Those stupid battles

On the first day of college, Amma insisted she would drop me to college.
“Here some money for you, you can eat something at the canteen” She gave me 2 Rs.
I wore my purple skirt and the yellow blouse. I didn’t even have a new slipper.
“Maria, can I borrow your shoes?” I asked my sister, hoping that she would feel sorry for me.
“No, you will spoil the heels. You never take care of things”
I didn’t bother to respond. I was waiting for time to fly, so I can get out of this mad house. Amma and I walked side by side on the road. We passed the CSI church and Amma drew a sign of cross. I didn’t. Amma looked at me, trying to see, if I would volunteer some explanation. I ignored her.
The main entrance to the college was crowded. I watched all the girls in coulourful dresses and beautiful shoes. I hoped I would remain invisible.
“Oh, Nina, I forgot, Chechy and I thought, it is better that you take french as a second language. So we changed the 2nd language option in your application”
“What?” I looked at my mother in shock.
“I chose malayalam as a second language Amma”
“Yeah, I know, but learning a new language is always better. Besides, you lost your SSLC rank, because of your malayalam marks”
“Amma, I am not learning french”
“Too late now, Nina. I have already paid the fees”
I looked at my mother, trying to see, why is she torturing me like this? First I had to go to a Chinese school and learn Mandarin, then I went to a Malay school, then I went to Malayalam school and now she expects me to learn French? I want to become a doctor. Chances of me ever treating a French speaking patient is next to Nil.
I didn’t bother to speak to my mother or say good bye to her. She can go to hell for all I care. I walked inside the main entrance. There was a huge notice board and I checked my name. I was number 3, that means, I scored the third highest mark for SSLC among all the students joining the pre-degree there. I should have been proud, but all I felt was hatred and that I am just a prisoner. I am like a bird in a cage and my mother and my sister seems to be the only ones deciding my destiny.
I wanted to do something to spite both of them. Then I remembered. I walked to the office and I spoke to the lady at the counter
“Madam, I would like to cancel my additional maths”
She looked at me, as though I have asked something totally atrocious
“You want to cancel maths? Why? People are on the waiting list to do additional maths!”
“I don’t like to do maths”
“Then why did you apply?”
It was at the tip of my tongue to say that I didn’t want to apply, it was my mother’s choice.
“At that time, I thought I would apply, but I changed my mind” I smiled at her sweetly.
“You need to get the permission from the principal. She is busy this week, why don’t you see her next monday”
As I entered my class, everyone looked at me. I could see the disgust in their eyes. I knew they were thinking that I belong to the special category of those with no money and no brain. The ones that gets admission on the basis of caste or income.
I didn’t understand, how, as a daughter of a senior Brtish government employee, who earns about 3000 quids every month, and as someone who scored the 3rd highest mark among all the students in the college that year, I am still wearing a dress that is 4 years old and my slipper is so worn out that, the blue sole can be seen near the heel. None of it made any sense to me. I felt it is better that I remain as a shadow. Not one of my classmates spoke to me and I didn’t speak to anyone either. I had too much of secrets in my life and I knew if anyone knew that, they would judge me. Nobody else would have a family where father and and mother fight all the time, older sister decides what a younger sister should do, mother always goes ‘just over there’. Nobody would beleive me, even if I tell the truth. Much as I wanted a friend to share my burden, much as I wanted a hand to hold me, I knew for my own sanity, it is better that no one knew anything about my family, because no one had a family like mine.

First thing on monday, I waited outside the Principal’s office. I have heard that she is a terror. I have never ever spoken to a nun before. I was scared of them. But I had to cancel my maths. I heard the bell ringing and I walked in. Sister Margaret looked at me and raised her forehead. Suddenly, I felt very scared. I couldn’t find my tongue. I must have looked like someone who has seen a ghost.
I heard a very sweet and kind voice asking me
“Child, why do you want to see me?”
I stammered and replied
“I don’t want to do maths”
“Because I don’t like maths. I like science and I want to become a doctor”
“How much marks did you get for maths?”
“That is a good score”
“Yes, Sister, I got good marks, because my maths tuition teacher prayed everyday. He even went to the temple on the day of my exam and did special pooja for me. If I failed, I would have beeen the first student who failed in the 25 years he taught. Unfortunately he retired this year!”
“Did he retire or he gave up teaching after having you as a student?” Sister was laughing.
I too started to laugh. I didn’t know why everyone said Sister Margaret is a terror.
She rang the bell and her assistant came inside.
“Cancel her maths application”. Sister Margaret spoke, still laughing and pointing her hand at me.
‘Phew, Battle number 1, Nina Thomas won’. I was happy, atleast I don’t have to study maths.

A month later, I had to write the first term examination. I didn’t study anything. For the first time in my life, I went to write the exam, without studying. Although I knew the answers for couple of questions, I didn’t want to waste my energy and write. I handed over empty answer sheets. I wanted Amma to pay for cheating me.
Finally the moment I waited anxiously has arrived. My class teacher came to the class to hand out the report card. She called the students one by one. I heard her calling my name
“Nina Thomas”
I got up and went to her. She looked at the marks card in her hand and at me.
“Do you find science difficult? If so, you should do arts group. By the way,What was your score in SSLC?” She asked me
“529”. There was a pin drop silence in the class. I could see the shock on her face.
“Don’t lie. I can always check your marks at the office” She spoke
“I got 529 marks for SSLC” I spoke again
“Then, how could you fail in all the subjects? You are the only one in this class, who failed all the subjects”
“I don’t know” I replied. Ofcourse I knew, I wanted to teach my mother a lesson. I wanted to embarass her.
“Ask your parents to come and see me”
“Ofcourse” I was so happy. I knew battle number 2, Nina Thomas won again.

