“We have reached home” Announced my uncle.
Home? I looked outside. Unaka kolli (Goodness gracious),This isn’t home, this is a mansion.
The house was a colonial building with a tall pointed roof, walls were painted yellow and windows were painted blue. There was a beautiful garden with lots of roses and so many other plants, I have never seen before. The best part of all was the pond in the middle of the garden with a fountain from a statue of a woman holding a pot. I hoped there would be fish in the pond.
I watched the guard opening the gate and standing in attention and saluting. My uncle just nodded his head. The driver got out of the car first and ran to the other side to open the door for my uncle.
‘Why can’t he just open the door by himself?’ I couldn’t understand all these formalities. I wanted to open the door and get out, but Amma was on one side and Maria was on the other side and both waited for the driver to open the door. Suddenly,my poor humble family became very posh and formal. I was irritated with my mother and my sister. Till yesterday, they travelled in public bus and now they can’t even open a car door.
I got out of the car and walked towards the main entrance.There was a plaque on the wall near the main. I started to read it, while everyone was busy getting the luggage out. The house was built by some British guy in 1912. The total cost for the building the house was 12000 Rs. ‘wow, that was so cheap!’ I thought.
My uncle was watching me.
“You see the house across the road?” he pointed across the road
“Hmmm” I nodded my head. There was another colonial mansion across the street with an out door patio and trellis roof.
“Sometime ago a famous malayalam movie was shot there.”
“Which movie? Who was acting? Did you see the actors?” I asked
“Nah, I don’t have time to sit around and watch all these things”
I thought, ‘Silly old man. Full of ‘show’. Don’t have time to see who was the actor. As though he runs India!’ I wanted to stick my tongue out, but all of a sudden, the brave Methran Thambi’s grand daughter wasn’t as brave as she thought.
My mother was about to enter the house and I heard my uncle telling her
“Mary, Enter, with your right feet in first!”
‘Right feet?’ I looked at him and at my mother. She was giggling and I looked at Maria, she had no change in her expression. I felt I shouldn’t be the kanjile patta (cockroach in the porridge) and ignored what I thought
The maid, her husband and their daughter came to say hello. I looked at the daughter. She was wearing a long skirt and blouse. She must be my age. I smiled at her. She looked at me disgustingly. I wanted to ask her’What is your problem? You forgot your smile somewhere this morning?’. Why are the people so different? Chakki would have hugged me by now.
“Tea is served sir” Announced the maid.
All of us went to the dining room. There was a huge teak dining table with intricately carved dining chairs. There were 6 chairs, like the table in our house and my uncle sat at the head of the table. Amma on the left, Maria on the right.
I felt it didn’t look right, but I also had the time of my life. Nobody ever saluted me before. Nobody ever bought me parippuvada (lentil fritters), I never stayed in a big mansion like this. Chengannur house has just 2 bedrooms and this house has 7 bedrooms and a separate cottage for the house keeper. I thought of my father , then I justfied, he is the one who walked away, I shouldn’t be worried about him anymore. It is his destiny.
When we finished out tea, my uncle spoke
“Why don’t you all go have your shower and get ready. We will go to the town and do some shopping”
“Shopping? Yeah” squealed Liza and Sally
I was also excited. I had to beg Amma to buy something for me. We never went for shopping. We ran to our room to bath and change. Maria and I shared a room, Amma had her own room and Liza and Sally shared another room.
I was taking the change of clothes from my bag and Maria spoke to me
“You know something Nina, the way we call him uncle, there is no love in that, may be we should call him ‘Acha'” Maria suggested
“Maria, Acha is father in Malayalam. He isn’t our father! “
“He is 1000 times better than our father!.. When was the last time you had a good time with Appa?”
I tried to think of all the times I spend with my father. Sure, there were good times, but at the back of all those good times, there were fear. I realized after all what my mother said all these years were true. My father is indeed good for nothing.
“Ok, we will call him Acha” I agreed