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.

18 thoughts on “pearls that I will find

  1. I wished you had hid the skirts!

    I thought you father knew you like to follow him to your grandmother’s place? Why didn’t he bring you along.. 🙁

  2. Nice post. You take me back in time through your descriptions of minute details. Sarah, keep writing and publish a big book one day in the near future. Then you can look back with triumph on all that took place in your life.
    I like the idea of a cosy place in the thicket. Did you feast on honey from the banana flowers. i loved sipping it. i too wish you got to see Ammachi that time.

  3. I have been reading your blogs for sometime and you write really well. Somehow I feel you write like Arundhati Roy..(lavishly using lot of malayalam words typical to syrian christians, also in simple words) and I just love that. Why dont you publish it as a book.. Who knows?? You might get a Booker prize.

  4. I finally finished reading everything from the beginning – did u ever meet ammachi again – is maria still like this – had she forgotten how u persuade ur mom to study engineering

  5. its like reading a modern cindarella story…what i specially love is…i will use the malayalam word for it…the jeevithagandhi-ness of your narration…all of us find so many things to identify with here.

    dickens wrote his great novels in serialized form in the newspaper…i am reminded of him when i see your blog.

  6. haha. situations made you clever and bold and strong. hope as you mentioned in your previous comments, the wounds have healed with your understanding.. at least to a negligable level..

  7. Shankari: The thicket was my kingdom.. In a way I was safe there, I could imagine life in Chengannur and ofcourse, none ever came there.

    Jac: Yeah the knight in shining armour!!

    Thanu: I like anything tht is cooked in coconut..but not as much fresh favourite is kuthari..

    Chandu: Athey..ingine link thannal njan enthuva vayikkande? I checked the whole malayala manorama..ellam kandu..onnum kandilla sthithiyil nilkkunu..

    Starry nights: I am glad U could see me doing it.. Because when i wrote the blog, I actually saw myself in my red dress, trying to pull it as close to me and crouch down, so Amma won’t see me

    Siverine: I wished too.. I just couldn’t understand, why Amma refused to send me and Appa refused to take me with him

    Geetha: When I started writing the story, I mentioned, I need to find answers.. This is one of the many questions that I have no answers to. I understood Amma’s reason. She wanted to teach Ammachi a lesson by taking her grand kids away from her. But Appa..I don’t know.. was it a selfish action like’my mother, only I get to see her” or were there any other reasons.

    Techno: After the athapoo incident, I stained maria’s skirt with the sap and there was plenty of thrashing from Amma and then Maria.. I was too scared to even touch the flower after that.

    Neihal: First time I didn’t beleive it..but over the next few years, i believed my mother( i hvn’t yet forgiven myself for tht), but eventually I learned, it was all the fine art of divide and rule philosophy, my mother invented.

    Ann: Thank you. I know you meant wht you said..
    There is no price for memories that haunt you..

    Visithra: Yes she is still like tht. She has conveniently forgotten all that I have done.. After all her grey matter helped her to pass the entrance examination!
    Yes I did meet Ammachi 3 years later..

    Jiby: What does jeevitha gandhiness means?.. Malayalam okke marannu..I know it is a sad state of affairs.. I wrote SSLC in Malayalam, and now struggle to understand simple words!

    Rocksea: For years I was struggling to understand why I had such a life?, then I felt I had to write to cleanse my soul, but I wasn’t sure if anyone would believe me, when I finally tell the truth. I needed to unload the burden, at the same time I felt no one would believe..

    Anon: I ma sure, if my mother made a tiny effort, maria’s life would have taken a different direction.

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