When Amma came in the evening, I handed her my marks card.
“My teacher wants you to come and see her”
I watched my mother opening my marks card. I watched the horror on her face. Each line that formed the frown on her forehead, brought me that much joy.
“How dare you Nina?”
“Dare what?”
My mother was struglling to speak and I was enjoying every bit. That is when Amma noticed that, there was no maths. There was only, english, french, biology, chemistry and physics.
“Why there is no maths in your report card?”
“because I cancelled the maths”
“Whose permission did you take? How dare you? How could you cheat me?” My mother was raging and she started to shake me
“Well, I learned it from you Amma, you taught me how to cheat, have you forgotten, how you hid my CMS college admission card?”
I saw my mother’s hand swinging. In an instant, 1000 bees were buzzing in my ear. I saw stars. But I also won and Amma lost. Battle number 3, winner Nina Thomas.

Christian to Agnostic journey

I thought of fighting with Amma for cheating me like this. But there was no point. I am not going to get the admission, even if I go to the college today.I was plain stupid to have believed my mother’s reasonings. It was my fault.
I kept the admission card, back in the cupboard, exactly where Amma kept.
As I folded my clothes, I realized that I don’t have any decent clothes. I still have the same old 7 skirts my father got for me 4 years ago. I am going to study in the most posh college and without decent clothes, my life is going to be miserable.
“What are you doing with the clothes” My mother was screaming. I didn’t even hear her coming in.
“I am just folding the clothes Amma”
“Who asked you to touch my sarees?” Amma pushed me away from the cupboard. I thought of telling her, ‘oh don’t worry Amma, I saw the admission card already, if you were smart, you would have burned it, like the way,Akkachi and I burned the letter tante Ida send’ I looked at my mother and wondered, between the two of us, who is the biggest fool?.
“Amma, I need new clothes”
“For what, you are just going to do pre-degree, not joining any fashion show”
“Amma, all the students will have good clothes and I will look out of place”
“If all the students jump infront of a train, will you jump too?”
“Then, why did you buy new clothes for Maria, when she went to the engineering college?”
Aiyyah how can you compare engineering college to pre-degree? For heavens sake, your sister went to a professional college, not some stupid local college”
Maria was sitting at the dining table and watching us, I looked at my sister
“Why don’t you tell Amma, that I need good clothes? You know how everyone will laugh at me”
“Oh Nina, it is just 2 years, You should not have friends who judge you for what you wear. They are not worth having as friends. Besides, in 2 years you will do engineering or medicine, and you can certainly buy new clothes then”

It was unbelievable, my gold bangle was sold to buy new clothes for my sister and I, the greatest idiot suggested that.

There was still hope for me. I scored the highest mark at the church. I will get the 100 Rs reward this year. Enough to buy 2(cheap) dresses. I waited for the sunday service, where they felicitate the winner. That morning, I wore the purple skirt and yellow blouse. I combed my hair and clipped it with slides. I tried to practice, how I would say my thank you a 1000 times standing infront of the mirror. Should I bow the Malaysian way, or should I shake hands with the priest? May be I should just say a simple thank you.
After the service was over, the priest walked back to the Altar
“I have an announcement to make. We have a winner for this year’s highest SSLC scorer. Every year, our children are scoring higher and higher marks for the SSLC. Soon we will have people scoring 600 out of 600.”
Everyone was laughing. I felt shy.
The priest continued
“This year, I am proud to announce that Jacob Thomas, son of Thomas Karikaale is the winner. He scored 479 marks out of 600.”
That certainly didn’t make sense. I scored 529, which is certainly more than 479. I watched Jacob, wearing a long sleeve white shirt and black trousers, walking up to the altar to collect the cheque from the Priest. Everyone stood up and clapped their hand.
I was fuming. I know I submitted all the certificates,the church asked me to. So there couldn’t have been a mistake. As soon the priest reached his office, I went to him
Acho, I scored 529 marks. How come I didn’t get the award”
“Oh Nina, I am sorry, I forgot to let you know, you are ineligible for the award, because you are a jacobite christian”
“jacobite Christian? I was a member of the CSI choir for the last 4 years, I represented the CSI sunday school for all the competitions and now you tell me that, I didn’t get the award because I am a jacobite?”
“Nina, I can’t do anything. I have to follow the rules”
I didn’t bother to argue. As I walked out of that church that day, I understood, everything is a myth. Someone who attend a pentecostal church, can still get the award from the CSI church, while I, who is half jacobite, half anglican and attended the CSI church for 4 years was not eligible for the award, because of my Jacobite link. I have not even seen the inside of the jacobite church for four years.
I was disgusted with the way I was treated, I promised myself, I will never step my foot inside the CSI church again more importanly God and I, we parted amicably. I don’t beleive in a God, who expects me to wear different costumes.


When I held my marks card, all of a sudden I became somebody else. Till now I was just a deaf and dumb and blind snake. All of a sudden, I found my venom. I knew I could bite. I finally learned, I am indeed Methran Thambi’s grand daughter and I will get what I wanted. I am capable.
My mother and sister were discussing about my pre-degree admission. It was no longer, which parallel college, I would be joining. It was now, should she join the CMS college or BCM college?
“I am joining CMS college” I announced
“No, you are not” Maria spoke
“You can’t tell me, what I should do”
“You are 8 years younger to me, you will listen to what I tell you to do. Appa isn’t here and I am in charge”
That is when I realized, I actually have a father and he doesn’t even know, I scored distinction. I contemplated, should I write to him and tell him? Then I thought, Appa never bothered to write a single letter in the last three and a half years. I don’t exist for him. Why should I waste my energy and write to him?

