I love babies.
Greeted with the most honest of fake smiles, I was directed to my peasant seat at the back of the airplane.
The most coveted seats in the Economy Class are the first row with the extra legroom and the occasional waft of wealth coming through the curtains. It was a long flight, I was tired and cranky, and I would have loved those seats — but alas, they weren’t available.
As I flumped into my sad excuse of a seat and buckled up, the stewards started handing out headphones for the in-flight entertainment system. On getting my pair, I unwrapped the flimsy plastic cover, stuck them into the armrest and immediately started scrolling through the media options on the tiny screen that was just a few inches from my face.
Airplane headphones are rubbish.
I heard some jostling noises from up ahead and looked up from my intense scrolling session to see the cutest, most adorable little munchkin, with his legs dangling out the two sides of his baby carrier strapped to the bosom of his father, who clearly worked out. His cheeks were as rosy as, a rose. And his tiny sausage fingers were flailing around playfully. He was a small ball of giggles as his parents shifted around, organising their luggage.
After my brief staring session, I got back to my little screen and continued scrolling.
As the head hostess was finishing her boring list of announcements in twenty-three different languages, a loud shriek engulfed the cabin. It was like the whole fuselage was under attack by a stray opera singer. The shriek was followed by a high toned cry. A loud wail. And a shrill squeal.
I put on some music, as I continued scrolling, to drown out the bawling, but airplane headphones are rubbish.
Why do people bring babies on airplanes? Maybe because they need to be somewhere which is not where they currently are?
Why do babies need to cry? Maybe because they don’t have any other means to convey what they want or are feeling?
But, why so loud? Maybe because they don’t know “proper” etiquette yet? Why don’t you go teach the kid to cry softly?
As I argued with myself, the parents removed a rattle from their multicoloured diaper bag.
Really now? Something that makes noise to stop something that is making noise?
Just like Hermione’s never-ending magic bag, toys just kept being pulled out — small plushies, large plushies, squeaky monkey faces, toy phones, toy cars, toy toys.
When these failed, the parents even resorted to making flatulent sounds with their hands and mouths.
Distracting a crying baby is difficult.
Finally succeeding in bringing the baby down to a light sob, they stuck a pacifier into his mouth and went back to reading their magazines while I continued my scrolling.
I love my Sony MDR1000X’s
The pressure was rising. My eyes were teary. I yawned, persistently. Nothing was working. My ears were still blocked.
They opened, and so did the baby’s flood gates.
The parents were back at it, trying to distract their little child all over again. Trying to soothe him. Trying to calm him. Trying to comfort him.
This is when I realised I had an instant fix for such a situation. I reached out to my backpack, unzipped it, removed a rather large sunglasses case, opened it, and ta-da, my brand spanking new MDR-1000X’s.
I’d bought myself them, on my trip, as a belated birthday present. They were, then, arguably the best noise-cancellation wireless headphones on the market and I was waiting to take them out on a spin. I put them on, wired them in, turned them on, and was instantly in quiet comfort. I couldn’t hear anything other than the sweet voice of James Bay and the soft clicks of my scrolling.
It’s easy to deal with a crying baby.
Maybe not. If it were mine, I doubt I would’ve handled it like I had just done. I wouldn’t have just cut it out, muted it, disregarded it. I would’ve done exactly what the parents were doing that time — distracting the little thing till it calmed down, pacifying it, entertaining it, comforting it — and when it did start crying again, repeating the whole process again, until it goes off to college.
Distraction is a great way to deal with something perennial.
I use it all the time for my depression.
Brace yourselves, it’s going to get dark.
Grey clouds rolled in from the southwest. The bright blue skies disappearing slowly above them. The sun tried its best to peer through, only to fail. A few rays that did hit the sea, reflected into my eyes, as I lay in bed, looking out my window, with a cloudy head.
May, 2015. Monsoons were coming.
I’ve always disliked the monsoons. It gets too humid and mucky and sticky and dirty. But worse, it gets grey and dreary. That monsoon though, was particularly grey and dreary.
