“What is wrong with you Maria? Has the devil got in to you?” Amma asked her, the look of absolute bewilderment was on her face.
“Devil? You are the devil. You are the root cause of all the troubles in this family”
How many times, I have hid in the banana thicket and promised myself that one day I will tell Amma that she is the problem in our house, yet when Maria told the same thing that I always wanted to tell Amma and when I saw the pain in Amma’s eyes, I regretted even thinking about vengeance.
“What have I done to you Maria? Have I not been there for you all these years? Have I not gone back to your father and suffered all his abuses, so you will have a good future?I was earning enough money to sustain both of us, wasn’t I? I wanted you to have a father, that is why even when your father threw us both out, I still went back. I did all this for you Maria! How can you now turn around and speak like this to me?” tears were rolling down my mother’s cheeks
“Oh, don’t try your Hindi movie tactics. you are an evil woman. You think, I will fall for your tears? They are crocodile tears!”
I watched my mother sadly turning away from Maria and going to the kitchen sink to wash her face. She opened the tap and let the water run. Water was gushing out and falling on to the cemented sink and splashing all over.
“Why are you running away woman? For the first time in your life, why aren’t you talking? You used to have thousand tongues to fight with my father, now what happend? Why? is the guilty consciousness pricking your mind?”
Amma was leaning on the kitchen sink for support and her body was getting wet. I looked at Maria. She had a victorious smile on her face. I didn’t understand why she was so happy. I didn’t understand how she could have forgotten all that Amma did for her.
“I will make you suffer for all that you did to me, woman”
‘woman?’ That is the second time Maria called Amma, Woman.How could she call Amma woman? What has Amma done so badly that Maria refused to call her Amma anymore?
I walked to the sink to shut the tap.
“Get lost Nina” Amma yelled at me. She turned the tap on, this time turned it fully. Now even the floor was getting wet.
I remembered Ammachi’s favourite saying
odicha lekkillenkil moothammakkirunnottey(it is easy to blame someone else, when things aren’t going the way one expected). I ignored Amma’s stubborness.
My sisters were standing near the dining table. I wanted to go and hold them. But I was also scared to leave Amma and Maria alone. I was scared of one of them killing the other. Both have nothing to lose. I stood there for what felt like an eternity. The only sound was the annoying sound of water falling on to the hard cemeneted surface and splashing. I so very badly wanted to shut it off as the sound felt like something was drilling my head. Eventually Maria went to her room and Amma went to her room to change her clothes. I ran and shut the tap. It felt so good, when I didn’t have to hear the noise anymore. I took the kitchen cloth and started to wipe the floor. I didn’t want Amma to slip on the wet floor and fall down.
“Don’t you have some common sense Nina? That cloth is used to wipe the dishes, not the floor”
“I know that Amma, but there is nothing else to wipe the floor. I didn’t want you to slip and fall down”
“As though you care. give me the towel” she snatched the towel from my hand and again turned on the tap. I had enough. I quickly walked out of the kitchen. There was no way I can make my mother understand that, I care for her, that I love her, through all her faults.
“Nina what is going on?” Sally asked me
“Get lost. Mind your own business” I snapped and walked to my room. I went and laid down on my bed.
Suddenly it occured to me’goodness, I screamed at my sister for no fault of hers’ I hated myself for being so mean. I got up quickly from the bed and ran to the living room. Tears were falling down my baby sister’s face. She is as confused as I am and I should be supporting her, not screaming at her.
“I am sorry Sally. I am so sorry for screaming at you. Please forgive me”
I tried to hug her and she pushed me away.
“If anyone gives me a kiss before I finish counting 5, then I will buy them a poompatta magazine. I started to count, 1, 2, 3, 4.. Liza’s face still looked sad and there was no way she was going to give me a kiss. 4.1, 18.104.22.168, before I reach 4.9, if I don’t get a kiss, then no pink colour surprise either.
“What pink colour surprise?” Sally asked
I ignored her question and started to count, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7.. 4.9 is coming soon and the pink colour surprise will go to Liza” I announced
“Ok, I will give you a kiss” Sally came close to me and gave me a kiss on my cheeks. I felt peaceful, knowing that she has forgiven me.
“What is the surprise?”
“You will get it tomorrow”
“Is it going to be like Ganapathy’s wedding?”
“Oh No, I promise, you will get your pink colour surprise tomorrow”
“What is my surprise Nina?”
“You have to wait till tomorrow!” I patted her cheeks and made a mental note to go to ladies corner shop and look for something in pink.
It was dinner time and there was no sign of any dinner. Amma went to lay down in her bed and Maria was in her room, which meant, I will have to make something for my sisters. I was scared to cook when Amma is around, she always find fault in everything I do. I checked the fridge to see, if there is anything that can be re-heated. There was nothing. Rice was not enough for all of us either. I decided to make wheat flour dosai. Carefully, I took the wheat flour from the cupboard. I placed a newspaper on the kitchen counter, over that I placed the bowl In that way, if I spill any flour, I can save it. I didn’t want to take too many utensils, lest Amma, screams at me for using all the kitchen equipments for making 5 dosais!. I made the dosais, cleaned the gas stove, kitchen counter and the sink, so Amma won’t scream at me.
“Liza, Sally come for dinner” I called
I went to Amma’s room to call her. Amma was lying down on her bed. She was staring at the empty space above her head. For a second I thought she is dead and my heart missed a beat. I quickly walked over to her, to see if she was breathing. When I saw her chest moving, I was overcome with such relief, that nothing felt that good the whole day. All I have in this world is my mother and all she has in this world is me. I promised myself, I will love her till the day she dies. She deserves to be loved.
I sat on the edge of her bed.
“Amma” I touched her arms slowly. Her skin was all wrinkled and tanned. I realised I don’t even remember when was the last time I touched my own mother.
“Amma” I called her again. I was tempter to touch her hands, to hold it and give her the assurances that I am there for her.
“hmm” she grunted, without even looking at me.
“I made dosais, please come and eat”
“I will eat later. You go and eat”
I looked at my mother’s face. A strand of hair was on her forehead. I was tempted to push that away, but I wasn’t sure, if she would scream at me for doing that. I wanted to lay down next to her, I wanted to tell her that I love her, that she will always have me.but sometimes, much as you try, words never come out. I got up, I passed Maria’s room. I stood outside the closed door, trying to think,if I should call my mean big sister for dinner. Then it occured to me, What ever happend, she is always my sister and I knocked the door gently
“Maria, dinner is ready”
“Get lost” She yelled back
“Ok” I walked to the dining room. My sisters were already eating the dosai I made. I looked around the table. We started of as a family of 6, now there is only 3 left. What kind of cruel game is God playing? I wondered.