When my husband asked me “Will you miss me?” I replied “Probably not! I will be too busy at my mom’s place. I will try to though.” I didn’t know that I will be cursing myself for giving that smart aleck answer just a few hours later.
I and my daughter decided to set forth on a long journey some 350 kilometers over hills and plains, bridges and crossings, to the wonderful city of Chennai – all alone. We decided no husband and no father – the girls needed their time out from male auras. So there we were, loaded with two heavy backpacks - one for her and one for me - and my handbag. When we boarded the train, with the said aura in reach, I didn’t realize what’s in store for me the next day.
No one, absolutely no one, not even my husband, ever told me about the secret life of backpacks and how they get incubated overnight on trains to hatch into monsters. I am so sickened to realize that the world kept this secret from me for so long. Did you know about this? If you did, you should be ashamed of yourself for not warning me. If not, please know now.
It was 4:30 in the morning and the train was scheduled to reach the final destination at 5 or so. I sneaked my hand down below the side lower birth where we were sleeping to touch our backpacks and make sure they were there. One of them contained an entire half of my wardrobe and I didn’t want some stupid thief getting hold of that. Assured that they were there, I turned back to my daughter to find her snoring softly. Ha, all is well, I thought and returned back to my sleep.
Next thing I know, I am rudely woken up by a loud cry of an invisible man yelling “last station last station.” I had been sleeping even after the train had reached my station, probably for a good ten minutes! Thanking god it is the last station, I quickly grabbed my shoes and my daughter’s and turned to look for a porter to take the bags. Uh-uh, no one in sight. What the heck, I can manage three bags and one kid by myself I decided and heaved the two bags from below. They were just fine at that point. So I put one of them on my back, picked up my handbag on my right, and took the still-sleeping kid on my left, and then I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a third hand to take the other backpack! Now what?
Let’s wake the kiddo and make her walk I thought and tried to shake her up to consciousness. But no, the lady was totally oblivious to my efforts and snuggled even further into my shoulders. No, no, no, that won’t do. I tried to cajole her with promises of chocolate and ice cream but she didn’t buy them! By then, the Chennai heat had started to work its wonders sneaking up into the compartment. My face was getting drenched with sweat. Don’t panic now VJ, let’s just get down from this bloody train and all will be fine I muttered to myself. After a great struggle with the swinging door of the accompartment, I got down on the almost-empty platform with three bags, one kid, and two hands.
So there, all I need to do is walk down some 1 kilometer past the train (the ac compartment was but the last coach in the train) into the railway station and an auto. Should be easy.
It would have been too. Easy. But for the secret that the world and my husband had concealed from me. The backpacks which must have been just 4 kilos the previous day seemed to have turned to over 40. Add to that a two year old kid. And my own 50+ (you didn’t think I will reveal my exact weight, did you?) The next one hour became the longest walk in my life.
The kid was still sleeping clinging to my hips, and the backpacks still didn’t want to walk. I had never enrolled my handbag for flying classes so can’t blame it for not knowing to fly. So it fell upon my hands and legs to learn the fine art of balancing forty kilos on one side, another ten or so on another, and keeping an overall 50+ (still not telling you!) straight and standing at the same time. I almost managed it. Except that one of the backpacks suddenly decided to jump down to the ground and take some rest right there and then. I tried to pick it back up but it didn’t budge. I didn’t know if backpacks liked chocolate and ice cream so didn’t bother with promises this time – I directly went to brute force. Unfortunately, it didn’t like brute force.
Just then, its brother, the other backpack decided to join in on the fun but found itself strapped to my shoulders. Never mind I can still get down seemed to be its motive and it almost dragged me down on the other backpack on the platform. Hello guys? Hello! I’m the master here, you know? You guys are supposed to be lifeless things that get loaded and dragged everywhere by us superior creatures. What do you think you are doing? I sternly questioned the two rascals. And that’s when they told me the truth about themselves.
It seems they are not really lifeless backpacks – it’s true that most of them remain that way all their life – but some of them, very few lucky ones actually, get the opportunity to turn into little monsters at some point in their life. The metamorphosis required a very special set of procedure – that involved travelling by train, getting stashed into the space below side lower berth, accompanied by another one of their kind (it happens only in pairs), and being carried by a human female with just a two year old for company and no one else, especially not her husband. If all these happened, then the backpacks will turn into backtroms, the little jumping monsters from marstrix. They get to enjoy this life for a very short while until the said human female comes into the company of a dumb man - then they return back to their lifeless form forever, content in the knowledge that they had experienced nirvana at least once. At least this is what the ancestors of the backpacks told them. Saying this, Bogobogo (the previously black backpack on my back) finally managed to jump down to the ground, triumphantly crying “hey it’s true, it is our lucky day!”
I watched all this with a shock typical of dumb spectators who witness aliens landing on their roof. Though I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears, somewhere in my brain I realized that what’s happening in front of me is very rare. Probably, very few of us humans would get to see this and live to tell in our life time. And I was determined that I will live to tell and write about this.
So mentally making notes for my blog, I approached Wogowogo (the previously blue backpack that had jumped to the ground first) and asked it to behave itself. “Wogowogo, you are carrying half of my cloth belongings. Please, would you mind treating them with care?”
“Sure human lady, don’t worry, though we are now backtroms, we still respect the duties of our backpack days” replied the confident Wogowogo adding “but please let us play for some time, will you?”
Heaving a sigh of relief, I waited for a while for both of them to get accustomed to their new status as backtroms. In that almost-empty platform, early in the morning, I sat watching the miracle of backtroms playing with each other, jumping and flying in the air, shouting obscenities about the humankind (both these backtroms were males). I saw them do somersaults, twist and turns, gyrate in space, and much more acts that defy word forms. As I was watching this, my daughter woke up gradually and smiled me her consent to walk on her own.
We waited for a while more watching those two together. Then, I called them and told them that I am getting late. They need to come with me if they want to remain with me. They readily agreed, and the four of us walked, jumped, and flew across the platform to the entrance of the railway station. Just then, an idiot, in the form of an auto driver, offered to take me home which is usually not more than 100 rupees away, demanding me to pay 200. With a sad smile, the backtroms turned back to backpacks and fell heavily on my shoulders. I stared at the dumb fellow and called him a fool for his atrocity.
I had to carry the two heavy backpacks for the rest of the way to our auto and home. I wished my husband had been there to witness the miracle of our two backpacks, and of course carry them after. After all, the miracle happens only once in their life time and they will never become backtroms ever again.
O husband, where were you when we needed you?