Gooseberries in my pocket

“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.

old & New

On sunday morning, Amma woke me up early.
“Wake up Nina, you have to go to church.”
“Which church?” I asked her. I thought to myself, oh God, please, not the Orthodox church. I don’t want to stand still for three hours.
“We are going to the Kottayam CSI (church of south India) church.”
“Is it a Jacobite(orthodox) church?”
“No it is Anglican.”
“Like the church in Penang we used to go?”
“Yes, the same type.”
I looked at the picture of Jesus praying in Gethsemene, that is hung on the wall.(sans glass!!!)
‘Not bad Lord, not bad at all, you heard my prayer. Thank you Jesus for saving me from standing for 3 long hours.’ I thanked Jesus silently.
I like the Anglican service. It is short and sweet. Unlike the Orthodox church service that goes on and on. There is no orthodox church in Penang. So we used to attend service At the St. George Church in Penang. While Appa and Amma attended the service, we would attend the sunday school. The best part of the sunday school was at the end of the lesson, Mrs Yew, my teacher would give us, shortbread cookies she baked herself. Her cookies used to melt in my mouth.
I had so many friends there. We used to play hide and seek near the mahagony tree. I wondered what happend to all my friends? Where are they now? Would I ever see them again? Would they remember me and all the promises we made? ‘Friends forever, neither tide,nor distance would ever break our friendship!’.
“Get ready fast Nina and stop dreaming.” Amma was yelling
I quickly got up from my bed to get ready.
“Do I need a scarf?”
“No, Anglican’s are not fanatic. Just because you don’t cover your head, you don’t die and go to hell.”
“Ok, Ok”. I was glad. I didn’t want to cover my head. I can never keep the scarf properly on my head. I find it very hot and my head sweat whenever I tie a scarf on my head.
“Akkachi, is the breakfast ready?” I heard Amma asking Akkachi
‘Breakfast? You are not supposed to eat breakfast before going to church. We have to take communion on an empty stomach in the orthodox church.
I rushed to kitchen
“Are we eating breakfast Amma?”
“But we are not supposed to, right?”
“That was your stupid father’s stupid rules. What would happen if you eat breakfast and then go to church? You won’t die, will you?” She looked at me and asked
“No we don’t die” I wanted to ask her ‘ just because Appa isn’t here, does it mean that we should do whatever we want?’. I didn’t want to fight in the morning.
Akkachi made Appam with stew. I didn’t want to eat breakfast. I wanted to follow Appa’s rules. Nina listens to her father, she never breaks his rules.But Akkachi doesn’t make Appam everyday. I looked at the Appam on the table. One full plate of white soft, fluffy Appam with beautiful lace edge, that would soon vanish in to my sisters tummy.
“Akkachi, the Appam is very soft today. You make the best Appam in the whole wide world.” Sally spoke
” Can I have coconut milk with sugar instead of stew?” Liza asked Akkachi
“Ok, I will make the coconut milk for you.”
“Akkachi I also want coconut milk with sugar.” I couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. Anyway Appa isn’t here and he won’t know that I ate my breakfast before going to church. I will follow his rules next sunday.

At the church, Amma covered her head with the end of her saree. I looked at her trying to understand what exactly she told me earlier. I couldn’t understand her logic. I don’t have to cover my head, but she covers her head.
When the bell rang. The Choir memebers stood in a line. They looked stunning in their red Choir albs. The boys, followed by men walked first, then the girls in their white skirt and blouse followed. All the girls wore white veil. Everyone was singing and looking at the choir members while they walked to the front of the church. I watched the girls revelling in their role as the most important members of the church. I wanted to be part of that.
I waited for the service to be over to confide in my mother that I want to join the choir. As soon as the service was over I asked Amma,
“Amma can I join the choir here?”
One of the ladies sitting next to Amma, overheard me and before Amma could say anything, she spoke
“That will be a good idea, You need to see Achakuttichayan. He is the choir master. Come with me, I will introduce you to him.”
I looked at Amma and at the aunty.
“Ok” Amma agreed
I walked silently with the aunty.
“What is your name?” She asked me
“Are you new here.”
“My name is Molly, I am the women’s club director. My daughters Anju and Manju are choir members.”
“Anju, come here.” I saw Aunty Molly calling out to a girl.
“Yes Amma”, She came running to her mother
“Did you see Achakuttichayan?”
“He was here, just a while ago Amma. I don’t know where he went.”
“This is Nina, she is joining the choir. Will you take her to Achakuttichayan?”
“Come, let us go and find him”. She held my hands and together we walked. I was scared a bit at the same time I was happy. I am going to join the choir and it really felt good.
We found Achakuttichayan standing hear the church entrance speaking to someone. He wore a white mundu(sarong) and a long white Jubba. He was bald and old. He would make a nice santa.. I thought
“Achakuttichaya” Anju called him “This is Nina, she wants to join the choir.”
He looked at me and grinned a toothless sweet smile.
“Ofcourse you can, Stay for the choir practice today.”
I ran to my mother who was busy talking to all the women.
“Amma, I have to stay back today and attend the choir practice. You can go home on your own. I will come back home on my own.”
I was glad that Amma won’t be around and I will get new friends. It was a new start for me.