“You are not in charge of my life Maria. I want to study in CMS college and I am going to do it”
“No, Amma. We can’t let her. She will get spoiled there and fall in love with some weirdo instead of concentrating on her studies”
“What is your problem Maria? You studied in a co-ed school? You didn’t fall in love with anyone? Or is it that, nobody fell in love with you?” It was my turn to mock at my sister and I was really enjoying my new found thrills
“How dare you Nina? No wonder God created you deaf and dumb and blind and ugly”
“Yeah, but I still scored 90 marks more than you, so Imgaine, how much I would have scored, if I wasn’t deaf and dumb and blind?”
I could see that my sister was stunned, I also knew this would be the last time, she would call me deaf and dumb and blind.

The next morning, I got up and got dressed.
“Where are you going Nina?”
“Just over there Amma!”
“Over where?” Amma raised her voice
“Over there Amma” I said it in the same tone my mother told me the same sentence all the while, when I asked her.
“You are not going anywhere, without telling me” Amma was mad
“Well, I have many things to do today and I can’t tell you exactly where I am going”. I started to walk towards the main gate
“Don’t you dare come back to my house. If you can’t live here following my rules, then don’t come back”
“Too bad Amma, I will leave when it is time for me to leave, not a day before that!”
I walked towards CMS college. I needed to get the application. I was just so happy. I could finally do and say what I always wanted to. I was suddenly the Maria of ‘sound of music’. I felt like dancing and singing at the top of the voice. I really wanted to sing Climb every mountain But I didn’t know the verses.

CMS college was the heaven I always thought I would inherit. Beautiful colonial style buildings with white walls, red tiled roofs. Majestic cassurina trees everywhere and the best part of it all, there were plenty of handsome boys. After studying in an all girls school for the last 5 years, I was ready for a co-ed life.
There were lots of boys sitting on their bikes near the entrance. They started to whistle as I entered the college. 2 years ago, I would have got mad, today, I was enjoying every bit of attention that I received. I wanted to look at the faces of all the boys, but I was a bit apprehensive, So I looked down and walked fast.I collected my application form.
I was hungry. I had 2 Rs with me and I walked to the Jewel Box snack center in the Baker school compound. The snack center is run by the women belonging to the CSI church. Most of them knew me from the church.
“Aha, who is this? I am so glad to see you Nina.I heard that, you scored the highest marks for SSLC in our church this year”
“Yes Aunty” I was beaming
“How did you do it Nina?”
“I studied aunty. I revised and revised everyday”
“did you go for tuition?”
“yeah, I went for Maths tuition”
“hmmm” She nodded her head, as though she wanted justification, that my hard work alone didn’t enable me to score good marks. “So what college are you going to join?”
“CMS college”
“Are you taking both group 1 and 2?”
“No aunty, I am only taking group 2 science. I want to become a Doctor”
“But Nina, you should take the additional maths also, you can write both engineering and medicine entrance exam”
“No aunty. I don’t want to do engineering. I hate maths”
I ordered a plate of samosa. I had no money for a drink, so I had a glass of tap water. After eating the samosa, I went to the main public library. I had my father’s library card. I wanted to borrow Mills and Boon. There were 100’s of Mills and Boon books, I wasn’t sure, which one I would read first. I picked the author with the name starting with A.. Anne Mather. I borrowed 4 books.

When I reached home in the evening, I knew there won’t be any food. So I didn’t even bother to look for the food. I took 2 eggs from the fridge and made myself a nice omlette. Liza was staring at me
“Do you want some?” I asked her
She looked at me, at my plate and at Maria.
“You don’t need Maria’s permission to eat food Liza. Come, take some” I divided the omlette in to two and gave her half. I knew Liza was scared to eat.
“Open your mouth” I ordered. I fed my sister her share of the omlette.

I filled the CMS college application form. I waited for Amma to come back.
When she came home I asked her
“Will you please sign the application form?”
“No. You aren’t going to CMS college”
“Ok, I will sign on your behalf”
“Amma, see what books she borrowed from the library?” Maria came to the dining room with the evidence. 4 Anne Mather books.
“What is your problem Maria? You read them too!”
“Not at the age of 15. You can’t read Mills and Boon at 15 Nina”
“Too bad. I will read what I want to.”
“Amma, do something, she is getting spoiled” Maria pleaded
“Nina, give me back the library card” Amma ordered
“No Amma, I won’t, it is my father’s. he gave it to me, before he left. Are you going to sign my application or not?” I asked Amma again
I really don’t know what happend, Amma actually signed my application form.
“What are you doing Amma?” Maria shouted at her
“Let her do what she wants” Amma shrugged her shoulder
I wanted to do a dance of victory. I couldn’t stop grinning.
“Nina, I got the application form from the BCM college(Women’s college). Put in your application there too, just incase you didn’t get your admission in CMS college.”
I didn’t want to fight with Amma, not when she signed my application form for the CMS college. So I agreed.
“Apply for the Maths and science”
“ok” I replied. I knew I would get admission in CMS college, so I didn’t bother what course Amma wanted me to join at BCM college. I would have even agreed to the home science course, if she had asked me.

