The cigarette break was a welcome relief for Nitin. He had reported early for work, only to be engulfed in a barrage of paper work. Besides, last night he hadn’t slept, caught up again in an endless argument with Aruna, his wife, about starting a family.
They had been married for two years but he felt he still had time at 32.. besides he had other priorities — a child only after three years.
These thoughts crowded his mind as, thanks to the anti smoking law, he stood at the edge of the road, outside his office building, and lit his cigarette. Suddenly he felt a tug on the flannel of his trouser.
He was surprised to see a small boy, an infant actually, about two years old pulling his leg and making funny sounds. He looked around— there were no signs of a parent or a caretaker.
The road was crowded with a few saddled horses, a creaky giant wheel, a small merry-go-round, a big metallic aircraft hanging from two rusted iron poles. He had seen these sights every evening —this part of the road had been converted into a mini-amusement park where parents brought their children.
That protective arm
The child kept tugging , saying "Orsie, Orsie,” leaving him no choice but to gently pick the child up. He got the fresh fragrance of talcum powder, baby cream on the child’s soft skin as it brushed against his face.
To his relief, an old man with a horse came forward and signalled Nitin. He gave a familiar nod to the child who gurgled and clapped in glee. Nitin let the moment guide him and gently saddled the child, instinctively walking beside the horse, putting a protective arm around the child.
Nitin then realised that “Orsie” in baby slang meant Horse! The ride done, the child gesticulated wildly towards the merry-go- rounds. Nitin got drawn by these tender appeals and carried the boy, gently plonking him on the merry-go-round chair. As it swirled the infant clapped his hands and made strange happy sounds.
The child, now familiar with Nitin, and excitable about these small adventures kissed him, hugged him, ruffling his hair. A sweet smell of milk powder, chocolate and glucose emitted from the baby’s breath.
Through his toothless smiles and garbled sounds, the excitable boy guided Nitin to the stalls selling balloons, plastic toys, and air bubble jars. Nitin was overwhelmed by his cute charm as the boy seemed to want everything he could lay eyes on.
Suddenly a young woman called out, “Jai, Jai.” She came close to Nitin and with a sense of relief, exclaimed, “He just scampered away, as I got talking on my mobile, thanks for looking after him.” The infant left the warm embrace of Nitin’s arms, and jumped at the young woman exclaiming , “Mamma, mamma!”
Nitin experienced an overpowering sensation. It was indescribable, this feeling of pure, unadulterated joy leaving his senses immobile! He tried to make it real. He put his hand to his heart to feel the sensation. The hand felt a little wet and sticky.
A familiar smell percolated his senses. The child had left behind a dribble of urine on his shirt! But it struck him right there. He would tell Aruna tonight that he was so, so ready for daddy duties!