Fertile imagination

“Where are you going?” I ran after Liza as she was just about to close the gate and leave.
“I am going to play with Suma.”
“No, you are not.”
“Why?” She was surprised
“Because I told you so?”
“Who are you to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do?”
“I am your sister Liza and I know what is good for you. Please don’t go to Aunty Reena’s house. I have my own reasons, but I can’t tell you that.”
“You are lying Nina, you have no reason to tell me. I am not going to stand here and listen to your silly reasons. I am going to play.”
I pulled her hand and tried to drag her inside. She was kicking and pinching me.
As soon as I dragged her inside the house, I left her on the ground and quickly closed the gate.
“As long as I am alive, you will not cross this gate”
I saw Liza picking up a rock from the ground.
“Liza, please don’t throw the rock, please.” I begged her.In an instant she flung the rock and threw it on my face. The rock hit my specks and broke the glass. I was too shocked to react. I couldn’t believe my own sister could throw a rock on my face. I wanted to go inside and check my eyes to see if the broken glass is in any way damaged my eyes. I didn’t want to leave the gate unattended. I wiped my cheecks with my hands to see if there was any blood.
‘Lord please don’t damage my eyes’. I prayed silently. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life hearing Amma wailing about the extra dowry she has to pay for me being blind.
Liza looked at me and the broken frame on my face. Without even saying a sorry she walked back to the house.
I wanted to go after her and hit her and kill her. I was trying to protect her from Aunty Reena’s husband and look at how she paid me!. How dare she throw a rock at me.
I sat down on the floor and removed the spectacle from my face. The right side glass broke completely and the frame is bent. I waited for my mother to come.

After a while I heard Amma’s footsteps.
“Why are you sitting infront of the gate Nina?”
“Amma Liza broke my specks.” I showed Amma my broken spectacles
“How did she do that?
“She threw a rock at my face.”
“How dare she. I will teach her a lesson today. She should know not to throw rocks.”
Amma walked inside and called Liza
“Liza come here this instant.”
I saw Liza walking towards us,shivering like a rat that fell in to a tub of cold water. I was happy seeing her in that state.’Serves you right Liza. You deserve it’ I told myself.
“Why did you throw the rock on Nina’s face? What if it hit her eyes and blinded her?”
“Amma, she didn’t let me go to Aunty Reena’s house to play with Suma”
Amma looked at me and asked
“Why didn’t you let her go Nina?”
“Amma, Aunty Reena’s husband is home.”
“He is not a nice man Amma.”
“How do you know that Nina?”
“He tried to touch my breast when I went there this morning.”
I saw the smirk look on Liza’s face. I ignored it.
“Your breast? You hardly have any breast!, why would he touch that? Was he alone at home when you went?”
“No Amma, Ammachi and Aunty Reena was home.”
“Nina, you have fertile imagination. How can he touch your breast when his wife and mother is at home? Stop imagining all these. False witness is a crime in the bible and you should know that.”
“No Amma, I didn’t imagine it. It really happend.”
“It really happend..ptuiiii she spat, it happend in your dirty head. You haven’t even grown up and already think about breast and things like that. Shame on you Nina.”
I tried to explain and there was no way I could. Amma has already shut the door of reasoning.

