A Fortuitous Fart (An Inspiring Travel Tale)
“She’s done a poo,” Darling Man announces, his booming voice echoing in one of those strange pockets of quiet that sometimes happen in crowded places.
The baby squirms and grizzles in his arms. The bus is crowded and hot. I’d just handed the baby over to Darling Man because she’d gotten too squirmy and grizzly for me. (Welcome to the world of parenting, by the way.)
I couldn’t see out the window properly and I didn’t know how many more stops til we got to Singapore’s exotic Little India.
“We need to get off the bus,” Darling Man says, a tinge of desperation in his voice. Things are dire when he runs out of patience. I tap our house guest on the shoulder. “We have to get off,” I tell the lovely Ms J.
We shoulder past the other passengers, poking people with the pram and the bulky backpack full of baby-care items. I’m not quite sure where we are, but it doesn’t seem close enough to Little India to walk.
We break into our well-practised public nappy change routine. The pram is snapped back into shape, the seat back laid flat, the baby handlebar detached. Darling Man opens the nappy and a puzzled frown creases his forehead. He lifts up the baby’s legs. The frown deepens. He rolls her one way, then the other. He lifts her legs up again.
“What are you doing,” I hiss. “Hurry up.” It’s hot and people are staring.
“I can’t find the poo,” he says, a little too loudly. I get the giggles and reach over to search for the mysterious source of the stink. “It must have been a fart,” Darling Man announces, dropping the comment into another pool of crowd non-loudness. I begin to snigger and snort like a third-grader.
“Let’s just get back on the bus,” I say. And we get everything sorted so we’re ready to board the next bus heading towards Little India.
The baby wanted to make the most of her freedom. She decides the dirty concrete overpass near the bus stop simply must be explored. I shuffle along behind her, dripping sweat in the searing midday sun. We go up to the top of the staircase and down about six times before I look up and see signs pointing to some intriguingly named temples.
“Hey!” I shout to the others. “Wanna check out some temples?”
We abandon the bus stop and dive into a side street. It’s really really crowded. There’s some kind of Chinese New Year market surrounding a big Chinese statue. I don’t have the patience for crowds, not today, so we try to find a back way to the temples.
But as we head away from the crowd, we realise we are heading towards a lovely calm piazza. With palm trees. We check it out. We can see some Indianish shops in the distance. We roll the pram towards the shops. We decide to stop for lunch.
We scoop and slurp and yum our way through delicious Indian food while the baby marches around exploring the storage room under the stairs, the cupboard under the sink (for the restaurant had a little hand washing station to one side) and smiling at the food servers, who smiled back and squatted down to talk to her.
After lunch, still with no idea where we are, we set off to explore. And so the day, which had started slowly (and slow starts really tick me off when I have so little free time) turned into a wonderful afternoon of exploration.
We walked down a street of shophouses. We walked up a street with a Sikh temple. We found a green and shady hilltop area called Mount Emily Park, we walked up a path and down the other side. We noticed the baby had fallen asleep.
I walked off the horrible nine-to-five must-schedule-must-rush feeling that dogs most of my week. It was a sleepy Saturday afternoon, there was hardly anyone about in this new-to-me part of town. This is the Singapore I love, not the crowded shopping malls and tourist attractions.
A crazy afternoon jogger overtook us and I called out to him to find out where we were. He told us we were in Mount Sophia. I’d never heard of it. He gave us directions to Little India. It wasn’t that far.
We kept walking. We found the colour and movement Little India is famous for – floral offerings, fruit, cheap clothes and Indian music blaring from speakers.
Then we started looking for an airconditioned cafe where we could cool off with a drink. We found one. Alas, they were out of lassis. As we sipped and rested the baby woke up and once more we found ourself chatting freely with the waiter. He told us there was a famous mosque just down the street. Off we set. Who needs a guidebook? This was much more fun.
We found the mosque. We walked some more. We found the market I vaguely remember from a free city tour years and years ago. It was full of tourists. We stuck our noses in the air and sailed past, feeling very superior.
But… it’s a really interesting market. Ms J went back to have a look. We waited for her near a Hindu statue, which we realised was in front of an Indian restaurant. We went inside to see if they had lassis. They did. We decided to sit for a bit and soak up the airconditioned coolness and let the baby run around. The door was shut, she was safe. And the restaurant also had bells on the walls for her to play with. And yet another smitten waiter.
Our baby food and drink supplies now exhausted, we headed home. Without that fortuituos fart, our day would have been much blander. The lesson resonating in that best-forgotten flatulence is that getting off the bus into the unknown, without a map or a schedule, is often the best way to travel.
And despite the limitations of traveling with a baby, she opens many doors for us because she seems to charm her way into everyone’s hearts. She slows us down but it’s a reminder that slower can be better. As much as slow ticks me off on a Saturday morning, I need to remember what can happen on a slow day.
9 years ago