“Nina, Maria called me at work this morning. She is coming home on tuesday. Make sure you wait for her at the station. She needs help to carry the bags”
“Why can’t Maria carry her own bags?. Why do I have to help her? Am I her servant?”
“Oh mother Mary, why did I give birth to such a selfish child? Her sister is coming all the way from Delhi and she can’t even help her sister to carry her bags for 5 minutes!. You should know Maria can’t carry anything heavy. her body is very frail. She is not used to doing any heavy work. You are selfish Nina. All these traits are from your father’s family. I should have checked the family back ground before I got married to your stupid father”
“My father is not stupid. Stop calling him that Amma”
“Oh my goodness!, you are supporting that good for nothing man? Can’t you see, what he did to us? Here I am, struggling to make ends meet and you think your father is good? I don’t even waste money and take an auto rickshaw. I carry the heavy grocery bags and walk everyday and you tell me that your father is not stupid? I should have walked away years ago. I should have asked your father’s stupid mother to raise all of you. If I did that, you would now be cleaning the cattle dung, instead of going to school”
“Amma, nobody is asking you to carry the heavy bags and walk. Nobody told you to pay the money to Aiyappan. Nobody asked you to leave Malaysia. You are the one who told Appa, that we should leave Penang. Because you were worried that, Ammachi would give the house to Kochumol Aunty. And by the way, my father grew up in Chengannur and he did study and got a good job”
“How dare you Nina? You are so ungrateful. You are so blind to see everything I do for you. I carried you for 9 months. i took care of you when you were ill. I send you for piano lessons”
Amma started to bang her chest with her fist. When she did it the first time years ago, she freaked me out. No more. I won’t let her terrorise me like this. Amma looked at me and I didn’t tell her to stop hurting herself. Each of the self inflicted blows were reverberating in my brain over and over. I still didn’t tell Amma to stop. I wanted her to know I am tired of her games.
Amma continued to hurt herself and started to scream “I don’t want to live anymore. I might as well die. Nobody cares for me anymore. My parents don’t care, my husband don’t care and my children, I thought they would see and understand, how much I have suffered. And I suffer all this, just so that they will have a bright future. Jesus Christ, why do you let me suffer like this? I want to die”
I went back to my room. I hated myself for opening my mouth and arguing with Amma, because deep in my heart, I know how much she suffers. But I am too tired of keeping the accounts. Everything has to be tallied and I am the only one who should give. Everyone just keep taking. I knew Amma’s chest will hurt. I hoped she won’t die. I wanted to heat some water and put it in the hot water bag and give it to her. But I just couldn’t do it. I was just so tired of feeling sorry for Amma. She even had the audacity to say that she send me for Piano lessons, when it was me, who wanted to join the choir.
On tuseday after my school, I went to fetch Maria from the railway station. I stood outside the main entrance, because I didn’t have money to buy the platform ticket. Autodrivers were waiting for a prey.
“pengale(sister) Where do you want to go? Just tell me, and I will Zoom you there” Said the youngest of the drivers.
“pengale (sister), why don’t you wait sitting inside my ‘lambretta’. I don’t want your beautiful legs to get tired” Another one spoke
I ignored them and one started to sing
“Kannadee nee enne kettiyillenkil
Ente kannerininnoru arattu”
(Oh spectacle clad damsel, if you don’t agree to marry me, my tears wouldn’t stop and there would be a dam full of tears)
Everyone was laughing. I ignored them, but deep in my heart I was fuming. We stay 7 minutes away from the station and my sister, who could travel all the way from Delhi to Kottayam, now needs an escort.
I watched Maria coming out.
“Why are you standing there like a telephone pole? You should have waited at the platform. I had to carry my bag all the way up the stairs. Here take this bag”
She handed me her heavy duffel bag. She carried her hand bag in one hand and the femina magazine in the other hand and started to walk. Her bag was heavy and I was struggling.
“come on Nina, hurry up. Why are you walking so slow?”
“Chechy, why don’t you hold one strap and I will hold the other strap of your bag”
“Oh Nina, you know my arms are weak and I get tired easily. Besides, it will spoil the bag if you hold like the way you suggested”. My sister started to walk. As I walked behind my sister, it occured to me that I am an idiot. Actually, a world class idiot and I am in this trap that, I can never get out. I wanted to break free. But there was nobody to stand by me. I had no one. All I had was me.
Next day, I overheard Maria and Amma discussing.
“Amma, I think Nina should learn typing and shorthand. Anyway she is going to fail the SSLC. Atleast she can work as a typist” Maria was saying
“True also. May be I will go to Paikadas college and register her”
I quickly went out and told them both
“I am not learning typing. I want to become a doctor”
“Doctor?” Maria was looking at me and laughing. Doctor who treats human beings? You must be joking Nina. You can’t even speak a word of english and you want to do medicine?”
“I am not joking. Ammachi told me, I can be, whatever I want to be and I want to become a doctor”
“then why is your darling Ammachi still sruggling in the farm. She chose to be a farmer? What a wonderful choice! Cleaning the cow dung each morning before eating break fast!” it was Amma’s turn to mock me
I didn’t bother to respond. ButI made it absoloutely clear
“You can’t force me to do something I don’t want to do. I will not learn typing now. I want to concentrate on my studies.” I quickly ran out of the room.
“She is becoming too stubborn Amma. Why haven’t you controlled her?” I heard chechy asking Amma
“Control her? She is like her father. Stubborn as a mule”
I smiled to myself. Atleast I have something in common with my father. After all I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter!
It was the last day of my sunday school and there was a farewell party. Everyone was olanning to wear a brand new dress for the party and I didn’t have one. Then I remembered the purple skirt Maria took from me. It is still there in her cupboard. She has never once worn it. That evening I told Amma
“Amma, we have a farewell party at the sunday school next sunday and I would like to wear the purple skirt”
“Which purple skirt?”
“The one Maria took, when Appa came last time. She has never worn it even once. It is still there in the cupboard”
“I am not giving you my skirt Nina” Maria spoke
“Why not? You are not wearing it, So why should I not wear it?”
“You had 7 skirts. I only took one. I won’t give you that. I have a right to do what I want to do with my skirt. It is my choice, if I want to weat or not.”
“True I had 7 skirts. But you are not wearing the skirt, it is sitting in cupboard collecting dust and I want it back”
“No”. Maria swung her arm and hit me on my shoulder
I hit her back”Don’t you dare hit me Maria”
“How dare you hit your sister Nina?” Amma screamed at me
“Didn’t you see Amma? She hit me first”
“She is your older sister. She has a right to hit you. You were rude to her”
“Really? Too bad eh!”
“look at the way she speaks. She is so rude.” Amma pointed her fingers at me and spoke to Maria
“I won’t let you be rude to my mother Nina” and Maria started to hit me. I pushed her back
“Maria, don’t make me hurt you. Don’t. I want the skirt and I will wear it”
“You will never do well Nina, I curse you. You will suffer for the rest of your life. Maria, give her the skirt. You always have my blessings anyway. We will see if Kochumaharani will become a doctor or clean the doctor’s room!”
I watched Maria going to the cupborad and getting the purple skirt. She threw it infront of me. I picked it up from the floor and walked back to my room. I was happy, I won. But I was scared and worried because, I didn’t know what the future holds for me. How will I ever pay for all the curses my mother cursed me? Mother’s curses never go away.
Maria has ichthyosis and never wore skirts. She just didn’t want me to have that skirt.