To those who think my mother is unique: I have seen countless cases like mine when I worked as a doctor.
To those who have daughters: Believe your children, when they tell you.. It isn’t easy to speak all these as a child.
To those daughters who have gone through this: May you find peace

less is more

I walked down the road to Aunty Reena’s house. Her older daughter Suma is Liza’s good friend. They study in the same school and her younger daughter Reema is a baby. She is such a cute baby with chubby cheeks. Aunty Reena always lets me play with Reema. I like to open the baby’s palm and place my fingers inside. Straight away she would grab it. I hoped to play with the baby for a little while today. I opened the gate and there was nobody outside.
I knocked at the door. I could hear footsteps and the sound of the latch moving across the wooden door.
“Is that you Nina, Look at you! you have grown much bigger than the last time I saw you”
I stared at Aunty Reena’s husband’s face. Nobody told me that he came back from Dubai for a visit. He was leaning on the door frame and looking at me funnily. He wore just a lungi(sarong) and no shirt. Instead of a shirt, he wore a long thick golden chain reaching all the way to his belly button.
‘Oh, he wants everyone to see his new gold chain, that is why no shirt today’ I thought to myself.
“Hello Uncle, When did you arrive from Dubai?”
“last night”.
Mone, who is it outside?” I heard Ammachi asking from inside the kitchen.
I could hear her muttering” It is only 5 hours since my son came from Dubai, the vultures have arrived already to claim the ‘foreing goods’ bounty!”.
I wanted to tell Ammachi, I didn’t come to get any foreign stuff her son got from Dubai, I came to borrow some old Indian text books.
“So what brought you here Nina?” He asked
“I was wondering, if Aunty Reena has any of Suma’s old text books. I think she is busy. May be I will come some other day.”
“She is in the kitchen cooking lunch. Why don’t you go in and ask her?”
“I think I will come later.” I turned to walk back
“it is ok Nina, Nobody is getting married here today. She is only making fish cury for me. My mother made the rest of the food already.”
“Are you sure uncle?”
“I am. Go inside and ask her.”
“Oh ok.”
As I walked past him, he brushed his hands on my breast. I turned to look. He was grinning at me. I didn’t understand why he did that. It made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t understand why.
I quickly walked to the kitchen and aunty Reena was busy cooking fish curry.
“What is it Nina?” she wiped her hands on the end of her saree pallu and looked at me.
I thought of telling her that her husband just touched my breast. But I didn’t know how to tell her that. May be it was accidental. May be I imagined it. I consoled myself.
“Aunty, would you by any chance have Suma’s old text books?”
“Why Nina?”
“My Malayalam is terrible. So I thought, I would start reading from the beginning”
I saw uncle walking towards the kitchen.
“May be I can teach you Malayalam Nina, Anyway I studied Malayalam as a second language at the university and I have 2 months of vacation. Instead of wasting my time, I might as well do something good. What do you say Reena?”. he looked at his wife and asked.
“Good idea Achaya. You can teach Suma and Nina together.
“I will have to get Amma’s permission first and then I will come.” I told myself, there is no way I am coming anywhere near you.
“Nina, I have Suma’s old text books. Can I give it to you later?”
“Ofcourse Aunty. I will come and pick it up some other time”. I turned to leave
“Wait Nina, I will get you some Chocolates.” he spoke
“Never mind Uncle, we have chocolate at home”.
“This is made in Gulf Chocolates, better than your Malaysian ones.”He laughed and walked to their bedroom to get the chocolates.
I walked to the living room. When he handed me the chocolate, he touched my breast again. He was still grinning
“Come again Nina, I will give you more chocolates”
I was so angry, I ran. I didn’t bother to close the gate.
‘Let him get out and close his stupid gate’ I thought.
I had 5 golden colour paper wrapped chocolates in my hand. I didn’t feel like eating any.
I ran all the way home. Liza and Sally were playing hopscotch outside.
“Here. Chocolates for you.” I gave it to Liza
Both of them counted the chocolates.
“I will take three, because Nina gave me first.” Liza said
“I am the youngest, so I take 3” Sally spoke
“In that case, I am not sharing with you any.” Liza took off and Sally ran after her.
I saw them fighting and I didn’t interfere. Somehow their fight made me feel better. When they fought, I felt less ashamed of the fact that, I paid more for the chocolates.


