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
“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! (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