“What is the only thing you really want? Acha asked us.”Sally, you are the youngest and you get the first chance.”
I watched Sally’s face beaming with joy. Sally spend the least amount of time with Appa compared to all four of us. I was happy for my baby sister. She finally gets to feel the love and affection of a father.
“I want a new school bag, new shoes and crayons” replied Sally
“What about you Liza?” Acha asked her
“I want a new dress”
I knew I have to tell Acha next, what I really wanted. I thought of all the things I wanted. New dress?New shoes? Then I remembered.
“Bangles!. I want green colour glass bangles”
“Ok. What about you Maria?” Acha asked her
“Silver anklets. I always wanted a silver anklet.”
“Me too” I spoke. When Appa came home last time, I begged him to buy me a silver anklett. He said it is a waste of money.
“Well, Nina, you already made your choice. You said you wanted glass bangles and you will get that.”
I couldn’t get it. How could my sister be so smart and me so dumb? Why did I choose bangles, of all the possible things that I could get? I was angry with myself, for being so stupid.
We went to the town to shop. On the way, Acha pointed the Mysore palace. The silhouette of the palace was lit with thousands of lights and the whole palace stood out magnificiently in the middle of nowhere.
“Who can guess how many bulbs they have used for lighting the palace?” Acha asked us
“I don’t know” Sally spoke
“1000?” Liza answered
“10.000” I said
“30, 000” Maria replied
oh pinney, 30,000!. You must be joking. How can anyone put 30,000 bulbs to light a place. I was pretty sure, there would be maximum of 10,000 lights. I waited for my uncle to announce the winner.
“None of you got it right. There are more than 95,000 bulbs”
I looked at the palace again. I just couldn’t believe there were that much of lights.
“Tomorrow, you guys can visit the palace and watch the bands practicing for the Dasera parade”
“What is Dasera parade?” Maria asked.
“You mean, you don’t know?” Acha asked chechy
She shook her head and said “No”
“What did you guys learn in school?” He sounded irritated
I wanted to tell him, I learned about 2 trains travelling from A to B, and which one reached faster. But I kept quiet
“Do you guys know, how Mysore got its name?”
Normally I would have been the first to answer when it comes to the stories behind names. But Puthenveetil Thangamma, w/o Methran Thambi too didn’t know the story behind Mysore.
None of us answered and Acha asked the driver something in Kannada.
He too shook his head
I assumed even the driver didn’t know the story.
“Long ago, a buffallo headed demon named Mahisha ruled this land. He prayed to Brahma and was granted his wish, that ‘he would only die in the hand of a woman’. Mahisha knew he is invincible and started to terrorise the people, even the gods were not spared. Finally, goddess Parvathy, who is Lord Siva’s wife heard the prayers of the people and was born as Durga and killed the buffallo headed demon. This is the ooru(home/place) of Mahisha and it was called Mahishur, which later became Mysore. It took Goddess Durga 10 days to slain Mahisha and Dasera is celebrated every year, for 10 days to remember that goodness always win over the evil”
I was impressed. I knew another story to tell Ammachi. Then I thought of life in Chengannur house. No electricity in the evenings, working in the farm, cleaning the cattle shed every morning.. Compared to all that, right now I live like a real princess. I was ashamed of my own back ground. I didn’t want to be the Nina Thomas from Puthenveetil house. I wanted to be the Nina Thomas from Mysore.
Acha bought me 2 dozens of green glass bangles. I wore 6 on each hand and saved the rest. I kept moving my hand to hear the bangles making the sound. I was so happy. We went to eat dinner at the Ananthavihar restaurent. By the time we finished eating dinner, I was tired. I watched my uncle telling something to the driver and him opening the glove compartment of the car. I saw him taking out something. I watched in horror as my uncle took out a revolver from the brown holder and checking it
“You have a gun?” I asked him
I looked at him, hoping he would explain. Why does he need a gun?
“Nina, We are going up Chamundi hills. I want to show you guys, the city from the top of the hills and the best time to view the city is in the night. Unfortunately, there used to be some highway robbers there earlier and I just want to make sure, we are safe”
I didn’t want to be safe with a gun. I couldn’t understand anything anymore. My father never carried a gun and I was safe without one till now. Does it mean that, everyone who works for my uncle carries a gun? Does the driver too carry a gun? What am I getting myself in to?