Saturday morning I saw Amma getting ready to go out. She was wearing her purple silk saree with a white blouse and I thought, ‘Goodness, where did she get that combination?’. But I didn’t say anything. I wanted Amma to leave. I was happy and relieved knowing that Amma won’t be around at home till evening. I need time to go to all the neighbourhood houses and collect old text books.
I overhead Liza asking Amma
“Where are you going Amma?”
“Just over there Liza, I should be back soon.”
“Over where?” Liza asked again
Oh Oh, I thought. I tried to show my hands and signal to Liza to keep quiet and let Amma go. But my sister didn’t see me.
“I need to go and buy the groceries Liza. If I don’t go and do all these, who will do it?”
” Why do you have to go every time?. Why don’t you ask Nina to go to Anichettan’s shop.You always go everytime and never spend time with us”
Oh oh, things are getting out of control. I waited 2 days for this moment. I am not going to lose my opportunity. I quickly walked to where Liza was standing.
“Liza, Appa isn’t here. Amma has to do all the job all by herself. Besides I can’t carry 5 kg of rice all my myself. Let Amma go. I will play hide and seek with you.”
I looked up and could see the shock in my mother’s eyes. I smiled at her.
“Promise you play with me.”
“I, Nina Thomas, grand daughter of Methran Thampi promise that I play hide and seek with Liza.”
“Ok.” Liza shrugged her shoulders and went.
I heard Amma muttering”hmmm..methran thampide kochumol..”. I ignored the sarcasm in her voice.

As soon as Amma left, I went to the kitchen and told Akkachi
“Akkachi, I will go to Aunty Reena’s house and also to Akashavani’s house and check if they have grade 1 and 2 books. I already got grade 3 & 4 books.”
I had told Akkachi about the lady doctor’s suggestion. Akkachi promised to help me learn malayalam.
“Where did you get the grade 3 & 4 books from?”
“Alice gave me her old text books. Her younger sister is using grade 2 books this year and they gave off the grade 1 book to someone else.”
“Oh ok. Be careful when you go to Akashavani’s house. If that kapalanga(papaya) is there, don’t enter the house.”
“Who is kapalanga Akkachi? Sujith? How did he get that name?”
” You remember that day, I went to buy salt? Sujith was coming home from the college and I heard someone calling him kapalangai(papaya). He was so mad at the guy who called him that name. he fought with him.”
“Why does anyone call him kapalanga(papaya)?
“Because he is very fair.”
“But kapalanga(papaya) is orange colour!”
aiyyoo Kochumaharani, when the papaya is unripe, it is white colour.”
“Oh I see.”
“Oh You see.. at this rate, one day you will make ripe papaya thoran for your husband!.”
“I am not getting married.”
“Oh here we go again!. Go to Aunty Reena’s house and find out if they have the books.”
“Getting married, getting married, that is all everyone talk about. I don’t want to get married. Why can’t you all understand that?”
“Ok Kochumaharani, I understand you don’t want to get married. Now don’t get angry with me. Please!”
“Ok. I am not angry with you.”
I walked to the gate.
“You promised me you will play hide and seek with me.” Liza ran after me yelling.
“Ofcourse I did”
“Then where are you going?”
“I am going to Aunty Reena’s house. I will be back in 1o minutes”
“You never keep your words Nina”
“Who said I don’t. I said I will paly hide and seek with you. Did I speciafically say when? It can be today, it can be tomorrow!”
” That is cheating Nina.”
“Do you know the story of Ganapathy’s( Lord Ganesha) wedding?”
Liza shook her head and said “No”
“Ganapathy wanted to get married. He pestered his father, Lord Siva.
“Father I want to get married. Please get me married Please!”
Now Lord Siva knows, Ganapathy can’t get married. But one day, just to get some peace of mind lord Siva told Ganapathy
“Ok, you can get married tomorrow”
Ganapathy was so happy. But he knows his father is very shrewed. So he wanted to make sure his father would keep his promise tomorrow. He looked around and saw the temple wall. He told his father
“Fine, I will get married tomorrow, but I want you to write on the temple wall that you promised that I will get married tomorrow.”
Siva took a stone from the ground and wrote on the temple wall
‘My son, Ganapathy will get married tomorrow’ signed Siva
Ganapthy was all happy. He went home and waited for the sunrise the next day. He wore his best dress and walked to the temple.Singing a happy song. When he reached the temple, he was shocked. There was nobody there. No Wedding decorations, No musicians palying the wedding music, no cooks cooking the payasam. Ganapathy was so upset. He told to himself, ‘I knew it, I knew my father won’t keep his promise. But this time I am smart. I got him to write on the wall.’ He quickly went to find his father. Lord Siva was meditating.
Ganapathy shook him to wake him up from his trance.
“Father, You promised yesterday that, I will get married today.”. Ganapathy continued.”I have proof. I will show you, where you wrote that I can get married today”.
Ganpathy pulled lord Siva’s hand and took him to the wall where lord Siva wrote his promise.
They stood infront of the wall.
“What is written on the wall?” I asked Liza
“Ganapathy will get married tomorrow”.Liza replied.
I was grinning from ear to ear and I walked to Aunty Reena’s house, leaving behind a stunned Liza.

