Nina Mol

“Where are you going Amma?” I heard liza asking Amma. I was trying to sleep. I looked at the clock it is 6.30 pm. I was not going to get up and take care of my sisters. I need to sleep now and wake up later. Amma just have to find means to take care of her precious daughters. I turned to the other side, kept the pillow on my face hoping that Amma would leave me alone. No body came to my room and I removed the pillow from my face. I slept off
“Nina, Wake up. Suma is here, there is a phone call from Appa” Liza was shaking me.
“Appa?” I got up from the bed.
“Hurry up Nina, he said he will call back in 10 minutes”
“Ok, ok. I will go”
“Nina will you tell Appa that I need a new pencil case?” Sally asked me
“Me too, my pencil case is also broken. Also tell him we need new uniform”
I quickly changed my clothes. As I walked down the road, I remembered Aunty Reena’s husband.
“Suma, where is your father now?”
“Oh, he went back to gulf. He will come back again for Christmas. This time he promised us he will bring a toy car, that will turn around when it hits an object”
“Wow, that will be fun”
Aunty Reena was in the kitchen when I reached her house. I stood outside, because her mother was standing like a security guard near the main door.
She was speaking to Aunty Reena
Edi Reena, how did we get the phone connection?”
Aunty Reena announced from the kitchen, “Ahachan had to pay a deposit at the telephones Amma”
“Oh, You have to spend some money ah?. So how much did he have to pay?”
“He paid 10000Rs Ammachi”
“10000 Rs ah? So Sunny is making lots of money in the gulf ah. He could afford to pay 10000 Rs ah!”
I knew where the conversation is heading. The gulf malayalee made enough money to pay the deposit for the phone, while the Malaysian malayalee is still without a phone. She is trying to show off., I ignored her, although I was upset with the fact that we have no phone at home.
The phone rang and Ammachi stood to one side of the door. I felt she was giving way to Her Royal Highness Kochumaharani. I couldn’t stop grinning.
“Why are you laughing?” Ammachi asked
I didn’t tell her.
I quickly went to the phone table aand picked up the phone and said a very happy “hello”. I was planning to tell Appa in Malay, what had happend just now.
“Hello” I said again. There was a silence. I was just about to put the phone down,thinking that the connection wasn’t good, I heard a husky “Hello”.
That certainly didn’t sound like my father. A thousand lights sparkled in front of my eyes. There were too many thoughts flying through my head. I couldn’t understand anything.
“Is this Nina mol?”
Nina mol? My father never called me Nina mol. He calls me Kochumaharani. I am my father’s daughter. Nobody else’s.
I could feel the the phone was on fire, my head was already on fire. I put the phone down. Said a quick bye to the Ammachi and I ran.
I heard Ammachi shouting
koche, wait here, if the connection wasn’t good, your father will call again. I am not going to let my grand daughter walk up all the way to your house. What do you think? We are your servants ah?”
I didn’t bother to stop. I ran all the way home. I wanted to kill Amma. I knew I would go to prison for life. But she is not making me anyone else’s mol.
I was like a volcano about to explode. My chest was like a tight bundle. I couldn’t breath. I started to pace up and down my room
“Did you tell Appa about the pencil case?” Sally came to my room and asked
“Get out of my room now, before I kill you too” I screamed
“What is wrong with you Nina? Why are you screaming like this?” Sally was crying. I pushed her out of the room and slammed the door shut. I could hear my sister standing on the other side of the door and crying.
Poor thing, what did she do? I quickly opened the door
“I am sorry, I screamed at you. Please forgive me.” I tried to hug Sally. She pushed me away.
“I don’t want to talk to you Nina”
“Come here, you are my baby sister. Aren’t you? You know Nina loves you the most on planet earth”
“That is why she always scream at me!”
“I promise, I will never scream at you again. That is the promise made by Nina Thomas, grand daughter of world famous Methran Thambi”
“hmm, Bring your hand here”. I made a hook with my index finger and hooked it on Sally’s finger. “till I die, I will never scream at you. I promise”
Sally hugged me and the Volcano in my chest suddenly didn’t feel as bad as it felt before.
“Nina, what did Appa say?”
“I couldn’t speak to him. There was no connection”
“Will he call again?”
“Don’t know. If you are good girl, then he might”
“I am a good girl” Sally responded
“Right! Who is the one who made paper boats by tearing paper from her work book?”
Aiyya Nina, that was just a silly mistake”
And I consoled myself. That phone call too was a simple mistake.

mol: is the typical way Malayalees call their daughters. Anju mol, Sally mol etc.

Thief in my own home

“You will never do well in your life. I swear on that”. I was stunned to hear such a curse from Amma on the most important day in my life.
“Amma, please don’t curse me before I go”
“Don’t curse you? I curse the day you were born. You brought so much misery in to my family. I curse that you will get motta(zero marks) for your SSLC.(secondary school leaving certificate)”
I couldn’t beleive my ears. My own mother cursed me on the first day I joined 10th standard, All because I said I will not be able to drop and fetch my sisters from their school. 10 standard is very difficult and I wanted to concentrate on my studies. Amma didn’t want to fetch my sisters from school, if she had to fetch my sisters, then she would have to come home early.
As I left home on that rainy day I wondered if Amma’s curse would work? What would happen to me if I fail the 10th standard exam? I couldn’t even imagine the scenario. I had no choice but to do well. I, Nina Thomas have to show my mother, her curses don’t work. I was determined. So was my mother.

