“Come let us play”. Anju pulled my hand
“Play?” I looked at her trying to figure out what exactly she meant
“Yes, we can play for half an hour before the choir practise start.”
I was so happy. I was tired of playing hide and seek with Liza and Sally. It is so easy to find them. Sally always giggle and Liza always tell her to hush, where by letting me know where both of them are. I have to pretend everytime that I didn’t hear their voice and search for them.
Everyone was busy playing near the Gulmohar tree. Little boys and girls were together playing tag. Big girls were sitting in the side chapel talking and watching big boys playing Kabadi. I have never seen anyone playing kabadi before. So I watched them. There were 7 boys on either side of the line. Each player, while holding his breath, dashes into the opponent team’s area, touches some player(s) and if the opponenets team members catch him, he will wrestles out to come back home safely without releasing his breath, all the while muttering the word kabadi as a proof that he is still holding his breath.
The captain of group A was a handsome looking guy. he was taller than the others and had cute curly hair. I heard his team members calling him Biju and discussing the game and strategy.
‘Biju,hmmm. that is a nice name’. I thought.
To my great disappointment Group A soon lost all the players including the captain. Group B players were jumping up and down and screaming. Biju’s face looked sullen and I felt sorry for him. I saw him looking at me and I smiled, hoping that it would make him feel better. I saw him whispering something to another guy and he in turn whispered to the person standing next to him. Soon all the boys were looking at me and laughing.
“nellikka (gooseberry) Nina, nellikka Nina”. They were now pointing their fingers at me and yelling and laughing.
I didn’t understand why they called me a gooseberry. I was Kochumaharani, certainly not gooseberry. Nobody ever calle me that name. I saw a boy running to his sister who was sitting inside the church and soon all the girls too started to laugh at me. I looked at my dress, trying to see if there is any gooseberry picture on my dress. There was no sign of gooseberry on my dress. I looked at Anju, she too was laughing at me.
I asked her
“Why are they calling me Gooseberry?”
“Because you have gooseberries in your pocket.”
I looked at my dress. I don’t even have a pocket.
“I don’t have a pocket, then how can I have gooseberries in my pocket?”
“Aiyyo Nina, Don’t you know anything about gooseberries?”
“I know everything about gooseberries. It is green in colour, slightly sour and if you drink water immediately after you ate them, then taste would change to sweetness. My grandmother makes Gooseberry wine and we drink that when we have stomach ache. There, I know everything about gooseberry.” I was so impressed with my knowledge.
Anju was laughing hysterically by now
‘may be the gooseberry in India is different’ I thought
“Come here Nina, I will tell you.”
She whispered in my ears
“Your dress is tight and your breast can be seen. That is why they call it gooseberry in your pocket.”
I looked down at my dress. I tried to pull my dress down and hunch my shoulder. I didn’t know my dress was tight. Why did Amma let me wear the dress if I looked funny in it. I was so upset. I wanted to walk out of the church and never step my foot inside ever again.
“Time for practice”. Achakuttichayan announced.
“Come here Nina” He called me.
I looked at him and the main road. I could make a quick dash and be out of the church in 5 seconds.
“Nina, I am calling you. Come here.” Achakuttichayan was calling me again
Everyone was laughing. I wanted to cry and desperately wanted the earth to open and swallow me. But then I thought’ I am Methran Thampi’s grand daughter. I am not going to cry for silly things.’. I walked inside the church with my head held high and my shoulders hunched.
“Come let us play”. Anju pulled my hand