parippuvada Vs cream bun

I was hungry and angry. I was waiting for Amma to come so I can scream at her and fight with her. I wanted to tell her that I intend to write a letter to Appa and tell him everything. I am not going to keep secrets from my father.
I heard footsteps near the entrance and I looked up to see my mother walking towards me. I was just about to scream at her.
“here I bought poombatta( kid’s magazine) for you”. She handed me the latest edition of poombatta.
I looked at the magazine and at my mother.I wanted to fight with her, but now I couldn’t. She just bought me my favourite magazine. How could I fight with my mother when she noramlly never buys us any magazines and bought one for me now without me asking and begging her?
” Did you get to see the Dr?” She asked me
“Yes”. “What did the Dr say?”
“She said everything is fine. I am hungry Amma”.
“Come, let us go and eat something at the hospital canteen.”
I got up from the chair and followed her to the canteen. I was so angry with her at the same time I was greatful to her for buying me the magazine. I knew Liza and Sally would be jealous, because I got to read it first. I was waiting to see their face when they see that I got the magazine first.
I wanted to to sit down somewhere and read. I desperately wanted to read about the new exploits of mayavi. My favourite cartoon imp.I looked around the canteen. There were hardly anyone in the canteen. All the lunch time crowd has already eaten and gone. The tables were dirty with rice and spilled gravy. Chairs were thrown every where. I looked for a spot that is clean and found a chair that had no water or food on it and sat down. Flies were buzzing all around me and I started to read my magazine at the same time shooing the flies away.

“What do you want to eat?” Amma asked me
Amma went to the counter to order.
“Nina, they ran out of rice. They only have parippuvada(lentil fritters). Would you like to have it?” .
“Ofcourse” I told her. I thought to myself, ‘This is my lucky day. Not only did I get new edition of poombatta but also get to eat my favourite parippuvada.(lentil fritters)’

When we reached home, I went to fetch my sisters from their school. Normally I only reach their school by 4.45 Pm. Today because I didn’t go to my school, I was early. I reached their school by 4.10 Pm. I saw my sisters sitting on the school step talking to each other and eating cream bun from Better bakery. Better bakery sells the best cream bun in town. Soft bun filled with sweetend cream. When I saw my sisters eating the bun, I got worried ‘How did my sisters get to buy the cream bun? Did they steal the money from someone?
I rushed to where they were sitting and I saw Liza turning around looking up and seeing me coming down the steps. She pointed me to Sally and both of them were trying to hide the bun in their school bag.
“I saw you eating the cream bun. So don’t bother hiding.Where did you get the money to buy it? Did you steal the money?” I asked them
“We didn’t steal the money from anyone.Amma gave us the money.” Sally told me
“Shh Sally. Don’t tell Nina anything. Remember Amma told us not to tell Nina?” Liza was hushing Sally.
“Not to tell me what?”
Sally was just about to open her mouth and Liza tried to cover Sally’s mouth with her hand.
“Don’t talk to Nina, or I will tell Amma that you told her.”
“Never mind. I don’t want to know.” I told them. I saw Sally taking the cream bun from her school bag. The cream bun is my favourite and I wanted to have a bite too.
“Can I have a bite? I always share my food with you. Don’t I?” I asked Sally
Sally broke a small piece from her bun and was just about to give me.
“If you share your bun with Nina, I will tell Amma and she will never give you money to buy a bun.”
Sally looked at me and then at Liza. I know for sure Liza would tell Amma and in all possibilities Amma would never give money to Sally again.
“Never mind Sally. It is ok. You can eat your bun. I don’t want to eat.”
I promised myself, when I am big, I am going to earn lots of money and I will buy all the cream bun at the shop and eat.