When I came back from school in the evening Amma was home with my sisters. I could smell from the gate that Amma was making ullivada (onion fritters). I was excited. I love to eat ullivada(onion fritters). Just as I entered the house, I heard Amma telling my sisters
“Eat fast and finish the food before Nina comes”
I stood near the door step, because I couldn’t move. I suddenly understood, all those times my sisters said Amma made food for them when I was at the church, they were not lying. I could feel something getting stuck in my throat. I didn’t understand how a mother can do such things. I thought of all the times she told me when I was little that she barter traded me with a kilo of rice at the market, because she felt sorry for me. I was sure I was an orphan. That is why Amma treats me like this. That is why nobody wanted me. That is why nobody loves me.
From the living room door, I could see Amma splitting each fritters and blowing it to cool down, so my sisters can eat it fast. I quietly walked to my haven. The only place where I was safe. I carefully placed my school bag on the floor and sat on top of it. I didn’t want my skirt to get stained with banana sap.
I imagined the day, I would find someone to love me, someone who would take me out of this house. I wanted so badly to be loved.
I must have sat there a long time. I could hear my sisters playing in the court yard. I quietly walked out of the thicket.
When I entered the house Amma was sitting at the dining table
“This isn’t an Inn, where you walk in and out, when you choose. There are rules to follow” Amma was speaking
I walked to my room
“I am speaking to you” I heard her telling me
I ignored her
“Come back here Nina Thomas”
I slammed my bedroom door. Amma can go to hell. I was sure of that.
I could hear Amma knocking at my door
“Open the door”
I didn’t bother.
Amma kept of banging the door. She forgot that I am as stubborn as her. I refused to open the door.
A little while later, I heard Amma shouting
“You can stay there. Don’t bother to come out to eat your dinner”
I didn’t bother to respond. I was a bit worried, if I didn’t have my dinner, anything would happen to my soul?. Appa never let us children go to bed without supper. He used to say, ‘your soul would curse you, if you go to bed hungry’. I wished my father was around. he would never let Amma treat me like this. All this is my fate. I couldn’t change it.
I wanted to study. Amma and my sisters were watching the TV program. But today the Tv was considerably more louder than usual. I knew Amma had increased the volume just to annoy me. I tried to read my books, but there was no way I could concentrate. I tried to figure out my options. There was only one way. I would sleep when I come back from school, and I will wake up, when everyone goes to bed. In that way I can study peacefully. I switched on the alarm for 12 midnight and went to bed. I was very hungry. I still had some left over food in my lunch box. I quietly opened my lunch box. It was already stale. I couldn’t eat it. I apologized to my soul for going to bed hungrily.
I woke up at 12 midnight. There was absolute stillness. I was scared. But I had to study. I switched on the light in my room and took my books to read. I was still hungry and my stomach waas growling. I quietly opened my room and checked on my mother. She was sleeping soundly. I went to the kitchen in the darkness. I was afraid to switch on the light, lest Amma see the light and come and fight with me. I checked all the pots and pans that were on the kitchen counter. There was no food. Amma had washed everything. I opened the fridge. There was old rice in the fridge. I couldn’t find any curry and I was really hungry. I took the rice container from the fridge and closed the fridge. I was too scared to take a plate or even to switch on the gas and warm the rice. I sat on the floor, opened the container and ate the freezing cold rice straight from the container. I was a thief in my own home.

Selamat Hari Merdeka

Selamat Hari Merdeka

photo:Jeff Ooi
49 years ago Tunku declaring Independence photo:arkib negara
In just about few minutes Malaysia will be 49 years old. I wish all Malaysians peace, harmony and unity.

Malaysian National Anthem
Negara ku
Tanah tumpahnya darahku,
Rakyat hidup bersatu dan maju,
Rahmat bahagia tuhan kurniakan,
Raja kita selamat bertahta,
Rahmat bahagia tuhan kurniakan.
Raja kita selamat bertakhta.


My country, my native land.
The people living united and progressive,
May God bestow blessing and happiness.
May our Ruler have a successful reign.
May God bestow blessing and happiness.
May our Ruler have a successful reign.

Keranamu Malaysia. In english it means because of you Malaysia!!

Little manakottas

“Nina what are you planning to bring for the harvest festival?” Anju asked me
“When is the festival?”
aiyya, Didn’t you listen to the announcement at the church today?”
I shook my head and said “No”.
I wanted to ask Anju what announcement? I normally don’t listen because it was often about the where the prayer meeting is going be held the next week or who got admission to do medicine or things like that.
“Next week on saturday. Morning there would be a market and games, afternoon is sports and evening is going to be a drama done by Uncle Alex and gang. You know something, Apparently they are going to dress up as women”
aiyye How can they wear women’s cloths?”
“You know what? They are planning to place coconut shells inside the saree blouse as breast”
“yikes. They have no shame.” I squealed in disgust
“My mother is helping me to bake a cake for selling at the morning market. What about you?”
What about me? I thought. Apart from the coconut and the Rose Apples, there is nothing there in our house.
“I will ask Amma later today and bring something.”

On saturday morning Amma was getting ready to go out. I told her
“Amma, today is the church harvest festival celebration”
“I need to take something for the sale”
Amma gave me ‘that’ look. I stared back at her.
“Wasting money, what is the church going to do with all the money they raise?”
“I don’t know” I replied
“Take some drumsticks with you”
I wanted to cry. Everyone will be bringing pickles and cakes and I will be bringing drumsticks. Anyway there is no point arguing with Amma. So I resigned to my fate.
“Amma can I have some money?”
“For what?”
“To buy something at the fair and play the games”
“hmmm. don’t waste the money unnecessarily” She gave me 1 Rs.
“I won’t”. I was happy that she gave me money.

I went out to pluck the drumsticks. We have 2 drumstick plant in our backyard. I found a long stick and tied another small piece of wood like a hook at one end. I used it to pull the drumsticks from the tree. I pulled 10 drumsticks and wrapped them in newspaper.

When I went to the parish hall, there were lots of people. I found Anju
“You know something? Biju and gang have a surprise for everyone”
“What surprise?”
“Don’t know, Apparently they are bringing it in any time now”
“Hmm” she nodded, Come lets go and stand near the gate and see what is the surprise all about.”
I walked with Anju and we stood near the gate.
A little while later I watched Biju and his gang pushing small pidivandi (hand pulled cart). There was something in the cart that was covered by bedsheets. I ran to the cart and asked Biju
“What is this?”
“Shhhhh, don’t make noise. You are disturbing the monkey”
“What monkey?”
“Uncle Alex went to Thekkady for a hunting trip yesterday and caught this unique monkey there.”
“Unique? How? In what way?” I asked him
“Shh, that is a secret. Anyone wants to see the monkey will have to pay 50 paise”
“Can I please have a look?” I pleaded
Aiyyeda you want to watch the Unique monkey for free? High hopes you have”
Everyone was laughing. I quietly vanished from there. From the distance, I watched them carrying the unique monkey covered in bedsheets and placing it inside the room. There was a huge crowd waiting to see the unique monkey. I watched each person going inside the room to watch the unique monkey and coming out with a big grin on their face. I was too curious. I too stood in the queue. I was too eager to watch the unique monkey.
Biju was standing near the entrance. Just As I reached the door, he told me
“Close your eyes”
“because it is a surprise”
“Ok” I closed my eyes. “don’t peep”Biju warned me. He held my hands and guided me towards the middle of the room.
“Open your eyes”
I did and I watched my own reflexion in the 2 feet long mirror. I turned and looked at Biju
He was laughing.
“You tricked me”
“No I didn’t. Darwin say we are originated from monkeys”
I was angry and upset. I wasted my 50 paise to watch my own reflexion.
Athey don’t tell anyone what you saw here. Keep it a secret”
I was so mad at him, I stuck my tongue at him and ran out. I could hear him telling, “further proof of Darwin’s theory”.