2 weeks later, I got the admission card from the BCM college. I waited and waited for the admission card from CMS college. It never came.
“May be you didn’t get admission, because you are a Jacobite Christian Nina. They prefer to give admission to CSI students”
I couldn’t believe my bad luck. I scored such good marks and I didn’t get admission in the college I wanted to join, just because I belong to a different church. I joined the BCM college with a heavy heart.

2 days before my college started, I decided to organize the clothes in the godrej cupboard. Amma’s sarees were all in a mess. I took all the sarees out from the cup board. I removed the news paper lining at the bottom of the shelf. Something pink colour fell down as I removed the newspaper. I bend down and picked it up. I saw my own hand writing. It was my admission card from the CMS college. I was asked to report 3 weeks ago, if I didn’t join, my seat would go to someone else next in the line.
The 35 paise Gandhiji stamp was looking at me and laughing
“You bodoh(stupid), even after you scored distinction in all the subjects, you still fell for your mother’s schemes”

Why do I hate my mother so much?

Most days I went through my SSLC question papers and tried to add my total marks. Although on the first day after the exams, I was confident of getting a first class, as the days went, so did my confidence. By beginning of May, I wasn’t even sure, I would pass the SSLC. I imagined seeing my photo in the newspaper with the headline, ‘Nina Thomas, the first student in the history of Kerala state school board, who succesfully failed all the 12 papers’. I imagined a long queue of parallel college principals, standing outside our main gate, hoping I would join their college. All this was my fault. I should have studied more. I shouldn’t have wasted my time day dreaming. I promised myself that, if I pass this exam, I will never waste my time. I will study properly.
I checked the newspaper every day to see, when the results would be announced. Finally, there was an article on May 25 th that my results will be out the next day. I knew, the moment has arrived. My life has ended even before I had a chance to live. My ambitions, my dreams and my hopes all gone. I knew I would fail the SSLC.
Amma took leave the next day. I heard her telling Maria
“I don’t want her to do anything stupid”. I knew what Amma meant. She was worried that I would commit suicide, when I get my marks card.
Amma decided to follow me to my school. As we were leaving Maria said
“Amma today can we cook egg biriyani? May be we should make motta roast(dry egg curry)”
“Maria. stop it” Amma ordered.
“Why Amma? What happend? I just asked what is the lunch menu”
Amma just shrugged her shoulder. I knew Maria was mocking me indirectly. She was saying that, I would be bringing motta (eggs=zero marks).
“Come on Nina, let us go” . Amma pulled my hand.
I hoped Maria would tell me good luck. 8 years ago, I wished her good luck when she went to get her results. Why does my sister hate me so much?

There was a long queue of students outside my school. I heard someone telling that my school didn’t get 100% pass. ‘Oh god, that would be because of me’. I wanted to cry. I prayed and prayed. I prayed to almost all the saints I knew. I even prayed to all the desciples, including Judas for help. As my name starts with N, I had to wait. I watched Betsy, the top student in my school getting her marks card and jumping up and down. She scored 535 marks. ‘Wow, how lucky she is’. I thought. if only I had half of her brain!
Finally it was my turn. Mrs Mathew called my name. I couldn’t walk. I hoped the earth would open and swallow me. Amma pushed me and said
“Go, get your marks card Nina”
As I reached the headmistress’s desk, Mrs Mathew got up from her chair.
‘Oh god, she is getting up to console me. I sure have failed’
She came to me and hugged me and told me
“I am proud of you Nina”
I thought, proud of me? God, how do you feel proud, when I have failed and our school didn’t get 100% pass?
“Nina, you scored the second highest marks in this school. Congratulations”
I didn’t understand what she just said. I took my marks card from her hand. I checked the marks. I got 529 marks out of 600. I didnt beleive what I saw. May be someone made a mistake. I turned the book over to check the name on the front page. It was Nina Thomas. I looked at my mother. She too was looking stunned. All the teachers came to congratulate me. I was floating in the air. I just couldn’t believe it. I did it. I scored 90 marks more than my super intelligent sister.
Amma hugged me. There were tears in her eyes. I knew she was proud of me. I was happy.
On the way back home, every other person, I knew stopped us and asked about my results. I could see the disbelief on their face. The girl, who spoke only tamil and malay, 5 years ago, managed to get distinction in all the subjects. It was unbelievable.
Maria was waiting for us. As soon as she saw us she asked
“So how many mottas(eggs=zero marks) did you get?”
“I got 90 marks more than you” I couldn’t wait to boast.
“No way. Show me your marks card” Maria snatched the marks card from my hand. She checked my result again. What she said, I will never forget
“Yeah, the evaluation has changed over the years. When I was writing, they were extremly strict. That is why the first rank holder at that time got only 530. Now they are more relaxed, that is why you got so much mark. This year the first rank is 565 marks. So it is simple. you got this much mark, because they are no longer that strict. Isn’t it true Amma?”
My mother nodded her head and agreed. There was nobody for me. Nobody saw that, I stayed awake every evening from 11pm till 5 AM and studied. Nobody was there to say that, they are proud of me. Nobody was there to say that, it wasn’t easy to have studied a new language and write the SSLC in that language. I hated my mother, for not standing by me and telling my big sister once for all that I am not deaf and dumb and blind.