As I came out of the Dr’s consultation room, all eyes were on me. It didn’t bother me at all. Few minutes ago, I was hoping to run away to Chengannur. Now all I wanted was to go back home. I had a lot of things to achieve. I wanted to show my mother I can be as good as my sisters.
Koche where did your mother go leaving you here all alone?”
I looked up and saw a woman staring at me. She was the one who was staring at me from the time I came to the orthopaedics department. I wanted to so badly tell her that my mother just left me here and vanished and I have no idea where she is or when she is going to come back.
“My aunty works in the hospital and Amma went to see her.” I don’t know why I lied. I just couldn’t crucify my mother.
“Oh ok. Which dept is your aunt working?” She asked me again
“I don’t know”.
“Is she a nurse?”
“Yes. She is a nurse” I nodded my head.
“Oh ok.”. She went back to her seat. I saw her gently massaging her son’s forehead. He had a plaster cast on his hand. He was twisting and turning his body and pushing his mother’s hand away.
The nurse called
“Jacob John” and I watched the mother helping her son to get up.
“No, I can get up on my own. Leave me alone and stop fussing over me” and he pushed her hand away.
She silently walked next to him, still holding her son’s elbow. I wondered if Jacob John would ever know, how much I wanted my mother to hold my hand.
After the consultation, as they were leaving, she turned and looked at me.
I smiled and waved them bye and said in my heart, please don’t go.Please stay till my mother returns. I am scared. I have no aunty here’. But she just walked away still holding her son’s elbow and he was still trying to push her away.

I was beginning to feel hungry and still there were no sign of my mother. It was lunch time visiting hours and I saw people rushing in and out through the wards carrying tiffin boxes and lunch packets. The smell of blanched banana leaf wrapped rice and different types of curries were making me even more hungrier. Someone got a packed lunch for the man without a leg sitting next to me.
He opend the news paper cover and then slowly opened the banana leaf and spreading it out on his lap. I could smell Sambar and cabbage thoran. He even had little bit of pickle on one side of the rice.
I have been taught not to stare when someone is eating. But I hoped if the man see me staring, may be he will offer me part of his lunch. He was here when Amma left me and gone 4 hours ago and he would know that I would be hungry. I watched him mixing the rice and sambar and eating it slowly. He was eating one urula after another. Every mouth of rice that went in his mouth, I felt that is one less mouth of rice for me in the leaf, incase he planned to share it with me. I prayed silently
‘Jesus, please ask him to share his rice with me, for I am your child and I am hungry.’
When he finished half of the rice in his leaf, he stopped eating. I was so glad. I was sure Jesus heard my prayer. He doesn’t want little children to suffer. He is our lord and praise be to him!.
Then I saw him folding the leaf over the leftover rice. I thought may be it is easier for him to pass the rice to me if he folded the leaf , otherwise the rice might drop through the gap in the leaf and I won’t be able to eat it. He then folded the news paper over the banana leaf and then crushed and squashed and made a small bundle out of it. In one single swing the bundle and my hope went in to the rubbish bin that was kept near the corner.


“Nina, I have taken leave today.we will go to the medical college hospital to remove the cast from your leg”. Amma told me in the morning.
“I want to make sure both your legs are equal size and there is no shortening, after the bone is healed. They have better doctors at the medical college hospital. You know, we will have to pay a lot more money as dowry if you have a limp”
“Dowry dowry dowry, that is all you think of. I am not getting married and you don’t have to pay any dowry for me. I am tired of hearing about you having to pay more dowry because I am deaf and dumb and blind.”
“Oh, so you plan to stay at home and be a burden to me in my old age eh?”
“No. I am not. I will find a job and my own place and I promise, I won’t be a burden to you. I am sorry I am born this way, but I won’t be a burden to you.”
“What job? You can’t even score a double digit marks for your class exam. Look at your older sister. She managed to get admission for Engineering in IIT in the first attempt itself and you are still getting 0’s every exam”
“That is not fair Amma.I didn’t get 0’s when we were in Malaysia. I scored straight A’s for my UPSR!”
“Yeah yeah, you did, anyone can score striaght A’s in Malaysia. In that stupid country even a buffalo can score straight A. If you are that smart, then why are you not scoring striaght A’s here?”
“Because I don’t understand Malayalam Amma. You never taught me Malayalam before we came here. Maria went to english medium and she didn’t have any problems. I went to Malay school and now I have to learn everything in Malayalam”
“Oh, Now you are blaming me for all your failures. How dare you Nina? After all that I have done for you, you still have the audacity to blame me for everything?”
“I am not blaming you Amma. I am sorry I opened my mouth to speak. I don’t want to talk anymore.” I walked away
“Just like your father. Can never stand losing an argument. Walking away is your father’s way to end an argument.Like father, like daughter. Sore losers!”