The biggest attraction at the festival was a cake donated by the Best bakery. It was beautiful cake, unlike the standard white royal icing, this cake had orange colour icing and pink and red rose flowers on top. Each person has to buy a ticket for 25 paise and guess the weight. The one who guessed it right will get the cake. I so very badly wanted to eat that cake, so I used up the remaining 50 paise and bought 2 coupons to participate in the contest. The rest of the evening I prayed that I would win the cake contest. I have not eaten a cake for such a long time.
In the evening, Before the drama started, the priest announced the winners for all the games. I waited to hear my name being announced as the winner for the cake contest. My heart was beating nonstop. I was wondering how I should tell thank you to the priest. Do I have to bow down and say thanks, or do I have to shake his hands? How will I carry the cake and walk all the way home? If I take the cake home, then I will have to share it with my sisters. They have been so mean to me lately. why should I share the cake I won with them? May be I will share one slice of cake with them and hide the rest for me.
I heard the priest Announcing
“this time we have 2 winners for the cake contest”
‘Oh God, I will have to share half the cake with somebody else?’
“The winners of the cake contest are..”
‘Are?’ I looked at the priest impatiently. He was shuffling the paper. I hoped he won’t make any mistakes.
Finally he announced the winners. Aunty Reena and Aunty Jessy. Not Nina Thomas. I prayed 5 hours and it was all in vain. But I was still gald that Aunty Reena won. After all she is my neighbour and she drank my pal payasam(sweet dessert) when she visited us with her husband.
That evening I walked with Aunty Reena back home. I could have walked back home on my own. But I thought if I walk with her, perhaps then she wouldn’t forget to share the cake with me. I prayed hard, ‘Lord please let Aunty Reena share some of her cake with me’. As we reached my home, Aunty Reena told me
“I will wait here till you reached the main door”
I looked at aunty Reena and the cake she was holding. I didn’t know how to tell her, I would love to have a slice of that cake. I walked home turning my head every few steps hoping that she would suddenly remember to share the cake with me. Anyway I am deaf. I didn’t want to lose an opportunity, by not hearing her call me.
When I reached the main door. I watched aunty Reena walking down the road holding half of the ornage iced cake with red roses on top.

Vengeance, thy name is Nina

As I walked out of the church that day after my succesful piano playing, I made up my mind. I felt good knowing that at such a young age, I could make up my own mind. After all I am world famous Methran Thambi’s grand daughter!.

When I reached home, Amma was talking to my sisters.
“Nina, Amma says we should learn to play the piano. She wants us to join the piano lessons at the church”. Liza spoke
Amma looked at me and told me
“If you can play, then I am sure your sisters can play as well. Take them with you when you go for practice.”
“Sorry Amma, the piano lessons are only for the choir members, if they want to learn, then they should join the choir”
“Then take your sisters with you when you go for the choir practice.”
‘Oh god, the church was the only place, that I had for myself. Wihtout worrying about Amma and my sisters. It was my haven. Now I have to take my sisters with me. Why Lord, why are you making me suffer like this?. I felt sorry for questioning the Lord right away. I am supposed to bear the cross and win the crown. Not question.’ I quietly walked to my room and prayed silently asking for forgiveness.

Next Saturday, I got ready on time.
“What dress shall I wear Nina?” Sally asked me
“Wear any dress, Hurry up Liza we are late.”
“Oh Nina, you are always yelling. I don’t like you when you yell”
“You don’t have to like me, Nobody is forcing you to like me. Hurry up, Achakuttichayan will scold you if you are late”
I saw Liza was already dressed.
“Liza come let us go”
“What shoes do I wear Nina”
“Oh God, wear any shoes you want. You are not getting married today. For heavens sake it is only a choir practice”
“You are always screaming. I am not coming with you Nina. You are a nasty mean sister” Liza sat on her bed
“Ok suit yourself”
I started to walk. I closed the main door and I was just going to lock the main gate when I saw both my sisters running out side.
“Wait Nina, we are coming with you”
“Go close the main door” I yelled
“Why don’t you close the door?” Liza asked me. There are moments, I wanted to kill my mother. It is a saturday and she vanished in the morning itself, expecting me to take care of my sisters. If she wanted them to go for the choir practice, she should make sure, they are ready. I was so mad.
I quickly opened the gate, went back inside the house, closed all the doors and walked out, closed the main gate and I started to run. I was 15 minute late already.
By the time we reached the church, the practice has already started. I told my sisters
“Wait here, after the practice, I will introduce you to Achakuttichayan. I made them sit in one of the benches close to where the choir sits. Everyone was looking at me. I quietly walked to my seat.
“Nina Thomas, come here” I heard Achakuttichayan yelling
‘ok, here we go. I will have to listen to another 10 minutes of lecture about being late, and how all because of the sheer tardiness of every single Indian citizen, the country is never doing well in the international sector. IST doesn’t mean Indian Stretchable Time, it means Indian Standard Time. I walked quietly to where Achakuttichayan was standing. I wondered would he get mad, if I tell him, Indian standard time doesn’t apply to me, because I am a Malaysian!’
I stood in front of Achakuttichayan. I looked at him, trying to tell him, ‘ok, I am ready for the lecture.’
There was pin drop silence in the church. Every single choir member was looking at me. I wasn’t scared. What is there to be scared for being late for 25 minutes? actually may be about 30 minutes. Why can’t people understand, that nobody really wanted to be late. It is the certain situations like having annoying sisters that might make you late.I thought to myself. I looked over to see my sisters. Both of them looked like they have either fallen in to a tub of cold water or they saw a ghost. Relax, I wanted to tell them. Achakuttichayan is not going to eat me. Brave Nina looked at Achakuttichayan again.
“Where were you in the last one week?”
I looked at Achakuttichayan, because I was momentarily off my balance. I was expecting a lecture about Indian standard time.
“Why? have you swallowed your tongue?” He screamed at me.
All of a suddent it occured to me, I am getting in to trouble for something else.
Achakuttichayan looked around to all the choir members and spoke
“Some people think that one succesful concert makes them the world’s best pianist. She had one good session and She stopped practising. She didn’t come on monday,not on tuesday or the rest of the week. Before that she came for practice everyday for 2 hours.”
Achakuttichayan looked at me and spoke
“you think you are smart? you think you can play the piano well, just because you played one song well?”
I didn’t respond. I wanted to tell him so badly that I am not interested in playing the piano again. I played only to hear my mother say that I am good. That didn’t happen. There is no use walking so much each day and attending the practice sessions.
I could see Anju and the gang laughing at me. They were jealous after my performance on sunday and now they are happy because I am getting roasted right in the middle of all the choir members.
“For your attitude you will be punished. You will play all the all the scales for 2 hours everyday for the next one week. Do you understand that Nina?”
I nodded my head and said”yes”
“Go and sit in your place” He ordered.
As I walked back to my seat, I could see the happiness on all my friend’s face. They were glad that I got scolded and punished.

