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”
“ok Amma”
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?”
“I tried”
“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”
“what kind?”
“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.

17 thoughts on “promises

  1. Dear Ms.Nina,
    Contrary to many comments, I have to tell that you were more emotional than sensible. Merit per se is nothing, unless complemented by efficacious selling in this world. So far, from your blog, I have to tell you that you were impractical and a failure to sell yourself successfully to your mom and sisters.

    That is what is manifested by the statement of your younger sister’s “Maria is the best sister…”

    To practise “nishkama karmam” we are not yogis.
    Said that, if you were happy doing that, my comments do not hold.

    Thanks for the space.

    Opinions are like @$$holes, everybody has one, but none wants to have a look at the other’s.

  2. With due apologies to Sara,
    A word to @ anonymous
    Whether he/she like it or not:-

    As a regular reader and yet a rare commenter, I need to point out to you that you have every right to comment in her post what ever your opinion with out fright, because it is a blog open to public and so subject to opinions expressed…
    … at the same; she also has the right to know the identity of the person who comments.

    With out an identity, your comments doesn’t hold water, let me quote your own words it doesn’t have the necessary ‘merit per se’

    No pun intended to any, by this remark.

    Sara,sorry for us using so much of your space.

  3. i think you were trying be independent when you went back home and got the Re.1. It helps a lot and you dont have to bow before anyone later. But sometimes that shows detachment to people who care as well,,

    so it has been 8 years since you went to kerala and had chakka chips!

  4. What happened to Maria? Hope she is safe.
    You are the perfect sis anyone could dream of. Mother, Chechi – all rolled into one. And at so tender an age. But I think Sally & Liza hardly realised this

  5. Being honest with family helps. Doing something for maria, (withholding the truth) doesnt pay off, as in you should have bought the clips and tols them that you bought it.

    When we try to act according to others expectations, we forget ourselves.

    Though you made your sisters happy.

  6. Hi Nina, in my opi you did not do wrong; not many people wud have done such a caring and unselfish act if they were in yur place. Maybe yu wanted to give your sisters what you neva got from your elder sis.

    To @ anonymous:
    – human beings always have emotions otherwise we wud be robots.
    – Nina was not selling herself to her folks, just trying to be a sis, daughter
    – (even in this kaliyug) we are all born yogis, and it is our karma (swarthi or nishkama) that decides whether we remain yogis or not.

  7. Nina is growing up!
    You were always caring but unfortunately, your sisters didnt see it. Good deeds so often go unnoticed. I think you should have let them know you bought the hairclips. Unintentionally, you supported your mother and maria’s behaviour.

    Im wondering what happened to Maria.

  8. Anon: “tasmad asaktah satatam
    karyam karma samacara
    asakto hy acaran karma
    param apnoti purusah” Gita 3:19..
    When Krishna spoke To Arjuna about Nishkama karma, he didn’t mean it to be taken the way you have selfless work/desireless karma.
    There is something beyond attaining perfection or spirituality..That is to do your duty irrelevant of the out come.
    Each of us are send here to do our duty, In Arjuna’s case, it was to fight Kauravas,part of his family. Arjuna could have walked away, but destiny was such that, he was meant to fight the battle.
    I could have walked away, or like you suggested, sold me to my family in a different way..but destiny was never in my hand.. I can only do my duty… the results are never in my hand and it is futile to think that it would be otherwise.

    madhavankutty: true

    Sujit: I had to. I was all they had

    Visithra:No.. they never knew

    jac: !

    Rocksea: Chakka varuthathu thinnan kothi avunnu!

    Techno: I had to be all that…because my sisters only had me

    Alex: I guess, I didn’t want my ssters to hate Maria. May be because, we only had each other.. I knew me.. that whatever happens, Maria will always have my support. I wanted to ensure that, Maria also had my younger sisters support.

    Dumela: I know what I did and I know I did the right thing. I was there for my sisters

    Vaish: My mother.. she was completely unbelievable. She trusted that idiot more than anything. She just couldn’t open her eyes and see things.. even to this day!

    Hope and love: I know..

    Thanu: I saw the pics in Beks and Ro’s blog and posted the link here

    Just me: 2 reasons
    1: the excitement wouldn’t have been the same.. if Nina bought it from ladies corner, kottayam than Maria buying it from Commercial street bangalore
    2. If they knew, I bought, then they would hate my sister. “Nina could buy the clips, why didn’t Maria do it?”

  9. this is a late comment but I have to say this no matter what…
    Mr.Anon who choses to remain anonymous.I second what Sarah and Jac has to say here.You are allowed free expression in here.What you say is upto you…
    BUT we are not brought here to prove ourselves to anyone in this world- be it parent,sister…Nobody and I mean NOBODY can judge us to be a failure or a success.We are here to do justice to ourselves.
    And we are none the better to judge others actions.

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