the baby.
Hi, little showman, what is this all about?
He stopped crying instantly.
The whole family looked at me as if I was some fair-skinned witch. They probably expected me to pull a broom out of my pocket and fly out into the rajasthani sky. I don’t know why this little thing stopped screaming. My skin, I guess, or the weird sound of my humming in French.
Not another sound came out of his mouth and he quickly fell asleep. I went back to my berth with an awkward smile to the family. They didn’t seem to care that a total stranger had grabbed their new-born child without a word.
I got back to my seat and enjoyed the peace. A little before the train pulled in Sawai Madhopur, the baby’s grandmother came to me and without a word, gave prasad, the hindu holy offering, to me and my Indian friend. My friend looked at me and asked:
“Why is she giving us prasad? Old ladies don’t give prasad to strangers.What have you done again?”
“Why, nothing !” I said.
And off we went, into the tiger country.