That evening when Amma came back, Liza was waiting for her by the gate. I didn’t bother
“Amma, Achakuttichayan scolded Nina today in front of everyone” Liza screamed even before Amma opened the main gate and entered. I watched my sister telling my mother the whole story excitedly. I wanted to ask Amma, why Liza could scream and tell her things, while she got angry with me, when I told her about Achakuttichayan asking me to play the piano 2 weeks ago. I went back to my room.
“Nina” I heard Amma calling me
I slowly went out of my room and went to the dining room. Amma was putting her hand bag on top of the fridge.
“Is it true?” She asked me
“Is what true?” I asked her.
“That you got scolded today?”
“Because I stopped playing the piano”
“You stopped playing? Whose permission did you take before you decided to stop playing?
“I don’t need anyone’s permission” I told her
“How dare you speak like that to me?”
“This is my hand, I will decide what I want to do with my hands. You will not tell me what I should do” I was waiting for a moment to take it on my mother. I was so glad to be defiant, so glad to hurt her.
I don’t really remember the exact moment my mother stopped hitting me. I stood there for her to finish her assaults. It ended with her telling me
“You will go for practice tomorrow” and me telling her
“You can’t make me”
I went back to my room, I could hear Amma telling my sisters, “She still get motta (zero marks) for all her exams, I thought at least she would get a job in the church as a piano player. I am sure she will fail her 10th standard exams. What future would she have, if she can’t even pass her 10th? Atleast you guys are intelligent. I don’t have to worry about the three of you. Maria is already doing so well. Why Lord, did I give birth to that child’
I too asked the same thing
“Why Lord did you allow me to be born?”

My mother’s prisoner

I felt sorry for the trouble I caused to my family. I wanted Amma to forgive me. I wanted to tell her that I never planned to snitch on her. Appa had asked me and I had to tell him the truth. If I had known, it would be this disastrous, I would have tried to lie.
Somehow Amma shut all doors of communications. I couldn’t reach to her. Even when she stood a feet away from me, she was miles away in my life. I did everything I can think of just to win her attention. Perhaps I felt in my own way that if she felt I cared for her, may be then she might love me.
I knew Amma would come home tired, so I made coffee for her. The moment Amma came inside the house, I took the cup and gave to her.
She took a sip and ‘ptui’ spat it out.
“What is this? cold coffee?How can you expect me to drink cold coffee? I came back fom work tired and my wonderful good for nothing daughter gave me a glass of ice cold coffee!”
I watched my mother throwing the coffee I made in the sink.

The next day, I boiled the water and kept the water on low flame and the moment I heard Amma opening the gate, I made freshly brewed hot coffee. I knew this time Amma won’t have any complaints. I was happy and proud thinking how smart I am to have thought about keeping the water on low flame. I poured the coffee in Amma’s favourite blue ceramic cup and gave it to her.
“Be careful Amma, the coffee is hot” I warned her
Amma took one sip and she screamed at me
“What is wrong with you Nina? Do you want me to burn my lips? You are good for nothing. Yesterday you gave me cold coffee, today you gave me boiling hot coffee. You can’t even make a cup of coffee properly.Stop making coffee. I don’t want to drink your coffee”

My mother’s life revolved around Maria and my sisters. Although I was alive, Nina was never there. Maria was intelligent and doing engineering in IIT, Liza was good in maths, Sally was the top scorer. But Nina was good for nothing. I was good only to buy groceries from Anichettan’s shop and taking care of my sisters.

As the months passed,there was one thing I was better than my sisters. I was a good piano player. I wanted Amma to be proud of me. Each evening after fetching my sisters I would walk to the church to practice. It was really hard walking so much, first from my school to home, then from home to my sisters school, from their school to back home and then to the church. I wanted to be a good pianist, not because I would be famous, but because I wanted Amma to accept that I am good at doing something in my life. I wanted Amma to tell her friends that Nina plays the piano well.

When I went for my practice on monday Achakuttichayan was waiting for me.
“Nina, come here”
“What is it Achakuttichaya?” I asked him
“I think it is time for you to play the piano for the sunday church service”
“What? Me ? play the piano in front of everyone? No Achakuttichaya. I don’t want to do it.”
“Oh Nina, anyway you still have to do it one day. Pick out a hymn you like and play that next sunday.”
“please Achakuttichaya, I don’t want to play”
“Stop giving excuses Nina, go and practice. I only tell the students who are good that they can play for the sunday service.”
When I went to switch on the piano, I could see the jealousness on my friends face. I am the youngest of them all and I am going to play the piano for the service on sunday. The ultimate test for every piano student at the church is playing the piano on sunday, in front of the congregation. I was excited and I was proud. That evening I ran home, I couldn’t wait to tell Amma the good news. Amma wasn’t home. I kept looking at the gate every few minutes. I was too excited that, when Akashavani opened her gate, I thought Amma had arrived and I ran all the way to the gate, only to be dissappointed.
When Amma finally came home I ran to her
“Amma” I called her
“What Nina?”
“Achakuttichayan asked me to play the piano on sunday”
“That is all? Did you really have to scream for that? The way you screamed, I thought something had happend. You could have waited for me to enter the house, instead of screaming like this. You have no common sense Nina”

Suddenly my helium Balloon lost all the helium.

I practiced every day for 2 hours. By friday, I could play without even looking at the notes. On saturday Achakkuttichayan called me and asked me
“what song are you planning to play tomorrow Nina?”
I told him.
“Go and play now” He turned around and told the choir members the hymn number. My hands were shivering. I placed my hand gently on the keyboard and then I played.
“Nina, you are playing too fast” Achakuttichayan stopped me
I could see the girls laughing at me.
“You have to sing the song in your mind, then you won’t go fast”
I closed my eyes and started to play again, singing the song in my head. It was perfect. I felt like I am on cloud nine.

