When I entered the classroom on monday morning, all my classmats were crowding around Jessy.
“What is going on?, I asked Alice”
“Jessy’s father came from Persia yesterday. She got new pencil case and a shiny ruler with pictures. It is a magical ruler, if you move the ruler slowly, the picture also moves.”
“How can a picture move?, that is silly!”
“Go and see, if you don’t believe me.”
I walked to where everyone was standing.
“Can I see the ruler?” I asked Jessy.
“No”. Jessy quickly grabbed the ruler from Elsie’s hand and hid it inside her pencil case.
“Why not?’ Why can’t I see?”
“You are a loser, that is why. Remember when you came to the school first time and showed off”. “How you pretended that you can’t speak Malayalam!, You had all these accent. You were so Ash poosh, you even needed spoon to eat your lunch. You know something we don’t like you, all of knew that you are just pretending. How can you not know Malayalam, when your father and mother speaks malayalam?”.
“Because we didn’t speak malayalam at home. We spoke Tamil and Malay at home. That is why.”
“Oh, you spoke tamil ah. I didn’t know you were a “pandi”!
“I am not a pandi, just because I speak tamil doesn’t make me a pandi!”
“Only pandi speaks tamil, so you are a pandi.”
“I am not.” I screamed at her.
“See the pandi is getting angry” Jessy looked at everyone around us and they all started to laugh.
“Nina, never mind, don’t fight, come and sit in your seat”. Alice pulled my hand.
“Why are they so mean to me?” I asked Alice.” Remember the last time when they sat next to me on the bench and all of them got up at the same time and made me fall down?”
” Who knows why they do things like that, you don’t worry about all that. Anyway, I saw the same ruler at Jacob’s store the other day. It is 4 Rs for one ruler.”
“4 rs? That is really expensive.”
“yes it is, the uncle at the shop said, it is imported from Persia, that is why it is expensive. He has three types, one with animals on it, another one with fish and the third one is the best one, it has sun, moon and the stars.”
“Can we go and see in the evening, will you come with me?”
I waited for the last bell to ring and Alice and I quickly walked to Jacob’s store.
Uncle was busy serving some customers. We waited anxiously.
I prayed silently, ‘Jesus, don’t let anyone buy the star and the moon ruler, please keep it for me.’
When the other customers left, Uncle looked at us.
“Can you show us the magical rulers please. the one with the strars and the sun?” Alice asked him
Uncle took a small red box from the counter behind him and opened the plastic cover and took 2 rulers out.
“Where is the fish one?” Alice asked him
“I sold that already”.
Alice showed me the ruler, she slowly moved the ruler and the stars disappeared and the sun appeared.
“Where did the stars go?” I asked her
“it is magic, see if you turn this way, the stars will appear again.”
She passed the ruler to me and I moved it side to side. it was amazing. I looked at the bottom to see where the stars and the sun disappear to?. There was nothing there. I wanted to buy the ruler. But I only had 25 paise with me. I thought of asking Amma for money. But I knew that is going to be futile. All it would result in is another big lecture about saving money for dowry.
I gave the ruler back to uncle and told him
“I will get money from Amma and buy it tomorrow”
He nodded his head and I watched him place the rulers in the box and putting it back in the counter behind him.
“Parumala thirumeni, have merci on me, please don’t let anyone buy that ruler.”
“Are you really going to buy the ruler tomorrow?” Alice asked me
“Hmm” I nodded my head
“Will you let me share it?”
“Of course I will.”
As we walked out of the shop I heard the song
“oru roopa nottukoduthal
oru laksham koode porum”
(Pay Rs 1 and Rs I lakh will follow you home).
I heard the same song every day on my way back home from school.
The singer must have been about 40 years old. Like the non functioning traffic light and the police man with a big stop sign who directs the traffic everyday, standing inside the booth in the middle of the road, the singer too was part of the junction. He would be leaning on the wall and singing the same song at the top of his voice, over and over and over every single day. He sells lottery ticket for a living.
He wears the same yellow colour shirt and blue sarong that is folded and tucked neatly, exposing his crippled leg. He holds a stick for support. There were no fingers on his right hand, just an appendage. Everytime someone buys a ticket from him, he would hold the ticket book in his left hand and by using the right hand without any fingers, he would pull out a ticket. I stood there and watched him
“Come on, let us go”. Alice pulled my hand
“Why are you scared of him?” I aske Alice
“People like him will kidnap little children. Do you know what they do?”
“What?” I asked her
“They will heat a metal rod and poke the child’s eyes, so the child would be blind, then they will hit them and break their legs and hands”
“because, they get more money begging, if the child is blind and disabled!”
“No such thing. You are lying”
“God promise, I am not lying. My own mother told me this.”
As I walked alone to my sister’s school, I thought about the magical ruler. I desperately wanted 4 RS. I wished Appa was here, he always bought me whatever I asked for. I thought about the lottery ticket seller and his song. I knew what I am going to do.