I am truly sorry

SSLC exam
It is ‘the’ exam for every school going child in Kerala. Entire life is planned around that exam. The chances of getting admission to college, depends on the marks scored in the SSLC exam.
Maria was home when I was preparing for the exam. I overheard Amma telling Maria
“Go and check her works Maria. Help her to prepare. You have already written the exam, so you know how to write. Teach your sister”
“No Amma, I won’t. She must carry her own cross, like I did. No one helped me when I wrote the exam.”
“You are becoming too selfish Maria” I heard Amma telling her.
I sighed deeply, knowing very well, It was Amma who encouraged Maria to be like this.
I revised and revised all the subjects over and over. I wanted to do well. I wanted to become a Doctor.
On the first day of exam, Amma woke me up in the morning with a cup of Horlicks.
“Children, come, let us pray before Nina leaves for the exam” Amma called out to my sisters.
Liza and Sally came.
“where is Maria?” Amma asked
“She is still sleeping Amma” Sally replied
“Go wake her up”
I watched Sally going to Maria’s room to wake her up.
“Maria, wake up. Amma is calling you” Sally spoke to her
“For what?”
“She wants to pray before Nina goes for her exam”
“So? Tell her to pray. Why should I be there?”
Amma heard it too
“Maria, you better get up and come here. Don’t make me come to your room!”. Amma was screaming
I watched Maria coming to my room angrily.
“Let us pray” Amma closed her eyes. Amma called all the saints and asked for help. The prayer was going on for way too long and I slowly opened my eyes to see What my sisters are up to. Liza and Sally were deep in concentration. Maria was looking at me and for a moment our eyes met. I quickly closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see her cursing me.

I had 12 exams to be written in 6 days. My first exam was Malayalam. When I reached my school, all my friends came to write the exam with their parents. Stress was on everyone’s face. I was worried. In the morning, I was confident that I have prepared well for the test. But now, when I watched how everyone was doing last minute revision, I started to feel doubtful. I found Alice sitting underneath the Cassurina tree. Her mother was with her. When Alice saw me, she looked at me and said
“Nina, I need to revise the poems again. I will speak to you later”.
All of a sudden, I started to feel scared.
‘Did I really study well? What if Maria said is going to be true? What if I fail? Oh God!, I should have studied some more. I shouldn’t have wasted my time watching TV’.
I heard the bell ringing. I walked to my classroom. I could feel my heart beating very fast. I, Nina Thomas, had my entire life to live, ahead of me. If I stumble now, there is no turning back. I prayed to God, that I won’t fail the exam.

12 exams, written in 6 days. It was tough. But I did it. On the last day, I went through all the question papers. I added up the marks of the questions, I knew I wrote well. I got a total score of 380 out of 600 marks. I knew I would get first class.
Maria came to my room in the evening
“Nina, join the tailoring class at the Paikadas college. If you join now, you don’t have to show the SSLC marks card, Later, even if you fail the SSLC exam, because you have already joined their course, they will allow you to continue”
“I am not interested Maria”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to”
“So you plan to waste your 2 months holidays?”
“Ofcourse. You did the same, so why can’t I do it?”
“Because, I learned from my mistake, so you don’t have to make the same mistake”
“I am sorry Maria, This is my life, I decide how it goes”
“You are dumb and lazy”
“Yes, I am, and you can’t do anything about it. So accept it”
I knew Maria was mad, but I also knew, there is nothing she can do.

In the evening, when Amma came back from work, I heard Maria trying to convince Amma to send me for tailoring classes.
“I don’t want to go Amma” I yelled
“So what are you going to do during your holidays?” Amma asked
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn english. Pre degree is taught in english and I only knew to speak one sentence in English. ‘My name is Nina Thomas’. I had to learn to speak english.
“I am going to learn English Amma”
I could see Maria closing her mouth and chuckling.
“You learning English? You don’t even know to say your own name in english”
I knew how to say my own name in english, So I ignored Maria. I don’t need her approval for anything anyway.

The next morning, I went to the children’s library to borrow the books. I went to the english section. There were lots of books. I decided to start my reading with picture books. The first book I borrowed was the jungle book.
When I came back from the library, Maria was home. She saw the book in my hand
“You reading jungle book? For heaven’s sake, you are 15 years old Nina. Jungle book is for little kids. You don’t even know what book you want to borrow? bodoh(stupid)!!”
Maria and my younger sisters were laughing at me. I was angry at being mocked, but I had to learn english and there was no other way. I went to my room and closed the door. Word by word I read my first english story book. I didn’t understand anything. I read again, and again. I was angry with myself because I didn’t understand anything in that book. I thought of giving up. Then I remembered how I learned Malayalam. If I could learn Malayalam, I was sure I could learn english. I read the book again, by the 7th attempt I could understand a bit. By the end of one month, I was able to read short stories.

On Saturday, I went for the choir practice. Anju was waiting for me at the entrance
“Did you know?” She asked me
“Know what?”
“Biju has been debarred from writing his pre-degree exam”
“What? Why?” I couldn’t believe my ears.
“He tried to copy and was caught by the invigillator. He can’t write the exam for another 3 years. His parents are so mad at him, I heard that, they beat him a lot.”
6 months ago, I waited for this moment, I had hoped that he would suffer. When I asked mother Mary to make him fail the exam, I didn’t think of the consequences. I prayed for someone’s downfall. I should have never done that. Because of me, Biju never managed to do engineering.