That evening I asked Amma
“You are coming for the servivce tomorrow right?”
“Oh,Nina, what is there to see you playing?”
“Oh, Amma please come. I want you to be there. Please Amma” I begged
“What song are you playing tomorrow?”
I told her.
“Couldn’t you pick any other song Nina? Of all the songs in the hymn book you had to pick a song that is sung during funerals? Couldn’t you have asked me? I could have suggested a good song!.”
“I know, but I like it and Achakuttichayan agreed”
“I hope you won’t make a mistake and embarass me in front of the congregation”
“I won’t Amma. Don’t worry”

I could hardly breath on Sunday morning. I couldn’t even eat my breakfast.
“Come on, Hurry up. We will be late” I told my sisters.
Together Amma, my sisters and I walked to the church. I wanted to hold Amma’s hand. But she just pushed my hand and walked away. My heart was beating so fast, I thought I will have a heart attack.
When I entered the church, it was packed. There were too many people. I got scared.
‘What if I make a mistake? Will everyone laugh at me?’
My song was after the sermon. I didn’t listen to anything the priest spoke. I couldn’t concentrate. I kept looking at my mother. She didn’t even bother to look at me. Amma was busy listening to the sermon. As the priest said the prayer and turned to walk down from the pulpit, Achakuttichayan signalled to me. I got up from the bench and walked towards the piano. I could see 1000’s of eyes looking at me and I felt very small. I was frightened. I thought of telling Achakuttichayan, I can’t play. But this was my moment. The ‘moment’ Nina Thomas has finally managed to do something good in her life. I sat on the piano bench and the priest announced
“We will sing Amazing grace, hymn Number 381.”
I could hear the congregation standing up. I looked one more time at my mother. She was not looking at me. Achakuttichayan showed me his hands to start playing.
I placed my hand on the key board. My fingers were shaking like the leaves on the ground before the storm. I closed my eyes and started to play. It was absolutely beautiful, I could feel the song coming to life. When I played the last key, I knew I did it. I plyed the song without a single mistake. I felt like an enormous weight being taken off my shoulder. I looked over the piano to see Amma’s face. There was no expression, no pride, no joy. Just a stoic face.
For a moment I felt Amma didn’t like the fact that I played the piano well. After the service, everyone came to congratulate me. Anju’s mother gave me a hug and told me
“You have bright future Nina, atleast now we don’t have to worry if our church pianist goes on vacation. We have you.”
I was beaming. I kept looking at Amma. She was busy talking to others. When I went to speak to her, She told me
” you were sitting all hunched up like a broken twig’ You should sit like the other pianist, back straight and confident’. Not a word about, how well I played. Not a word about me being a good pianist. Not a word about, how proud she is.

All I ever wanted to hear was ‘ I am so proud of you Nina, you did so well’ I practiced two whole years just to hear that and all I got was a comment about how I sat.

“Amazing grace”.

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;’
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine
Joshua Newton. 1725- 1807

All because of me

When I came back from school, Appa was leaning on the gate and talking to Akashavani. They were cracking jokes and laughing.
When she saw me she smiled at me lovingly. I looked at her and then at my father. I didn’t understand, how the same woman who was forever cursing me can now speak and laugh with my father as though nothing has happend. I didn’t understand how people can change so fast. I didn’t bother to talk to her. I walked inside.
A little while later I saw Appa coming inside. he asked me
“Nina where does your mother keep all the stuff I brought this time?”
“What are you looking for?” I asked him
“The ink pens. Remember the pens with golden nib, pilot pens?”
“Oh that one. It is inside the Godrej cupboard. Why do you want the pen Appa?”
“Aunty Annamma’s( aka Akashavani) son is writing his pre-degree exam this year. So I thought I will give him a new pen”
“You mean kapalanga( papaya)?”
“Nina, why do you call people names?” My father raised his voice
“I didn’t name him, everyone calls him kapalanga(papaya)”
“If everyone jump in front of the train, will you jump too?” Appa was mad at me I quickly walked out of the room. I didn’t want to get beaten up again. But I was sure mad that my father is giving the only man I hate on planet earth a brand new pen.

Appa was still outside talking to Akashavani, when Amma came back from work. I saw both my parents walking together. As soon as Amma reached the veranda, I knew something bad is going to happen. Amma’s face was red with anger.
“Why were you talking to that woman?” Amma asked Appa
“Who are you to ask me that question?”
“Aren’t you ashamed? You have 4 daughters and you are still flirting with neighbourhood women!”
I knew I had to do something. I ran to Maria’s room.
“Maria come fast. Appa and Amma are fighting.”
“Now what happend?” Maria asked me
“They are fighting because Appa was speaking to Akashavani”
By the time we reached the veranda, Appa and Amma were already screaming at each other. I tried to push Appa away and Maria tried to push Amma away.
“Stop it Appa and Amma” Maria spoke.” Why can’t you both stop fighting? Aren’t you both ashamed to fight like this? We children deserve a normal life and that you can’t give Can you? I am here for just 2 weeks. Even for 2 weeks you can’t give me peace of mind” Maria was crying.

“You tell your mother to behave” Appa yelled and went to sit on the easy chair.
Amma still didn’t stop. She muttered
“Old man already. Still can’t control the desires.”
My father is 6 feet tall and weighs 120kg. It took him just a single kick and my mother was on the floor. At that moment I was really glad that Amma got hurt, because if she had just kept her mouth shut, nothing would have happend.
Amma was crying in pain and I felt sorry for her. One moment I was glad that Amma got hurt, the next moment I hated myself for thinking like that. How could I be happy when my mother is writhing in pain. I was angry with myself. I could not understand my own feelings any more. There is something seriously wrong with me. I wanted my mother to get hurt. I quickly walked inside the house. I went to lay down on my bed. I have never hated myself this much. I didn’t know how God will ever show mercy to me when he sees all the sins I have committed. God will surely punish me. I was sure of the hell fire waiting for me.

My parents stopped talking to each other from that day. In a way that was better. If they don’t talk, then there is less chance of fighting.
Maria was going back on tuesday. I helped her to pack. I watched her taking all the pens, pencils, erasers that Appa got for all of us. She even took the ruler Appa got for me by saying that she needs a ruler to draw all the graphs. Then she took my geometry box. I really wanted my geometry box. I was the only one in my class who had a foreign geometry box. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to start another fight. I can always live without a ruler or foreign geometry box.
After she left I felt lonely. I hated Maria, but when she was around, I didn’t feel so vulnerable. Suddenly I felt all the burdens are back on my shoulder. I had to watch out for my parents and my sisters. Earlier there was Akkachi and Maria, Now it was my duty to wake up each morning and check if my mother is still alive.