I looked at my mother and wondered, ‘ what is wrong with my mother.what exactly did she do for me? Gave birth to me? She did the same for my sisters too. I didn’t understand why my mother was picking on me all the time. My heart felt heavy. My mother always makes it a point to tell me that I am a burden to her. I wished I would just die. If only I died that day when I fell down from the wall. I wouldn’t have to go through all these.’

“Wait here”. Amma pointed to a chair at the orthopaedics waiting room at Kottayam medical college hospital.
“Where are you going Amma?”
“It is going to take a long time to see the Dr. I am not going to sit here and waste my time. I will come back later. When they call your name, go and see the Dr. Tell him to meassure your legs and see that it is equal.”
My mother didn’t even wait for me to say anything. She just walked off, leaving me all alone in the waiting room.
I felt scared. I tried to organize my thoughts. ‘What would I do, if Amma doesn’t return? Is she trying to Abandon me? if she doesn’t return, how will I go home? I don’t have money for the bus fare. I regretted not taking the 25Paise Akkachi gave me for Onam.
I looked around me, there were so many people. Everyone was looking at me. I felt weird. I didn’t want anyone to see that I am scared. I pretended that I am a brave girl. After all, I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter!.
I thought about my Ammachi, who is waiting for me to visit her. First I was worried that Amma might have abandoned me and now I hoped she won’t return to fetch me. May be then I can borrow money from someone in the hospital and go to Chengannur and stay with my Ammachi.
I looked at the man sitting next to me. He had no leg below his right knee. His crutches were next to him. I looked at the stump and the crutches.. It looked scary. I was sure he won’t have any money to lend me. There were many nurses in white uniform going in and out of the out patient department. May be I will borrow ticket money from one of them. .
“Nina Thomas”
I heard someone calling my name. I looked up and saw the nurse holding a folder and calling out my name. I raised my hand and slowly got up from the chair.
“Are you alone? Who is with you?” The nurse asked me.
“No I am not alone. My mother came with me. She just went out to get something.” I silently hoped the other people waiting there will not tell the nurse that, Amma just left me here and went.
“Do you want to wait for your mother?”
I smiled at her sweetly and told her
“I am a big girl now, I can see the Dr myslef.”
The nurse looked at me sceptically.
“Really aunty. I am fine, I will see the Dr myself.”
I was taken to the Dr’s consulting room. I was expecting to see an old male Dr, with bifocal lenses. I was surprised to see a young lady doctor. I heard the nurse telling the Dr that I am alone and the Dr telling her, that is fine.
“So you are Nina Thomas?”
“Yes”. I nodded my head
“Why are you here?
“Amma wants me to have a through check up after my leg healed.”
“How did you break your leg?”
“I climbed the wall and fell down”
“You are a naughty girl, aren’t you”
“No, I am not”. I thought of telling her the robber story. But I knew she would know the truth.
She examined my legs. “Everything is ok. Your leg is fine”
“Are my legs equal in length?”
“Yes they are. There is no shortening. Your legs are fine”.
“Thank God”. I said it a bit louder accidentally
The Doctor looked at me. I felt she thought that I am vain, when there are many people in that ward with no legs, I am concerned about a slight limp.
“Actually I am not really worried about a limp. It is my mother. She thinks that she has to pay more dowry if I have a limp.”
“Did she really tell you that?”
“Hmm” I nodded my head
“Well, Nina, if you study well, you will get a good job and you don’t have to worry about dowry.”
“See, that is my problem. I am not good at my studies. I got ‘0’ for most of my subjects for onam exam”
“That is impossible. You are a smart girl. How can you score ‘0’?”
“I used to score well,when we were in Malaysia. Now I don’t understand malayalam and I score badly.”
“You are from Malaysia?”
“yes, but please don’t tell my mother that I told you that. She will kill me.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t”
“When did you come back from Malaysia?”
“A year ago.”
“So you are learning Malayalam now”
“Yes, and it is so difficult. I learned all the subjects in Malay and there are no Malay to Malayalam dictionary. So I don’t understand what I am studying now.”
“You know something, I will tell you what you can do. Go around your neighbourhood and find all the old textbooks from Standard 1 onwards. Start reading those books, then you learn your basics in Malayalam and in no time you will understand what you are studying now”
I looked at the Dr. She just opened a world of opportunities for me. Why didn’t anyone tell me this earlier?

