“Nina, Liza, Sally, Come and see this.” Amma called out
We were playing hop scotch behind the house and we didn’t even notice that Amma had come home.
“What is it Amma?” I asked.I didn’t want to leave the game half way through, not when I was about to win.
“I got a surprise for all of you, come and see”
Surprise? I had just 2 more sqaures to jump while balancing the stone on my head. I watched Sally running towards Amma. I gently craned my neck while balancing the stone on my head to see what Liza is doing and the stone fell down.
“You lost, I won” screamed Liza and she bolted towards Amma. I didn’t want to miss out on the surprise, so I too ran. I wasn’t going to let Liza beat me again. I pushed Liza just as she was about to reach Amma. I wanted to be first.
“Amma, Nina pushed me” Liza yelled
“She blocked my way” I replied.
“You are ungrateful children, I go and find nice things for my children and look at what they are doing to each other. Selfish ungrateful kids.”
“What did you get Amma?”
“thengakkula!!. Bunch of coconuts!!!” She huffed and walked inside
I nudged Liza and together we spoke
“Sorry Amma, we won’t fight any more, what did you get for us?”
I looked at her hand. She was holding couple of bills. She must have bought something. she must have bought the magical ruler. God must have heard my prayers.
“Amma, You are the best mother in the whole world. Thank you so much for buying us things” I tried to butter my mother
“That is true, Amma. You are the best mother.” Liza agreed
We watched Amma pulling the chair and sitting down at the dining table. Akkachi also came out of the kitchen. Amma placed all the paper in her hands on the table.
“What are the papers for Amma?” I asked her
“I bought you and Liza a hero bicycle”
“What about me?” Asked Sally
“Where is the cycle?” I asked her. I looked outside to see, if Amma kept it outside.
“Wait children. None of you know the meaning of patience.”
“Sally, you are too young to ride a bicycle. I will buy you a bicycle next year.”
“Where is the cycle Amma?” I asked again.
“I have to pay another 4 more monthly installment, then Mr.Aiyappan will deliver the cycle.”
“Aiyappan? Who is Aiyappan Amma?” I asked her
“He is originally from Madras, He works as a senior office at the Madras customs office. Apparently all these items were confisicated from people over the years for not paying the taxes. Mr Aiyappan has been entrusted by the government to dispose off the stock. I went to his office this evening. You know something, his office has an aircondition!! Government is so grateful to him for going to all these places and selling the items that they provide everything for him. He is staying at Aida hotel, he has a car and a driver, all paid for by the government!”
“How do you know he is not a crook Amma?”
“Simple, crooks don’t have airconditioned office, they won’t have a government car and a driver and his secretary is my colleague Leela’s sister. She is the one who told us about all these. I had to go today itself and order all these before Mr Aiyappan runs out of stock. The actual cost of the bicycle is 500Rs. I am getting one for 250 Rs.Now you don’t go and tell anyone about this. If everyone goes to Mr. Aiyappan, then he will get greedy and raise the cost.
“We won’t tell anyone Amma, Promise.” I nudged Liza again and she too nodded her head. I so desperately wanted to tell my friends about my brand new bicycle. I knew they are going to be jealous. I might as well keep it as a secrtet. Otherwise they will also buy a cycle and I will lose my importance!
“What else he sells Chechy?” Akkachi asked
“Everything Akkachi, cooking pots, pressure cooker, dinner sets, even sarees.”
“What kind of sarees?” Asked Akkachi
“Kancheepuram Saree. I saw the sample saree today. It is certainly 100%genuine. You can feel the material and you know it is genuine.”
“How much is he asking for the saree and can we choose the colour?”
“He is asking 800Rs for the saree. Actual costs is around 1300 Rs”
I saw the sad look on Akkachi’s face.
I wanted to change the subject
“What else did you buy Amma?”
“I bought a godrej cupboard and a prestige pressure cooker. When Maria gets married, we need to give utensils and cupboards for her as part of the dowry, so I thought I might as well start buying things for her future”
It sounded funny. I couldn’t imagine my big sister getting married. I just couldn’t picture Maria as a wife of someone. I imagined her visiting us holding her children’s hands. I pictured a niece in pig tails wearing a pink frock. I imagined teaching my niece how to play jumping jacks with stones. May be that is not a good idea. The stones might hurt her tiny baby hands. I made a mental note to find the smoothest rocks and keep it safe for the future.
“What colour is my bicycle Amma?” I asked
“Black. It will not get dirty as easily.”
“What about Liza’s bicycle?”
“I don’t want the same colour bicycle as Liza’s. I want a different colour one. She will damage her bicycle and then would claim my bicyclee is hers. Please Amma, can we ask for a different colour bicycle?”
“You are right, it is better to have different colour bicycles. In that way you won’t kill each other. Tomorrow we will go to Mr. Aiyappan’s office and we will ask for a different colour bicycle.”
“Chechy, how much money do I have to pay each month to buy the Kancheepuram Saree?” Akkachi asked Amma
“About 200Rs a month.” Amma replied
I watched Akkachi using her fingers and toes and trying to calculate. She shook her head dejectedly. “Has he got any other cheap sarees?”
“I didn’t look today, What kind of saree are you looking for?” Amma asked Akkachi
“Any kind Chechy, I always wanted to own a brand new saree.”
“What difference does it make Akkachi, if it is second hand or brand new? Who is going to notice all that?”
“No one will notice chechy, but when you wear a brand new saree it makes you feel good, Chechy.”
“It makes you feel good on the first day Akkachi, what is new today is old tomorrow!”Amma replied
” True also, but we all have desires.. Don’t we?”
“Hmm “Amma nodded
I thought about what Amma told Akkachi., What is new today is old tomorrow, I never saw it that way, yet it is so true. I have a very smart mother. I thought.
“Nina, Liza, Sally, Come and see this.” Amma called out