I was playing with Alice during lunch break. I spotted a single myna near the Cassurina tree. I knew if you spot one Myna it means bad luck.I couldn’t afford to have anymore bad luck. I ran all aound the school ground hoping to spot one more myna. There was not a single myna to be found. The whole afternoon I prayed hard. ‘Lord, please don’t let anything bad happen’. I promised I will light 10 candles at the church on sunday, if he keeps my parents safe.
When I came back from school, Appa was sitting on the veranda. He had Amma’s diary on his hand.
‘oh oh. What did he find? What did Amma write in the diary?’ I didn’t want to be involved, so I quietly tried to walk inside.
“Nina come here”. My father roared.
I walked to where he was sitting
“Who is Aiyappan?” he asked me
“I don’t know” I answered. 1000 alarm bells were ringing in my head.
“You don’t know who is Aiyappan? Then why is your name written under Aiyappan and shows here that paid 300RS?”
I knew I had to tell him the truth.
I told him the whole thing about Aiyappan and how he vanished with our money.
“Ok, you can go inside now. Keep this diary on top of the fridge.” Appa passed the diary to me
I was relieved. Appa didn’t look upset that Amma lost some money and I didn’t think much about it.
When Amma came back from work that evening I heard Appa asking her
“Mary, How do you normally spend the money I send? Did you ever get a chance to invest some money that I send?”
“Invest? Where got money to invest? It is not cheap to raise 4 children. All the money you send go towards buying food and paying the rent” Amma replied.
Oh my goodness. I knew where this is going. Appa is trying to trap Amma.
I tried to get my mother’s attention and tell her that Appa knew about Aiyappan. Amma was not even looking at me. I was shivering. I couldn’t breath.
“Hve you ever lost any money that I send?”Appa asked again
“Why are you asking like this? How can I lose the money you send? I spend all of it on our children. Things are so expensive. One kilo of sugar alone is 4 Rs now.”
“Nina come here” I heard my father calling me
I wanted the earth to open and swallow me. I couldn’t move.
I heard my father yelling again
“Nina come here right now.”
I wished I would have a heart attack and die. I tried to stop breathing, so I would die quickly. It didn’t work. I walked slowly to my slow and painful death.
“Tell your mother what you just told me” Appa ordered
“Don’t play dumb. Tell her about Aiyappan.”
I looked at Amma and knew, she would never forgive me. Appa hit Amma a lot that day. He left 2 days later. He never send us money for a very long time. In a way I am responsible that my sisters suffered because we didn’t have money. I deprived them from having a comfortable life.

The art of sharing

I was waiting for saturday, so I can wear my brand new skirt Appa got for me. I was so excited. I looked at the clock, it was only 3pm. Just when you want, the time go slower than usual. I couldn’t wait anymore. I took all the 7 skirts out of the cupboard. Which one should I wear today? I thought of the colours of the rainbow. Maria took my violet colour skirt. What colour is indigo? I wasn’t sure. I had 2 blue skirts. One light blue and the other navy blue. I decided to wear my light blue skirt. I wore my petticoat and my skirt. Only then I realized I don’t have a matching blouse. Aiyya Now what am I going to do? I really wanted to wear my new skirts. I looked inside the cupboard. Maria has a white blouse. I picked up the blouse and went to look for Maria. She was in her room reading Mills and Boons novel.
“Maria, can I borrow this white blouse?” Maria got up from the bed and snatched the blouse from my hand.
“No way. Your sweat stink. I don’t want my blouse to stink”
“You are lying Maria. My sweat doesn’t stink”
“Oh Really? Kochumaharani thinks her sweat smells like sandal wood paste? Joke of the century!” Maria was laughing at me
“I am going to tell Amma”
“Go ahead”. Maria put the blouse under her pillow and went back to read. I wanted to teach her a lesson. I knew Amma would side me. She always says’if you children won’t share, then who will share with you?’
Amma and Appa were sitting on the veranda. They were comparing their new spectacles. Both of them bought identical blue colour metal frame, because there was a discount.
“Why Lord, what is happening here? kanavan (husband) and kanavathy(wife) wearing matching matching stuff?” I asked to no one in particular.
podi” (get lost) Appa was laughing.
I looked at Amma and told her
“Amma I don’t have a matching blouse to wear with the skirts Appa got, I asked Maria if she would let me wear her white blouse. She is not giving me Amma.”
“Nina, her white blouse is an expensive silk blouse. You will dirty it. Remember the last time you stained her pink skirt with banana sap? Why don’t you wear your yellow school uniform shirt?”
I couldn’t believe what I heard. I watched my father’s face, to see if he heard what his wife just spoke? Can’t he see how unfair his wife is? Can’t he support me? After all, my family’s motto is all about sisters sharing. He was still looking at his brand new spectacle and admiring its beauty, oblivious to the one sided discussion that I am having with his wife.
“It doesn’t match Amma”
“Never mind Nina, who is going to notice all that? You are just going for choir practice! It is not like they bgive you marks for what you wear.”
Amma turned and looked at my father
“She is only 12 years old, already bothered about matching clothes. You better earn more money to pay for all the clothes when she is big!.”
“Appa my school uniform shirt doesn’t match my skirt, every one will laugh at me.”
‘Oh please Appa, side me once in your life time, please see the unfairness in all these’ I begged to my father in my heart.
“Listen to your mother Nina. You should be grateful for what you have.”
“I am grateful. All I asked was if I can borrow Maria’s white top. You are the one who bought skirts without blouse”
“See, how she talks? I told you, she is so rude lately. I just can’t control her anymore” Amma spoke
I must have been so angry, because my reflexes were a bit slow. Before I could scoot, Appa got up and hit me hard on my thigh.
“Your mother is right. You are becoming too much. Not enough that I got so much of clothes for you. You are still full of complaints. I am not going to raise rude children in my family”
I didn’t say anything. I quickly walked to my room. Once I reached the safety of my room, I lifted my skirt to see the the five finger red marks on my thigh. I gently rubbed my thigh. It was hurting a lot. ‘My god, I hate my family.
“Why Nina, Appa was only here for a few days and you already managed to get chutta adi(beatings) from him”. Maria spoke. I watched my sisters standing near the door and laughing at me.
I didn’t respond. I quickly changed my blouse and wore the yellow shirt. I needed to get out of this mad house. I could still hear my sisters mocking at me an laughing. I am such a failure, I thought.

