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.