We were leaving Mysore on saturday morning. Before we left I saw Amma going to the garden and taking seeds and seedlings to plant in our house in Kottayam. I don’t know why, but I felt angry.
Although I know she only took few seeds and plants, to me, her actions were sacrilegeous. She was desecrating my Acha’s garden. I so very badly wanted to tell her to leave Acha’s garden alone, but between the two of us, I didn’t know, who Acha belonged.
As the driver started to drive, I watched the guard opening the door and the moment we crossed the gate, he locked up the gate again. I wasn’t sure, when the gate would open for me again, But I knew deep in my heart, this is home and I will be back.
Within 2 days after coming back home, we got a new telephone connection. I thought of my father. I could write to him and tell him our new number. But then I thought, why should I bother? He doesn’t want me. Anyway I have Acha now. A new father, better than the original.
Acha started calling everyday evening at 7 pm. All of us would crowd around the phone to speak to him.
“Amma, Can I speak to Acha first? Maria gets to speak to him first everyday” I asked Amma
“Oh, Nina, what difference does it make?”
I couldn’t explain to her, what difference does it make. Initially Maria spoke for 5 minutes and then gave the phone to me. As the days passed, she was speaking to him for hours and I was tired to wait for my turn. I couldn’t understand, why Acha never asks for me. Why Maria gets everything? All I ever wanted was for someone to love me. Maria gets my mother’s love, uncle George adores her, Tante Ida adores her, now Acha also loves her more than me. Why don’t anyone love me? Why am I so unlucky?
Ammachi used to love me, but then she didn’t want me anymore, Akkachi loved me and she went off without even saying a bye to me. There was nobody for me. I had absolutely no one to love me.
We went back to Mysore during Christmas holidays. I thought I would feel excited. But I didn’t. The last 2 months, Acha never once asked for me or spoke to me. I couldn’t make Acha love me. Maria was the lucky one.
Acha send the driver to pick us up from Bangalore railway station. On the way the driver asked us, if we wanted to eat something
“No, we don’t want to waste time. Just hurry up” Maria sounded annoyed.
I was hungry and my sister didn’t even bother to ask, if I wanted to eat anything. Nobody ever think of me.
As the car pulled up the drive way, I saw Acha waiting for us near the main door. I watched Maria running to him and then jumping up and down screaming”Oh my goodness, Oh my goodness”
What is going on? I walked up to the main entrance. There was a huge banner in the living room written”Happy Birthday Maria”
I looked at Acha and Amma. it didn’t make sense to me, Maria’s birthday is in November.I watched Acha holding Maria’s hand and going inside the house. He didn’t even say Hello to me.
I heard him telling Maria,”I wanted to surprise you, although it is 7 weeks late”
On the dining table there was a beautifully wrapped gift. Acha gave the gift to chechy and told her
“Go on, open it”
I watched Maria opening the pink colour wrapping paper. Inside, there was the most beautiful Binny Silk* saree. Turquoise blue saree with navy blue border. There was also a matching blue blouse.
“Go wear it” Acha ordered
Maria ran to the room to change. I watched Acha signalling to the maid and her bringing a new gift and placing it on the table. I was jealous of Maria. Nobody ever gave me a birthday gift and she is getting 2 gifts on the same day.
When Maria came out of the room, she looked exquisite. The name kochumaharani (little princess) fitted her more than me.
Maria saw the new gift on the table. She looked at Acha and said
“Oh Acha, you shouldn’t have bought all these”
“Open it” Acha ordered again
I watched Maria opening the wrapping paper. Inside the gift box, there were 2 blue jewellery boxes. Maria opened the first one.
“Oh my goodness, Oh my goodeness! Amma see this” She ran towards Amma to show her. I craned my neck to look. Acha gave her a complete set of turquoise(semi precious stone) jewellery. There was a chain, 4 bangles and a pair of earrings.
Maria opened the other blue box, it had a pearl set.
“Maria, these are real pearls. You have to take good care of them. You see this cloth?” Acha opened the box and showed her a piece of silk cloth.
“You have to wipe the pearls clean, each time, after you wore the pearls, or the sweat will discolour the pearls”
“Do you know why I gave you 2 sets of jewellery” Acha asked her
Maria shook her head
“When you wear the saree in the morning, wear the pearl jewellery. It looks more sophisticated. At night, when you go for a party wear the turquoise jewellery. By changing the accessories, you can change the way you look”
“You didn’t have to buy all these” Amma didn’t sound too happy.
Acha ignored Amma
I heard someone singing Happy Birthday and I turned to look. The maid was bringing in the birthday cake. Everyone started to sing. The maid kept the cake on the table. I watched her lighting 24 candles. The cake had the same colour icing as Chechy’s saree. I watched Acha holding Maria’s hand to cut the cake. Chechy gave the first piece to Acha. I looked at my mother. She had hatred in her eyes and I felt sorry for my mother.
*Binny Silk: In the mid 80’s, Binny silk sarees were very popular in Kerala. It was ‘the’ saree to wear for weddings. Most had, the mustard yellow saree with navy blue border.