I didn’t want to see or speak to my parents. So I dashed out of the veranda while speaking “I am going to the church for choir practice”. My heart was pounding, because I was rushing to be out of my parents sight. I was just about to reach the the other side and I heard Appa calling me
“Nina, come here”.
I looked at the gate and contemplated, if I should still bolt and later claim that I didn’t hear him calling me or go back and face him. I heard him calling me again. I had no choice but to go back.
‘oh god, now what?; I wondered. My heart was beating faster and faster. Is he going to beat me again? What more did Amma tell him, so he can beat me some more? Did Amma tell him about me climbing up the fence? or did she tell him, that I always speak to Akashavani’s son?. If Amma didn’t instigate, Appa wouldn’t have beat me just now and I was sure she would be glad to do more, so I would get beaten up. How much I hate my mother!.’
I walked slowly to where my father was sitting. When I reached near him, I stood few feet away and looked at him and asked
“Come closer” He ordered. I wasn’t so sure about obeying him. I still needed the space, so I can run to safety. I looked at Amma. She was staring at me. I wanted to ask her
‘Haven’t you had enough? You want your husband to hit me some more? What have I done to you for you to hate me so much? Don’t I make coffee for you each evening? Don’t I help you to do the laundry? Don’t I help you to fetch my sisters from their school?’. But I didn’t.
I slowly walked and stood right infront of my father. If he wants to hit, let him. I can’t keep living in fear like this.
“Did I hurt you?”
I didn’t respond. It doesn’t require a scientist to figure out that beating hurts.
Appa lifted my skirt to see the marks on my thigh. he massaged it gently. I didn’t feel anything. All I felt was hatred. I hated him, I hated my mother, I hated Maria.
“I have to go now. I am late” I pulled my skirt down and ran. I didn’t want to cry. But my tears didn’t listen to me. As I walked the road near the parade ground, tears were falling down my cheeks. I looked down and walked, so other passersby will not see me crying. I wanted to know ‘Of all the families in this world, why was I born in to this stupid family?’. I didn’t know the answer.

When I reached the church, all my friends were playing.
“Is that your new skirt Nina?” Anju asked me
“Hmm” I nodded.
“It is a pretty skirt, but why are you wearing your school uniform shirt?”
I looked around too see the same question in everyone’s face. Even Raji, who stays in the railway ‘cutting’ colony had proper blouse, while Nina Thomas, grand daughter of famous Methran Thambi was wearing her yellow school uniform shirt on a saturday.

pearls that I will find

Maria was coming home on Thursday. She took 2 weeks leave from the college. She said she misses Appa so much and wants to see Appa before he goes back. I knew better. I hid all the things Appa got for me. I hid the pencil case and the pencils under my pillow. The stickers on top of the godrej cupboard. My colouring books under mattress. I didn’t hide my clothes, because Maria doesn’t wear midi skirts.
When I came home I was surprised to see Amma home.
“Where is Appa?” I asked her
“He is gone to Chengannur”
“Why didn’t he take me with him?”
“Why should he take you with him”
“Because I want to see my grandmother”
“Grandmother”, ptui Amma spat on the ground. “Weren’t you with me when we visited her the last time. Did she ask us to come and stay with her? Did she even write one time to ask how we are?”
“We didn’t write a letter to her either Amma!”
“Why should we write a letter to that stupid woman. Why should I waste my hard earned money to buy stamp to send her a letter? And do you know something? I went to a mantthravadi(?fortune teller) the other day and he says your wonderful Ammachi practices black magic. She poisoned all of us. That is why Appa went away. manthravadi(?fortune teller) did some puja (prayer) few days ago and see it worked, your father is home.”

I didn’t know what to think. Was my grandmother that evil? Would she do things to hurt us? Why didn’t she ask us to stay with her, when Appa left? There were too many questions and I had no idea what to think anymore.

I went to fetch my sisters. Maria was already home when I came back with my sisters. I noticed that she has already gone through my school bag. I smiled in my heart, because there was no treassures in my school bag, I had hidden them already.
“So what did Appa bring for you?” She asked me the moment she saw me.
“Oh nothing much. Just some skirts” I replied
“Show me”, She ordered
I took the skirts from the cupboard. Appa got 8 midi skirts for me. 7 were same print but different colours and the 8th one was a purple skirt. I was planning to keep the purple one for my sunday school annual day.
Maria took the skirts one by one and when she saw the purple one she said
“I am taking this one”
“No way. Appa bought it for me, and It is mine”
“You have 7 skirts Nina. Stop being so greedy”
“I am not greedy. I am not sharing the skirt Appa got for me, besides, you don’t wear short skirts”
“That is none of your problem.”
Maria took the skirt and started to walk and I screamed
“Amma, Maria is taking my skirt”
I found Amma in the kitchen
“Amma Maria took my skirt”
“So? What is your problem Nina, you have so many skirts, She only took one right? If you children don’t share, who will share clothes with you?.”
“But Amma, that is the only skirt that is different. If she wants why can’t she take one from the 7 that are same print. I want to wear the purple one for my sunday school annual day.”
“You are such a selfish child. Maria give back the skirt to your sister. I am just so sorry for giving birth to such a selfish child. I should have listened to the doctor”
“No Amma, I am not giving this skirt back. She has 7 skirts and she just have to live without this one.” Maria replied.

I didn’t argue anymore. Somehow I knew, I can never win in this house. I didn’t want to stay indoor and watch Maria taking all the things Appa got for me. Let her take what she wants. I took a sheet of old newspaper and went to the thicket. I placed the paper on the ground and sat on it. The thicket is my kingdom. Nobody ever comes inside. I thought of the day I would get married to a nice handsome matsalleh(white person). I wanted to be far away from my family. May be I will live in an island. I will live in a house on stills, like the ones in Penang, close to the sea. Then it occured to me, the houses near the sea in Penang belonged to the fishermen. Aiyya I don’t want to marry a fisherman. But then again, if I marry a fisherman, then I would have life long supply of fresh fish. Who knows, I might even find a golden ring inside the belly of a fish that my husband caught. I will be able to check for pearls before my husband takes all the oysters to the shop to sell.
“Nina, Nina” I heard Amma calling my name.
I could see Amma breaking the coconut with a big parang (sickle). ‘oh she wants me to scrape the coconut for her. Her precious, smart intelligent daughter is in the house. She can very well ask her darling daughter to scrape the coconut for her.’ I watched Amma holding the 2 halfs of the coconut and coming to my side of the house to look for me. I pulled my dress close to me, so she won’t notice the bright colour through the thicket and spot me. I had no intention to help her today.
“Nina, Nina. Where are you?” I watched Maria coming out and Amma asking her
“Have you seen Nina?”
“No Amma” Maria shook her head
“Then you come to the kitchen and help me. I need someone to scrape the coconut”
“Nina, Where are you?.” Maria was shouting. She turned and looked at Amma and told her “Amma I will find Nina for you”.
Amma went inside and Maria started to look for me. I knew she won’t come anywhere near the thicket. She is afraid that there would be snakes. I could see her going inside the house and I knew she is looking for me inside. Few minutes later she came out calling my name.
“Amma I will come now. I need to tell Aunty Reena something” And I watched my sister running towards the gate.
By the time Amma came out of the house Maria was already outside the gate.
“Lazy bone. She doesn’t want to scrape the coconut and she disappeared.” Amma shook her head and I smiled. I was just so glad to make my mother work more.