I carried this burden for the last 20 years. I am sorry, I prayed that you fail. I never thought it would bring this much misery to you. I was angry at that time, but that just doesn’t justify my actions. I am truly sorry.

one parker pen

“Nina, see, My mother bought me a new pen”. Alice was waiting for me as I entered the classroom.
“Why do you need a new pen?” I asked her, I know her mother has no money and they are really struggling financially.
“To write the SSLC exam. You can’t write the exam using ball point pen, you need ink pen. My mother sold her earrings yesterday and bought me a new parker pen. She told me, Study well and get a good job and then buy her a new set of earrings”
“How much did it cost?”
“50 Rs. It was very expensive. The uncle who works at the shop told me the nib is coated with real gold!”
“But that is really expensive, By the way, the exam is another 2 months away, why did you buy the pen now?”
“So that I can get used to writing with the new pen.”
“Oh, like that ah!”
“Do you want to try my pen?” She asked me
I took the pen from her hand. I opened the gold colour cap slowly. I didn’t want to drop it and break the nib.
“See the gold?”Alice pointed to the tip of the nib.
True enough, it was gold.
I wrote Nina Thomas on my maths work book. Alice has filled the pen with blue ink. It was a really good pen.
“Nice pen” I told her
“Aren’t you going to buy one too?”
“I will ask Amma today”

Amma and Maria were sitting down on the veranda when I reached home.
“Amma, I need an ink pen. Apparently, you have to write the exam using ink pen, not ball point pen”
“But you don’t have to worry Nina, it is only for those who has something to write. You know nothing anyway” Maria spoke
“What is wrong with you? Why are you picking on me like this?”
“I am not picking on you. I am telling the truth, the fact, the simple things! When did I pick on you? You have fertile imagination!”
“You took all the pens Appa got the last time he was here, Why don’t you send me one of it”
“I can’t”
“What do you mean you can’t? It only cost less than 10 Rs to send it by post”
“I can’t Nina”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t have the pens anymore”
“Huh? There were atleast 20 pens. You can’t finish them all!”
“I gave the pens to my friends. They all wanted a foreign pen”
“Y0u mean, you took the pens from our house to give it to your friends? Have you no shame Maria? You didn’t even give me a pen that my father brought, and you could just distribute it to your friends?”
Maria just shrugged her shoulders and I looked at Amma. Does she even see how unfair all these are.
“Nina go and bring me my wallet. I don’t want you to fail your SSLC just because you don’t have an ink pen!” Amma spoke
I took her hand bag from the top of the fridge and took the brown leather wallet out and gave it to Amma. She gave me 5 Rs.
“5Rs? What pen can I buy with 5 Rs? Parker pen costs 50Rs “
“Parker pen? Oh, Kochumaharani can’t write with an ordinary pen eh? She needs a parker pen eh? Tell you what, when you become a Doctor, you can buy your own parker pen” Amma was laughing and Maria too joined her

I took the money from her hand and walked out. As I reached the main gate, I saw Akashavani’s son coming out of their house. He smiled at me
“Where are you going Nina?”
“Jacob’s store”
“To buy what?”
“A new ink pen”
“New pen? So fast you spoiled all your pens? You know something, you guys are so careless. I still have the parker pen your father gave me. See?” He took the brown pen with the golden cap out of his pocket and showed me.
I didn’t know what to tell him. What should I tell him? That my family is wierd? Or that I am the most unluckiest person on planet earth?


“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
Kannerninnoru arattu
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.


‘Nina, Biju is looking at you’. Anju wrote in a piece of paper and passed it to me. We are not allowed to speak during the church service, so writing messages to each other is the only way.
I slowly looked over my song book and found Biju looking at me. I started to blush and I quickly looked down, so that he won’t see me blushing.
All I ever wanted in my life was someone to just love me and I was so happy, I finally found someone. Biju is a good student, comes from a good family, he has a wonderful mother. I dreamed of a life with Biju, I knew deep in my heart that his mother would consider me as a daughter. I would finally find the love of a mother, not a mother-in law. I was also sure that, there wouldn’t be any mother in law, daughter in law fights, As I intend to love Biju’s mother, like the way a mother should be loved. I wanted a mother, because I already have a mother in law at my house.
That day after the service, the priest announced the winner for the top SSLC* scorer at the church.
“This years winner is Ancymol” Priest announced
“Ancymol? Who is Ancymol? Isn’t your sister the top scorer?” I asked Anju
“No Nina, Ancymol scored 438 marks, 8 marks more than my sister”
“But who is this Ancymol? I have never seen her before at the church!”
“Her parents used to attend the service 5 years ago, now they attend the Pentecost church” Anju replied
“Then how come, she gets the award and not your sister?”
“Ancymol’s parents are still members of our church, so the committee decided to give her the award”
“That is so unfair Anju. Your sister attend the church every week and she should be given the award”
“I know, but there is nothing we can do, church committee is decision is final!” Anju was upset. So was I.

When I reached home, my heart was on fire. I was in love. I quickly went to my room and found a piece of paper. I wrote Biju and Nina at the bottom. I wanted to play the FLAME game. I struck out the common letter ‘i’ and counted the rest of the letters. There were total of 6 letters. First went the F of the FLAME, then went the A, then went the L. There was only the M and the E. E for enemy and M for Marriage. I prayed to Parumala Thirumeni(jacobite saint).
‘Please Parumal Thirumeni(jacobite saint), Don’t let me get the E. I want the M.’
I also said Mother Mary Novena and without even breathing I counted the the number 6 and E of the FLAME was out. I could feel myself floating in happiness. I got M for marriage. It certainly is a sign from God, that Biju and I will finally get married.
I blackened out the names on the paper and tore the piece of paper in to tiny bits. I didn’t want my mother to have a slightest idea about Biju.

I was dreaming about a happy life, husband and wife living peacefully, without fighting. I hoped Biju would like lots of children, I even dreamed of the suitable names for our children. I thought and thought and finally decided to name my kids after my favourite hero. I will name my son Pappu and the girl will be named Lakshmi. I wondered what everyone would say, If they know that I am naming my Christian children, Hindu names. I imagined Amma’s lips, curving and going to one side.
“Pappu? You name my grandson Pappu? How dare you? You will not call my grandson such stupid names”
I imagined Biju supporting me and standing up to my mother and telling her off.
“Amma, We will decide what name we give our children. Not you”
I didn’t want to imagine the rest of the scene. I was too scared.

