SO THERE I SAT, SAVOURING MY MID-LIFE CRISIS, 30,000 FEET ALOFT. After all, it only happens once in a lifetime unless you are planning on being born again or “rebirthed” in which case you had better start saving for your second Porsche and alimony now. If you’re a woman, just have a haircut and sit back. There’s more change on the way.
The lady in the next seat turned to me and fixed me with a glittering eye. “Have you ever spoken with your inner child?” she asked. One child is enough for me to handle, leave alone two. “Hmm,” I offered, but she was undeterred. “I was an Egyptian princess in my last life.” Now which clairvoyant is running around causing this commotion? Half my friends in Hongkong are from that very same harem. This is a nuisance as I’ve never visited Cairo and feel like something of an idiot with only a two-generation pedigree.
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I mumbled politely and picked up my copy of National Enquirer. This restored sanity at once, particularly the headline, “Mom on veggie diet gives birth to green baby”. This was almost as good as the lady in the Philippines who claimed to have given birth to a fish named Angeline Dysabel. The proud father raced to the newspapers (instead of to the gene bank to have his DNA tested) and the poor fish died later following an overdose of milk when a couple of worms would have done quite nicely. Alas, Angeline never grew up to meet Dolly the cloned sheep with whom she could have settled down in an unconventional but modern and politically correct relationship.
Everyone seems to have been an Egyptian princess in their past life. Now which clairvoyant is causing all this commotion?
Just then, Baby James in the seat in front decided to toss his spoon in the air along with his mother’s magazine, the latter arriving unannounced on my veal fricassee. I didn’t mind. Women’s magazines are a lot more fun then men’s. Choosing between “How to find her G spot” and “The Russian rouble fights back”, is a no-brainer. The G spot is a mysterious zone that women apparently possess. It’s a bit like the Holy Grail. No man can ever find it. It is so named because after much poking about most men normally say, “Aw Gee honey, can’t we do something else more romantic – like watch TV?”
Baby James now launched his crayons, plastic cutlery and book in my general direction. I could understand the fuss. After all, who in their right mind would ever dare to publicly read Bridges of Madison County? I did, on a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo where no one knew what I was up to. And I wept. But this could have been because there was so much smoke in the cabin I had to grope my way to the toilet – at least that’s what I told the stewardess after encountering her well-proportioned body in a narrow galley. That was back in the days before harmonica-playing Marlboro ponies got kicked off flights.
The book notwithstanding, Baby James’ mother was made of sterner stuff. A seasoned campaigner with a long line of immaculate, ramrod-straight progeny to her credit, she shook him with deadly intent and asked the inevitable question, “DO YOU WANT A SMACK?” To this, the toddler, clearly smarter than his years, replied, “NO”. This is not a smart question to ask a kid. Now had she asked, “Do you want to pour ketchup on that nice man’s head?” the answer would have likely been yes. Parents never get it right do they?
The mother shook him vigorously and asked: "Do you want a smack?" The toddler, clearly smarter than his years, replied "NO"
Nothing quite conjures visions of imminent doom than travelling with nippers. Ship your two-year-old to Kabul and the fracas would be over for the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. “Don’t cry little one, I shall find a good copy of World Wrestling Federation for you. STOP THOSE ROCKETS. Send Habib to the video store – NOW!” Babies always have the upper hand. Appease them and their demands grow ever more strident. Be firm and, well, we all know what happens to the decibel count. There’s no point bruising your palms. A baby’s bottom is virtually unassailable, wrapped as it is in huge wads of cotton and always carrying the implied threat of unspeakable things within. I used to book seats near the bulkhead. That’s the spot with the legroom. It’s also where they snap the baby basket in usually along with Pavarotti’s baby. Now I know.
On my last Singapore Airlines fight a stewardess actually tamed a typhoon tike while daddy watched enraptured. The wife ended the soft-focus reverie soon enough. “Here, feed Jenny,” she barked to her husband. Then she turned to her daughter. “Would Jenny like to go back to Singapore with that nice young lady?” “YES, yes”, screamed Jenny, delighted. Wrong question. Mama sulked, papa stared at his shoes and another midlife crisis was born.
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