Tempest has arrived!

I woke up in the morning to find Amma was doing laundry.
“Where is Appa?” I asked her
“Must be sitting in the veranda and reading the paper. He just has to sit and relax. I am there to do all the donkey work.”
Aiyya, I only asked her where my father is. She just have to answer that. Why does she have to speak so much. I looked around to see, if Appa could have heard anything. My mother is bend up on starting a fight. If Appa is the fire cracker, Amma is the lighted match stick. I made a mental note to keep my parents as away as possible from each other.
I walked to the veranda. Appa was listening to the radio and reading the paper.
“Good morning Appa. Did you have your coffee”
“Yeah, your mother made her trade mark chappi”.(chaya(tea)+ kappi(coffee)
Oh god, we are all set for the world war’. I thought
“Appa, can I ask you something?”
‘hmm” Appa looked over the news paper at me
“When are you going back?”
“I came yesterday and you already want to know when I am going back?”
I looked at my father, trying to figure out what is his and his wife’s problem. They always answer a question with another question
“Appa, you are here for few weeks. Can’t we live happily as a family?”
“That you have to ask your mother. She is the one who starts all the fights”
“When she starts a fight, why do you have to fight?”
“You are questioning me in the morning itself?” My father raised his voice
“No, I am not”. I walked away quickly and he went back to read the paper.

I went to the kitchen to see what is for breakfast. Amma had made dosa batter yesterday. I checked the batter. It was nicely fermented.
“Amma shall I start making dosai’s?” I stood on the kitchen door step and yelled
Amma turned around and looked at me and asked
“Why Nina, all of a sudden you decided to help? You want to impress your father eh?”
“What is your problem Mary? Nina just asked you if she could make dosai. you just have to say yes or no for that.” I heard Appa shouting.
‘Oh God, here we go’
There was fire in my mother’s eyes. I knew she will blame me for starting the fight. All I thought was to offer help. Whenever Amma does laundry, she is in a bad mood. We have a washing machine. She washes the clothes in it, take it out, rinse it three times again manually, put it back in the machine and spin it. My mother thinks that the machine doesn’t clean the clothes. Today she is washing the bed sheets and that is a lot of clothes to rinse manually.
“Nina, make dosai” Appa ordered from the veranda
I looked at Amma. She huffed and turned back to rinse the clothes.
I lit the gas stove and placed the dosai pan. I have only watched Akkachi making dosai. I checked if the pan is hot and I poured a ladle full of batter on to the pan. I tried to spread the batter thinly and each place the ladle met the pan, there was a gap. My dosai was clumped up and my it looked something like a mini volcano with half cooked batter flowing out like lava. I tried to remove the dosai before Amma see it. I turned to see my father standing near the kitchen door and watching me and laughing.
“Kochumaharani, if you keep making dosai for the rubbish bin, you are going to make your mother mad” He spoke
“Shhh, I placed my hand on my lips and told my father to hush.
athey, my father was not a dosai seller. And he didn’t teach me how to make it. That is why my dosai didn’t come out well” I told him smartly.
“Oh like that ah? So what does your father do?”
“Oh him.. He just sit down in the veranda and read news paper!”
“You are your mother’s daughter. I have no doubt about it. You know how to speak.”
“Your father might not have had a dosai shop, but he can tell you that the fire is too hot. First you sprinkle some water on the pan, that will reduce the heat, pour the batter and quickly spread it with the ladle”
I followed his instruction and made my first proper dosai.
“Do you want to eat the first one Appa?”
I took a plate and placed the dosai in it and gave to my father. I was proud. There was no curry. So I gave him some mango pickle. Appa went back to the veranda and I continued to make dosai.
Amma came inside the kitchen few minutes later. She stood next to me to watch me making the dosai.
“That isn’t how you spread the batter. The center of your dosai is too thick. Dosai must be thin and round. You are good for nothing”
I ignored her.
Amma went to make chutney for the dosai.
I heard her asking Appa
“Will you help me rinse the bed sheets?”
‘Oh no, what is he going to say?’ I was so worried and was just so relieved to hear him saying “ok”
By the time Appa finished rinsing all the bed sheets, I finished making dosai and Amma made chutney.
“Liza, set the table” I ordered
We sat down to eat. Just as we were about to eat Amma asked Appa
“There is some left over sambar from yesterday, would you like to have that?”
I watched in absolute horror, my father getting up from the table and throwing his plate down on the floor.
“I have told you from the time we got married, don’t ask me when I am eating, if I need anything. I have told you time and again to put the food on the table and if I want I will eat it.”
“What is wrong in just asking?” My mother asked
Liza started to cry and Appa was just about to hit Amma
“Please Appa, please don’t hit my mother” I jumped in between my parents.
Appa stormed out of the dining room and Amma asked me
“What is wrong in asking if he wants some sambar?”
“If he doesn’t like you asking him, why are you doing it Amma?”
“Because I am not going to waste food”
“ofcourse!. You have just wasted a plateful of dosai.” I pointed the floor to her
“Shut up” Amma yelled at me and went back to the kitchen
“Nina, what are we going to do?” Liza asked me in between her sobs
I was angry with my mother and wanted to tell Liza to shut up. But I knew my sisters only have me and I didn’t want to hurt them
“Don’t worry, eat your breakfast and go and play outside”

I cleaned up the mess on the floor,cleaned the dining table and was doing the dishes when Liza ran to the kitchen
“Nina, run, Appa and Amma are fighting again”
“In the laundry room”
I ran outside to the laundry room to find my father hitting my mother
“Stop it Appa.” I tried to pull him away from my mother.
“Do you know what she is doing? She asked me to rinse the bed sheets and I did, but she didn’t like my rinsing. She thinks that I didn’t do a good job. She is rinsing the clothes I rinsed already”
“Shhh Appa, neighbours can hear. What will people think?”
“Let them think. The day I married your mother, is the day I lost my dignity”
Amma was just about to retort and I placed my hand on my lips and pleaded with her silently”Don’t Amma”
As my father walked out of the laundry room, I couldn’t wait for him to go back to Rhodesia.