“Nina, wake up”. Ammachi was shaking me.
I got up irritated and then I remembered my dad.
“What is it Ammachi?” I sat down on the bed trying to read her face.
“Get ready and go to the junction and buy the newspaper. If Mathaichettan is there ask him, if he heard anything about your father and go to Kutten’s house and tell him to rent a bicycle and come fast”.
I got ready quickly and ran all the way to the junction. Shankaran Chettan was just opening his corner shop shutters.
“Chetta do you have today’s newspaper?”
“What is it Nina, Why do you want the paper?”
“Appa didn’t come home last night.”
He gave me Malayala Manorama newspaper and I read the headline
Kairaleeye kandu. Pidikkan kazhinjilla.(saw the ship Kairalee, but couldn’t catch)
Shankaran Chettan was laughing and I looked at him trying to find out why is he laughing. All those who came to the shop to buy the morning beedi and pan also started to laugh.
“Nina, it isn’t kairaleeye kandu. Pidikkan kazhinjilla.
It is kairaleeye kandu-pidikkan kazhinjilla.” (we searched but we couldn’t find the ship)I felt myself shrinking and I wanted to disappear from the face of earth. I slowly retracted back. Now the news of my malayalam reading is spreading across to all the citizens of Chengannur town. I could see people waiting for the bus is looking at me and laughing. One of the school boys waiting for the bus shouted
“kairalee, ente thene”(kairalee my honey!!).
The bus came at that moment and I saw my mother getting down.
I rushed to her and asked
“Where is Appa? Is he ok? Why didn’t he come yesterday?”
My mother looked tired and upset
“He is gone Nina”
“What do you mean, don’t know?”
“He packed his bags and left”
“Why and when?”
“Nina, I don’t know”
My mother was about to cry and people were still watching us. I pulled her hand and started to walk towards Chengannur house.
“Amma tell me what happend?”
“Maria got admission to do Engineering and Medicine. Your father wanted her to do medicine and she wanted to do engineering. They fought and then it became a big fight and he went inside the room, took the money and his passport and left.”
“Where could he go Amma?”
“Anywhere Nina, he is a Malaysian citizen, he can go anywhere”
My mother was crying and I felt I had to grow up and take responsibility.
I squeezed her palm and told her
“Don’t cry Amma, you have ME. We will survive.”
“How Nina?, How can I raise four daughters on my own?”
“We will Amma, we will survive”.
July 16, 1979 was a monday.
The ship Kairalee has been missing since 1979