Few weeks later, after the sunday service, I was standing with all the girls waiting for Achakuttichayan to start the choir practice.
“Nina, how is Biju?” Emily asked me
“How do I know?” I answered
“Liar!, everyone knows you and Biju are an ‘item'”
“No way. I don’t like him and I don’t even speak to him. So stop speaking nonsense”. I had to lie, if I ever said that I like Biju, then the news will spread like wildfire and Amma would know and I would be killed. I have to pretend that I hate Biju.
“Yeah Yeah. I always see you and Biju looking at each other, So please don’t lie”
Aiyyah, Why should I look at that monkey? He looks so ugly anyway. There are better looking guys around.”
“Nina, Nina” I heard Anju calling me
“What?” I turned around and looked at her
“Come here” She called me
I walked to where she was standing
“What is it? Why are you calling me?”
“Biju’s mother wants to see you. She is waiting for you near the side door”
“What? Why?” My heart was beating too fast. Why does Biju’s mother want to see me?
“I don’t know, hurry up and go and and speak to her”
As I walked towards the side door, Achakuttichayan was walking inside. He was going to start the choir practice
“Nina, where are you going?” He asked me
“I will be back in a minute Achakuttichaya”
I quickly ran outside. Biju’s mother was standing outside. Biju was standing a little far away near the cassurina tree. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me. I was so scared
“Are you Nina?” she asked me
“Yes aunty”
“Don’t you have anything esle to do in life?” She asked me
“Huh?” I looked at her stunned
“Ain’t you ashamed of yourself? You are only 14 years old and you are going after boys already?”
“I am not going after any boys” I was mad at her
“Really, that is why everyone in the choir is speaking about you and my son. It takes two hands to clap. My son is going to do engineering. After that, he will follow my brother and go to America. I am not going to let him waste his life with a stupid, ugly girl like you. I have heard enough about your mother, so you are planning to follow her footstep eh? Ofcourse you can do what you want with your life. But leave my son alone. He has a bright future. Do you understand that? If I ever here another word about you and my son, I will come to your house and speak with your mother. Do you understand that?”
I didn’t bother to respond
She huffed and walked to where Biju was standing and together they walked out of the church.
I could hear the choir singing. But somehow I couldn’t walk back. I leaned on the door and I asked the God
“Why? Why do you do this to me? What have I done to you? Don’t I pray everyday? Don’t I observe the lent each year? Don’t I take care of my family? What more do you want me to do? I hate you God. I hate Jesus. I hate my life.
I walked out of the church slowly. I knew Achakuttichayan will scold me next saturday for skipping today’s practice. He can go to hell as well.
As I walked home, I only thought about revenge. Biju should have told his mother, it is he who was after me. I never went after him. I will teach him a lesson. I had almost reached the parade ground. I turened around and walked back towards the catholic church. It was hot and I was tired. I was determined.
When I reached the shrine of Mary in front of the BCM college, I stopped.
I climbed the steps and looked at mother Mary and I prayed
“I have often come to you like a daughter comes to her mother. You know what happend today. I was scolded and cursed for no fault of mine. I don’t mind being called stupid and ugly. But I am not like my mother. Mother Mary, you know that too. I want you to help me. I want Biju to fail his exams. If his mother thinks, her son is the smartest on earth, I want her to learn a lesson. Please mother Mary, please make Biju fail his exams”
I was happy. Extremely happy knowing that God and mother Mary will take vengeance on my behalf.
SSLC:Secondary school leaving certificate



25 years ago, my Ammachi told me, whatever happens or where ever you are, you will always be a malayalee and I argued with her, saying that I am not a malayalee. I loved to rub it in to her that I hold a different passport. She told me, “Mark my word, you will always be a malayalee. You will return here!”

‘Here’ she meant was Chengannur house. Although I haven’t been to Chengannur for so long, I am beginning to understand what my grandmother told me many moons ago. Every onam, I go back. I close my eyes and I see a little girl in a Kasavu pavada, begging Kutten
“Kutten Chetta, please tie the unjal (swing) for me”.
Ammachi wouldn’t give money to buy new rope to make the swing. So kutten and I would hide near the cattle shed, the moment Ammachi turned her back, we would run to the well, grab the rope (that is tied to the bucket to draw the water from the well) and run all the way to the jackfruit tree, often Ammachi would hear the sound of the bucket falling down and would chase us, telling us
“what am I going to do, if you take the rope? How will I draw the water? How will I cook the sadya? Give me the rope!.”
“No way” I would run even faster
She would then turn around saying,”ok, you don’t want the sadya, It is fine with me. I am not struggling to make sadya for anyone.
I used to get all stressed up thinking about not having a sadya on onam day and Kutten will signal to me and say
“Don’t worry, that is all pulu..(lies). There is no way, your Ammachi not going to make any sadya. Your Ammachi will find a way to draw the water from the well.”

After the swing is tied, Kutten would cut the base part of the coconut leaf and shape that in to a seat, so I can sit comfortably on the swing. I always begged Kutten to help me push on the swing and sometimes Kutten would push me so high, I felt I could almost touch the leaves on the tree.
After a while when he gets tired Kutten would say”Athey, Kochumaharani I have bettter things to do.” And he will walk off.

