After lunch I walked with Alice to the play ground. Nobody wanted to play with us. I am a pandi and Alice is a poor farmer girl with no father. We sat under the casurina tree.
“Can we play jumping jacks?” Alice asked me
“Ofcourse”. We looked around us and found 5 smooth stones to play.
I showed Alice how to throw all the stones up and catch it all in one go
“Where did you learn that?” Alice asked me
“Ammalu taught me, She used to work for my Ammachi, Her father sold her to someone from Madras.”
“hmm” I nodded my head.
“You know Nina, I always wish, my father is still alive. He used to play so much with us when I was little. During summer holidays we would go to his house in Idukki. Now after he died, my uncles refuse to let us visit them”
“Your uncles, you mean your father’s brothers?”
“Hmm, they don’t want to give us my father’s share of the family property”
“Because they are greedy and we are girls. If only I was a boy, then I could have gone and kicked them like Bruce Lee.”
I started to laugh.
“Why are you laughing?” She asked me
“Remember how I fooled all our classmates telling them the story about chasing the robber and falling down from the fence wall?” I asked her
“Ofcourse, and did you get any letter from your guruji granting you permission to teach karate?” She asked me and we both started to laugh
“Nina, look there are 2 mynas there. If you see a pair of mynas, it means you will get a letter. If you see only one myna, it is bad luck.”
“Really, are you sure?”
“God promise Nina, my sister taught me that”
“may be I will get a letter from Appa today.”
“Do you love your father Nina?”
“Ofcourse I do”
“You are very lucky Nina”
I remembered Ammachi and the Vararuchi story. I looked at my best friend and told her
“There is no such thing called luck. It is all destiny”.
Alice looked at me surprised. That dialogue was probably the wisest thing I ever said to her.
We heard the bell ringing and we ran to our class.
In the evening I was eager to go home and see if the mynas really brought me letters. I opend the main door and yelled
“Akkachi, I am home. Are there any letters for me?”
“huh? Why are you asking for letters, why, you got a boyfriend to send you love letters ah?”
“Go Akkachi, you always think about boyfriends. I don’t have any boyfriend. Now tell me, are there any letters?”
“There is a letter for your mother, I think it is from Malaysia”
“From Malaysia? Really? please show me”
Akkachi took the letter from the top of the fridge and gave it to me
I checked the stamp, I saw the familiar butterfly picture stamps.
“This is from Malaysia, may be my grandmother finally decided to write to us.”
“Why doesn’t she ever write Nina?”
“Because Amma and she always fight!”
“Don’t know Akkachi. But they never talk to each other. I only see my grandmother at the church on sundays. Amma won’t let us visit her either.”
“Hmm”, I looked at the envelope in my hand. I was relieved holding it. I felt finally my family is going to be together. Grandparents, parents, uncles aunties and all the cousins, One big family. I quickly opened the letter
It was in Malay. That is odd I thought. My grandmother never writes in Malay. She writes in English.
“Who is the letter from?” Akkachi asked me
“Don’t know Akkachi. it is in Malay”
“Look at the bottom Nina, see who signed it.”
I looked at the bottom of the page and read the name
“Ida, this letter is from tante Ida”
“Who is tante Ida?” Akkachi asked
“She is my favourite aunty. My grandfather and her father are brothers, she was born in Indonesia. Then they all came to Malaysia and settled down. She never speaks to Amma. But they stayed closer to our house and during school holidays I will visit her without telling Amma. She makes the best fried rice on planet earth.”
“What does the letter say?” Akkachi asked me
“wait Akkachi, let me read it”. I suddenly realized I have forgotten most of the malay words. I sat down on top of the gas cylinder and slowly read the letter. I didn’t understand what tante Ida wrote.
“I don’t understand anything Akkachi!”
“What do you mean?”
“She wrote, I never thought I would be forced to write to you. But your recent behaviour suggests otherwise. There was a letter from Rebecca and she mentioned that, you are back and she wants the family to intervene.
You should know that he is married and so are you. I don’t have to tell you what you should do. But I will tell you this. Stay away from my brother.”
I looked at Akkachi “I don’t understand this Akkachi. I never knew tante Ida had a brother. Where is her brother? Why does she tell Amma to stay away from her brother?”
Akkachi took the letter from me and started to tear it.
“What are you doing Akkachi?”
“If your mother knows that you opened the letter meant for her and read it, you are going to be in big trouble. Don’t you say anything about this letter!. There was never a mail from your aunty. Do you understand that Nina?”
“hmm”. I nodded my head. I watched Akkachi placing the torn pieces on the floor and lighting a match stick and burning it. After the letter completely burned to ash, Akkachi removed the ash and threw it in the bin. She then wet a dish cloth and wiped the floor. There was no sign of a letter from tante Ida.
I didn’t understand anything. My head and my heart felt heavy. I knew there is something terrible is going on. What it is I had no idea.
tante is the dutch word for aunty commonly used in Indonesia.
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