I was ironing my sister’s school uniform in the morning. Amma was in the room changing her clothes.
“Nina, it is almost 2 months, when is Maria going to send me new hair clips?” Sally asked me.
“Oh Sally, she will send. May be she is busy, may be she didn’t have time to go out shopping. I am sure she will send it soon”
“I am tired of waiting Nina. My friends all call me a liar. I told them 2 months ago that I am going to get new hair clips. They now call me, Miss pulu (liar)”
“Did you see that?” I pointed my hand and showed my sister the big jackfruit tree in Akashavani’s property through the window
“See what?” Sally looked at the tree and at me
“You didn’t see the Mynah? There were 2 Mynahs. If you see 2 of them, then you will get a letter. So that means, you will get a letter from Maria today”
“Where? I don’t see any Mynah” Sally was desperately trying to look for the non existent birds.
“I think you need to get your eyes tested. How can you not see the birds that are sitting on the right edge of that big branch?”
Sally turned to look at me to ask “Where?”
“Aiyyah, see ! it just flew away. You missed it. Ask Amma if you don’t beleive me.
“Amma did you see the birds?” Sally asked Amma
I quickly winked at Amma.
“Yes Sally, I saw the birds flying away. There were two of them”
“See! Now do you believe me?” I asked my baby sister.”Here, give this shirt to Liza and go get dressed quickly.”
I could hear Sally talking excitedly to Liza
“Liza, Nina and I saw 2 Mynahs. That meand, today we will get Maria’s letter. Tomorrow I will show Anjali my brand new hairclips. Oh I can’t wait for tomorrow”
I turned around and whispered to Amma
“I need some money. I will buy the clips from Ladies corner shop.”
“Take the money from my hand bag”
I was getting worried about Maria. It is almost 2 months since she left. She hasn’t called or send a letter. Maria can make free phone call from ‘his’ office. That is one of the perks ‘he’ gets being a senior government official. Why hasn’t she done that?
I wanted to write a letter to Maria and remind her of all the promises she made. I wanted to ask her, what happend to the promise of giving Amma her first salary? Didn’t she say, she owed all her success to Amma and there is no better way than to gift Amma the first month pay?
“Amma, can I have Maria’s address?” I asked
“Nina. I don’t have her address”
I looked at my mother to see if she really meant what she said. Amma saw me staring at her.
“Nina, Acha arranged accomodation for Maria. I wanted Maria to stay in the YWCA hostel. Acha said, Maria will get lonely, so , he arranged a paying guest accomodation for her with some Malayalee family in Ulsoor.”
“Why don’t you call him and ask him for her address?”
“What do you mean, you tried? Why doesn’t he give you the address?”
“I have been trying to speak to him since your sister left. Apparently he is attending some conference in Delhi. But his secratary promised me she will pass on the message, the moment he comes back”
I had to sit down somewhere. I switched off the iron and went outside to sit on the easy chair. My heart fealt so heavy and I was so angry. My family was disintegrating in to unrecognizable pieces. Who would believe, what is happening to my family? Who would believe that my uncle took my sister away? I felt so helpless. There was nothing I could do. There was no one I could ask for help.
I hated my father that moment. If he did his job as a father, none of this would have happend. Why is everyone so selfish in my family?
“May be Acha must have gone to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister, remember he was talking about the new position they were offering him?” Amma spoke as though she wanted to convince me of something.
‘for 2 months?’ I had the urge to get up from the chair and go and slap my mother. Stupid woman, she still trust that ‘idiot’. When is she going to wake up?
I so very badly wanted to tell Amma, she is a world class idiot. I wanted to tell Amma, each time she phoned him, ‘he’ would have been standing right next to his secratary and telling her exactly what to say. I wanted to tell Amma, she destroyed Maria’s life. I hated my mother too. Why did she had to bring ‘him’ in to our life? But there was no point going after my mother, when she is still holding on to old, torn silk sarees.
I took 2 ten Rs notes from Amma’s hand bag and walked to Ladies corner shop.
“Uncle do you have any butterfly hair clip?” I asked the owner of the shop
“Aha, who is this? Nina, Where have you been? Why haven’t you come to the church all these days? By the way, you still haven’t given us a treat for scoring such good marks for SSLC”
I smiled at him. If he knew I scored the highest marks in the church, then he should have stood up for me. He didn’t and I don’t owe him an apology or a treat.
“Uncle I am in a hurry, Do you have any butterfly hair clips with pink stones in it”
“I have these”, he took the red plastic box from inside the shelf and kept it on the counter. I watched him going through the covers and finally he pulled out two clips. “These are from Dubai, It is the latest fashion”
I took the clips from his hand. First thin I noticed was the price tag. 7.50/piece.
‘goodness, that is expensive’. I thought. The clips were beautiful, with baby pink net material for the wings. Body of the butterfly too was made of net material rolled with gold thread holding it in place.
“Don’t you have anything cheaper?” I asked the owner
“I have these” he showed me oridnary slides in different shades
“Not these, I want butterfly shape”
“No Nina, I only have these 2 slides” He pointed to the ones on the table that costs 7.50 each.
“I will take them. I also want a pencil case”
“Any kind that cost less than 5 Rs”
I watched him going to the other side of the shop and digging through the boxes. he came back holding a mickey mouse pencil case.
“This is the cheapest one I have. It is 6 Rs”
“Unlce, I only have 20 Rs. Keep this here. Don’t sell it to anyone. I will run home and get 1 Rs”
“No need Nina, pay me 20 Rs. It is ok”
“No. I will come now”
I walked back home quickly and took 1 Rs from my pencil case and walked back all the way to the shop. As I walked past the lawyers office near the parade ground, past the church, past the saw mill and the S.Koder shop, I tried to think what is worng with me. Why couldn’t I take the stuff, when the shop keeper told me, it is ok. I didn’t understand my own quirkiness.
I wrapped the gifts and placed them in a brown envelope and wrote my sisters name and our address on the cover. I took an old used stamp from my stamp collection and stuck it on the envelope and placed the envelope in the mail box. I had Chemistry practicals that morning. I knew I would get in to trouble for skipping the class. But as I stood leaning on the gate for support, I wondered, how many more promises do I have to honour on behalf of my family members? My future looked very scary, more scarier than Sr Agnes, my dreaded chemistry teacher. I went back inside and laid down on my bed. I wanted to sleep, because only in my sleep I was safe from my worries.
I woke up hearing the excited laughter from my youngest sisters
“Maria send hair clips. She kept her word. I love Maria. She is the best sister in the whole world” Sally was screaming
I placed the pillow on my head, lest I would go mad and scream.