After struggling along for a little while on the swing, I often get bored. I would then sneak in to the kitchen, and grab the banana chips that Ammachi had just fried. Ammachi ofcourse had thousand eyes.
“How dare you steal the chips, put it back in the container” She would scream.
Before Ammachi could reach me, I would try to stuff my mouth with the chips and Ammachi would scream
“just like your father. Can’t wait till the sadya.” She would forcefully open my hands and take the rest of the chips from my hand and put it back in the container.
“Run along Now, If I see you in the kitchen again, I will break your leg”
The above dialogue often was followed by what I was extremely good at. I, her grand daughter would stick my tongue at her and run.
I have often heard her saying to Chakki”Whoever is destined to marry that child is going to be in trouble. I am sure she would stick her tongue at him as well. kali kala vaibhavam!”

The best part of the onam day was the sadya. I was told to leave a small portion of the food in my leaf for the Mahabeli. I didn’t want to, not my yummy chips or the pineapple pachadi or for that matter even the Kalan. So I always left the Thoran (vege) for the Mahabali, because I never liked it. Fortunately Ammachi didn’t know that time that I didn’t like the thoran that is why(I was so generous) Mahabeli got almost all of it.

At the end of sadya, I never had any space left in my tummy for the payasam (dessert). It was such a disappointment, not being able to drink the payasam and watching all the shapattu ramans ( my uncles and aunts) of our house finishing the payasam.

The best part was yet to come. After the lunch, I liked to lay down on the parapet wall, as the gentle harvest breeze was soothing to my over working, stuffed to the brim, tummy. Ammachi too would come and sit on the wall, leaning on the pillar and fanning herself with an old news paper. Without even asking her, I would rest my head on her lap and beg her to tell me the onam story. Then Ammachi would tell me the story of what onam is all about. How Mahabeli lost everything he has, because the gods in heaven was jealous of him. She used to tell me
“You can never be too good, for the god’s in heaven won’t let you”.
And I as I type this message, I wonder if what she told me was true..

Here is wishing all of you a wonderful onam, where ever you are…

onam vannalum
unni pirannalum
koranu kumbilil Kanji

Do I or Do I not?

I stood near my window waiting for Amma. I was so angry with her. How dare she makes some stranger calls me Ninamol? Doesn’t she know I am my father’s daughter.Or that I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter? I kept looking at the gate and at the clock. It was going to be 8pm. Where is my mother? How can she just disappear like that, leaving 3 girls alone at home?
I switched on the corner light. So she won’t walk in the darkness. Within minutes 1000’s of rain flies started coming towards the light.
“Liza, shut the doors and windows. There are rain flies outside. They will all follow the light and come inside. Make sure you keep something at the bottom of the door in your bedroom, so the flies won’t see the light through that”

I was just going to check all the windows and doors and I heard the sound of the gate being opened and I watched my mother entering the house. When I saw her my anger increased a 100 fold. My heart was beating out of control.I clenched my teeth to control my temper. I was waiting for this moment. I was waiting to give it back to Amma for all the times she hurt me.
From the distance I could see that she was holding something in her hand. As she reached the corner light, I saw her struggling with a big brown paper bag of rice and another newspaper wrapped bundle of bananas. I watched Amma changing the items in her hand. She kept the rice packet in the crook of her left hand and the bananas on top of the rice packet, so she could stretch her right arm. Suddelnly the packet of bananas dropped out from the top of the rice packet. At that very moment my hatred an anger for my mother vanished. My poor mother is struggling to raise 4 daughters alone in a country far away from her birth. She only has me. I ran out of the house and met my mother half way between the gate and the courtyard. When I reached Amma, she was bending down and placing the bananas back in the newspaper. I helped her to wrap it back.
Aiyya, I stood near the street light and checked and made sure all the bananas are good before I bought it from the night trader. Now you see, they all fell down and are squashed. Tomorrow, each of you will not eat it by saying that it is spoiled and rotten!”
“Never mind Amma, Give me one of the bags, I will help you carry it”
“You carry the bananas. The rice packet is too heavy for you”

That evening when I went to bed, I had no idea, what is right and what is wrong. What my mother is doing would certainly be wrong. But how do I tell her that? Hasn’t she been suffering that last 20 years with my mad father? How can I tell my mother what to do, when she didn’t even have a moment of peace and happiness with my dad? I wanted to be honest and righteous. Both won’t work in my house. There is no honesty or righteousness, when you are stuck in the sticky web of a marriage that should have never allowed to happen. Of all the people on planet earth,my parents chose each other. And now I am stuck right in the middle.

When I came back from school Amma looked at me. A look that spoke a 1000 words. She needed answers from me, but she didn’t have a single question. I had questions for her, but I didn’t ask her, because I knew the answers as well.
“How was school Nina?”
“Oh good Amma. I managed to get all the answers right for the biology class exam. But maths!” I shook my head and told her”Maths not good. Aleyamma teacher told me, I have all the qualifications to be the next women prime minister of India”
“Why did she say like that?” Amma asked me
“Well, Apparently only Nina Thomas can still write 1+1=1 and 1×1=2. She says that is the most important criteria to be a prime minister.”
Amma was laughing. “Your father and your sisters are so good in maths. How come you still struggle?”
It was at the tip of my mouth to tell her’ may be Appa isn’t my father?’. I quickly bit my tongue so I won’t speak.
“I think may be it is a good idea for you to go for maths tuition”
“True Amma, I think I need help with maths”
“There is a pattaru(tamil brahmin) maths teacher near the Thirunakkara temple. Why don’t you meet me tomorrow at my work place? We will go together and see him”
“Ok Amma”