Professional flying kick master

First day of school after holidays is an exciting day and this time I have something new to show everyone. I got up earlier than my ususal time. I brushed my teeth and went to the kitchen. Akkachi was making idli for breakfast.
“My, my, look who is up early, today the pigs will learn to fly for sure!?” Akkachi said.
“Go Akkachi, stop teasing me in the morning”.
“What is so special today that Kochumaharani is up so early?”
“I want to go to school early.”
“Why? You have a boyfriend there?”
Aiyyo Akkachi, where got boyfriend in an all girls school?”
“Oh! so you were on the look out for a boyfriend eh?”
“No Akkachi, I am not looking for a boyfriend. I am not getting married.”
“Why is that Kochumaharani?”
“I am going to join a convent and nuns can’t get married!”
“You want to join a convent?”
Oh Nina, that would be difficult?”
“What do you mean?”
“Kochumaharani, except the coconut tree, are there any trees in this house that you haven’t climbed?”
I thought hard, and I knew Akkachi is saying the truth, I have climbed all the trees except the coconut tree.
“What has climbing trees got to do with joining the convent?”
“Well, old habits die hard and when you live with the nuns, you will want to climb all the trees in the convent. Can you imagine climbing a tree while wearing a kuppayam(nun’s habit)?”
I tried to imagine the scenario
“hmm, Not a good idea. But I am still not getting married”
“in 7 yrs you will say enne kettikko enne kettikko(get me married, I want to get married!)”
“Go, Akkachi. You are always teasing me.”
I went back to my room to pack my school bag. I wondered if I would ever say, ‘get me married, I want to get married’. I wasn’t sure.

At my school, I became an instant celebrity. Everyone came to see my plaster cast.
“Does it hurt Nina? How did this happen?”
“I was chasing a robber”
“A robber?” Everyone looked at me puzzled
“Yes a robber, fiercer than Kayamkulam Kochunni*. He had a big mustache on his face and he was dark. His eyes were red and bulging like a pumpkin. I saw him trying to enter our house and I shouted ‘thief thief’ and I chased him. Then he showed me his knife.”
I took a pencil from my desk and pointed it like a knife and showed to all my freinds. I looked at their face. Fear was written on all their faces.
“What did you do Nina?” All of them asked
“I told him’I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter, I am not afraid of your knife’. Then I did a flying kick like Bruce Lee”
“Where did you learn to do a flying kick Nina?”
“I learned to do that in Malaysia”
“Will you teach us?”
“May be, but I will have to get a permission from my Guru(teacher) before I do that.”
“Will you ask your Guru for us? Please Nina”
“Ofcourse. Today itself, I will write a letter to him”
“After the flying kick what happend?”
“He didn’t believe that I am a professional flying kick master”
“What did he do?”
“He tried to attack me with the knife and I kicked him so hard and the knife flew out of his hand. He got scared and he ran to the fence wall. I chased him. He climbed the wall and I followed after him. Unfortunately the wall was a bit slippery and I fell down.”
“Did he see you falling down?”
“No, he was already on the other side of the wall.”
“You are really brave Nina”
The professional flying kick master nodded her head and agreed.

When the bell rang and everyone went to their seat to sit, Alice asked me slowly
“How exactly did you break your leg?”
“Climbed the fence wall and fell down”
“No fierce robber?”
“None at all, even if I saw one, I would run the opposite way”
We both laughed, knowing very well that we would be crying when we get the report card.

*Kayamkulam Kochunni
A famed highwayman of Central Thiruvithamkoor in the early part of the 19th century. He is reported to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. Legends about his exploits are part of the local folk lore. Died in jail in 1859. Source:Google