“Why what Ammachi?” I asked her.
she didn’t respond and I lifted my head from her shoulder and looked at her. Ammachi was looking straight ahead. She spoke slowly
“We have enough land to sustain another 3 generations. We have a house. Actually we have everything except salt here. Why does your father have to work under someone, when he is the boss here? I don’t get it Nina. First he said he wanted to study, so I let him, then he wanted to work in the city, I let him, then he wanted to travel, I let him. He always said he is following his dreams. I didn’t want to be the one who stood in his way, so I let him do what he wants. Do you think he is still following his dreams Nina?”
I thought about it. Appa always said, he is working to save money for our dowry. He never said anything about his dreams. I didn’t know my father too had dreams. I felt so stupid, because I knew nothing about anyone. Somehow I never thought about anyone else’s dreams. I was only bothered about me.
“I don’t know Ammachi. I really don’t know.”
“No Nina, he stopped dreaming long ago. He is now following excuses. Better house, better car, betterr this and better that. He is blind to see that, we have the best here”.
I leaned on her shoulder thinking of all that Ammachi said. In front of me there was a line of ants, each following the one ahead of him. I used my toe and drew a line across the ants’ path and watched them running helter skelter, within seconds they formed a new line. I was about to draw another line with my big toe
Ammachi tapped me on my leg and scolded
“Stop it Nina. Don’t disturb the Indra’s”
“Indira? Who? The prime minister Indira Gandhi? She died 5 years ago! you should read newspaper!.”
Ammachi shook her head and which ofcourse is the sign that, I am an idiot.
“What Indira are you talking about Ammachi?”
“Oh Nina, when are you ever going to learn all these?”
“Stop scolding me and start telling me then” I was irritated with Ammachi. I don’t like to be an idiot!
“Long ago, a demon swallowed every drop of water on earth. There was a huge drought and everything was dying. Lord Indra had to save the world. He slew the demon with thunderbolts and water gushed out from the belly of the demon. Indra was proud of his achievements, He felt he is mighty and powerful and he decided to build a mighty palace, befitting the mighty God that he is. He called Vishwakarman( divine architect) and asked him to build a palace for him. Each time Vishwakarman build something, Indra would change the plan, he always wanted something bigger and better. Vishwakarman was getting tired and he went to Brahma the creator and begged him to help him. Brahma went to Lord Vishnu for help. The next day a boy came to Indra’s palace and asked to meet the Lord. Indra asked him,
“What brings you here my dear boy?”
The boy replied” I heard that you are building a palace,like no other Indra before you ever built”
Indra was taken aback, because he only knew one Indra and that was himself.
So he asked the boy” How many other Indra’s have you known?”
The boy replied, “you can count the stars in the sky, or the grains of sand in the beach, but you will never count the number of Indra’s. Each time Brahma the creator openes his eyes, the world comes in to being and when he closes his eyes, the world goes out of being. How many Brahma’s are there in this galaxy and the next and the one after that? You will never know!”
“Hmm” I mumbled. “What about the ants?” I asked Ammachi
“Patience Nina!” Ammachi hushed me
“Just as the boy and Indra was speaking an army of ants marched by them on the floor and seeing the ants the boy laughed.
“why are you laughing?” Indra asked the boy
“These ants were all Indra’s one time, by virtue of the good deeds, they ascended to the ranks of Gods and then they use thunderbolt to kill an adversary and think they are smart only to return to the lowest form, to go through the rebirth cycle all over again!”
“hmmm” I nodded
“Even Lord Indra wanted bigger and better palace and even Lord Indra didn’t get it Nina”
“Hmm” I mumbled again
I adjusted my head on her shoulder and watched the ants marching by. They must be moving their food to higher ground as they know it will rain soon. I thought of telling Ammachi, that I know it will rain soon, by watching the ants scurrying. But I knew in my heart that, She knew lots more than I will ever..
“What about you Nina? What are you planning to do after pre-degree?”
“I want to do medicine Ammachi”
“That is my dream Ammachi. That is why!”
“What exactly is your dream Nina?”
“I want to study, become a famous doctor, work in a hospital, save lives, earn tons of money, build a nice big house and own a nice car. Simple dreams Ammachi.. Very simple dreams”
“You are so wrong Nina. So very wrong!”
“What do you mean?”
“You are trying to swim upstream Nina!”
“No Ammachi, I am not. I have the brain to do it. I can be what I want to be. You told me that.”
“Of course you can Nina. I never doubted that. But what price are you going to pay Nina?”
“There is no price to pay Ammachi. I just have to study.”
“You don’t get it Nina, do you?”
“No Ammachi, I don’t understand what you are saying”
“You can always swim upstrem Nina.. You can swim against the currents. But you must remember, one day it will tire you out”
” No Ammachi you are wrong.” I could see my future, I could see the Dr. Nina Thomas, I could see me walking in the hospital wearing a white coat and saving lives. There was nothing that would tire me out. Absolutely nothing.
“I hope I am wrong Nina. Come let us go home”
As we walked together, I had an uneasy feeling in my heart. Am I doing the right thing? I like Chengannur house, but I couldn’t see myself living there. I couldn’t imagine living without electricity. What is life without buniad and chitrahar(TV programs)? I don’t want my kids to go to a kudipallikkoodam(schools for the poor villagers without any facilities). I did hear a little voice at the back of my head that said, even your father went to a kudipallikkodam. I shut the voice out. Just because my father did well, didn’t mean that everyone else could and would!. I couldn’t live in Chengannur house. There was a world out side chengannur, waiting for me to conquer. I had no intention of wasting my life in Chengannur. I wanted to live my dreams! And I knew I will.