I was working with dad for a while after graduating but had stopped doing so when we started working less and arguing more. We did have our differences in working styles, but more than that, in retrospect, I feel I just didn’t like what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t want to do what I was doing. But I also didn’t know what I wanted to do.
So, I sat at home, with the excuse of working on my resume, and marathoned a marathon of TV shows while eating my heart out. Months flew by as I sat in bed doing nothing, feeling nothing, caring about nothing.
I gained a lot of weight.
Lost a lot of confidence.
Gained no knowledge.
Lost no inhibitions.
I was depressed. I didn’t know it. I didn’t know what depression was. No one had ever spoken to me about mental health. No one had told me that I could be ill without having any physical evidence of being so. I just knew that I didn’t feel like doing anything, not even the things I once loved.
I didn’t feel like meeting friends. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I didn’t feel like working out. I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed and taking a hot shower. I just wanted to sit in my blanket, and mindlessly watch pictures move on my television.
I was supposed to be working on my resume. I did open the document every day — and then close it. I knew I needed to get a job, I just didn’t want to find one. I didn’t want to use my brain — my foggy, clogged up, grey and dreary brain.
I just thought I was taking it easy. Being lazy. I didn’t know I needed to talk about this with anybody. I didn’t want to be told that I was just being a cry baby and was exploiting my privilege of being able to sit home and do nothing.
Maybe, I could just snap out of it.
Making plans with friends, only to cancel on them was becoming a norm. I couldn’t meet people and be happy just for their sake. Smile for them. Talk to them. Laugh with them. I didn’t feel like doing any of this for myself, and maybe I was being selfish, but I thought it was reason enough for me not to do any of this for them either.
There were times though, when I forced myself to go out and meet people. Actually, I was more likely forced by them to meet them. Regardless, it was actually great fun. Who knew being around people who you cared about and who cared about you could feel nice, right?
This distraction turned out to be great, while it lasted. Talking, interacting, joking, laughing, drinking, dancing, it was all great in the moment. But that dreary greyness always lurked around. That fear of feeling empty, always overcast, on my momentary happiness.
Then came the day after, and I was back to feeling bogged down. Demotivated to even move. Chained to my bed, with an anvil on my chest.
Slowly but surely, I started to realise the value of distraction.
It was helping me cope with this empty feeling, this weird phase of my life I didn’t understand. I started to help myself, help myself. I pushed to distracting my mind. I forced myself out of bed to take a shower every day. I dragged my sorry ass to the gym — failing to do so on many days — but the days I was successful, I felt like how Sisyphus would, if he’d finally make it to the summit.
But this was not a distraction enough. My mind needed something more regular. More routine. With more responsibility. Something that would flex my brain. I needed a job.
It wasn’t easy to get myself to complete the resume I had been working on since the past eight months. But the realisation that I needed a substantial distraction and the temptation of not feeling like I was, gave me that nudge to pull up my socks and get the work done.
Within a week I had a couple of interviews lined up, and within another, I had a job. I had successfully managed to distract myself.
Two years whizzed by, and things were great. And then, the baby started crying again. I felt a sudden blow to my gut. I felt gravity getting stronger, pulling me down. It was a task to wake up, again. To get out of bed, get dressed and go to work. The work that had gotten monotonous. The work that was not challenging enough. The work that was proving to not be a distraction enough, anymore.
I was more aware this time though. Aware of what was happening to me. Aware that I had the common flu of depression. An illness ill spoken about in our society. Unaccepted. Frowned upon. Looked at with judgemental eyes. But all that didn’t matter. I had accepted the diagnosis. I had made peace with the noise in my head.
I quit my job. Travelled. Met new people. Made new friends. It was fun, until it wasn’t. When I got back home, it hit me harder than ever.
Now, as I sit in bed, trying to pour my heart out onto a document, giving up from time to time, always doubting my skills, I wish I had a new distraction. Oh well, I wish I had a pair of noise cancellation headphones to cut this static of a noise, this sluggish feeling, my depression, out.
But it’s mine, and I can’t do that to it. Instead, I have to comfort it, pacify it, distract it and always be geared for when it starts crying again.
I’m ready with my magic bag.