Did all the uncles hug their nieces like this? That was the biggest question I had. I wanted to speak to someone. But there was no one to speak to. Maria was laying down in the bed and reading a novel. I wanted to ask her, so I sat up in my bed. I tried to think of a way, I could ask Maria, if my uncle’s behaviour is normal or not? Would she laugh at me, like the time she laughed at me, when I got my periods the first time? I didn’t know anything about periods and I thought I had cancer. Maria and Amma laughed at me so much, when I went to them crying and saying I had cancer. I am tired of everyone laughing at me and calling me buddumas(ignoramus).
Maria got up to adjust her pillows and she saw me looking at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
I wanted so badly to tell her what is bothering me. I just couldn’t. Maria was not the type of sister you could discuss your problems with.
“Nothing”. I went back to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, I knew what I would do. I will make sure, I am not alone with Acha. It was a simple and neat plan.
When I went to the dining room to eat my breakfast, everything was normal
“Had a good sleep Nina?” Acha asked. He was looking at me and smiling kindly.
“Yes, I did. Thank you” I responed. I didn’t understand anything anymore. I was so confused. I wish I had a best friend, whom I could ask, how does a normal uncle behave. I so very badly wanted to go back to Kerala. My house in Kerala even without all the fancy trimmings was a safe haven.
We were leaving on saturday evening. Normally the driver drops us to Bangalore railway station. This time Acha said he would drop us to the station as he was going to Chickamagalore. I counted the hours to go back home. Before leaving Amma still had shopping to do.
“Why don’t you and Maria go for shopping?” Acha asked Amma.
I wanted to go too, not because I wanted to shop, but I was safe with my mother and sister
“Can I come too?” I asked Amma
“Nina, stay here with your sisters and help me to pack the bags”
“No Amma, I want to come with you” I pleaded.
“Come on Nina, stop being a pest” Maria spoke
Why don’t you people understand that I don’t want to be alone with Acha. I wanted the words to come out. But it didn’t. I watched the car leaving with my only security in this world. The gates of the hell was closed and I was still inside. I consoled myself as I had my younger sisters.
“Liza and Sally, come and help me to pack the bags” I ordered and quickly went to the bedroom. Acha was watching us and I knew, he won’t touch me infront of my sisters.
I finished packing all the bags and I wanted to bath before we leave.
“Liza and Sally, I am going to have my bath. You guys are going to stay here. Till I come out of the shower, don’t move from here”
“Ok Nina” Liza agreed
“You guys understand right? You will not move from here till I come out of the shower”
“Yes Nina, we understood” Liza sounded annoyed
I went confidentally for my shower, knowing that I am safe, if my sisters are outside the door. I was actually proud of my intelligence.
I must have taken the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life, because I was also worried about leaving my sisters alone outside. I quickly got dressed and opened the door.
My sisters were not in the room, but he was there. His eyes were twinkiling and the look on his face, that haunts me to this day.
“You tell your mother, I will kill both of you” That was his parting words. I was numb. I couldn’t think any more. I walked out of the room and found my sisters. They were cycling outside
“Liza and Sally.. Didn’t I tell you not to leave the room till I come out of the shower?” I was so mad at them, I wanted to kill both of them.
“Your sister is jealous because I didn’t get a bicycle for her” He was still smiling kindly.
I sat down on the step, I watched my mother and sister returning. They must have been blind, because they didn’t see the dry tears in my eyes, or perhaps they too were playing the same game and it was normal for them. I watched Amma asking Acha
“Where did you get the bicycles?”
“Across the street. They rent bicycles in one of the shops there. I thought, they might as well learn to bicycle”
On the way back to Bangalore in his car, I wasn’t sure who I was. The Nina I knew was dead. This was somebody else. I felt like a stranger to myself. There was an emptiness, that I couldn’t understand anymore. But I knew, come what may, I will tell my mother about her wonderful brother. I couldn’t speak to her in the train as there were other passengers. When the train reached Kottayam, I counted the seconds before I could reach home. The auto was struggling up the hill from the railway station. I wanted to kill the driver for going slow. When we reached our home, Amma was taking a long time to open the door.
“Give me the key” I yelled.
Amma looked at me stunned. I snatched the key from her hands and opened the door. The house was dusty and smelled terrible.
“Oh god, it will take me the whole day to clean and get this house back in order” I heard Amma speaking. I wanted to tell her, but Liza and Sally were with me. I watched Amma going to the kitchen, she took the broom from behind the kitchen door and I followed her. Like a dam the burst the wall, I told my mother everything that happend to me in Mysore. Amma still had the broom in her hand, she came towards me.
“How dare you lie Nina” She started to hit me
“Do you know what that man has done for us?” Do you know if it wasn’t for him, I would have killed myself many years ago? You arrogant bitch, you still wear the bangles he bought for you and speak ill of a man who did so much for you?”
Maria must have heard Amma screaming and she ran to the kitchen. Amma must have told her what I said about him. because Maria too started to hit me.
“You liar, you are jealous that he gave me so much of stuff? How can you lie like this? Where did you learn to speak like this? My god Nina, how low can you sink?”
I don’t remember when they finished hitting me. After a certain period, it stopped paining. I went to my room and shut the door. That is when I noticed the bangle in my hand. I sat down on the ground and hit the ground with my arm. Most of the bangles broke, except two stubborn ones. I hit and hit, till they broke in to pieces. My hand was bleeding. But it didn’t hurt. I knew I would never wear a bangle ever in my life, my hands didn’t deserve bangles.