“Did you try the coat at the shop? Does it fit?” Amma asked
“Yes” I replied
“Try it on and show me” Amma ordered
“Not now Amma. I will do it later”. I knew if the coat didn’t fit I am in for a big lecture.
“Only when you have your own children will you know” Amma shook her head sadly
“nah, nothing” she turned and walked away.
What was that all about? I didn’t understand and I didn’t bother to analyse the statement either.
Around 7 pm, I heard someone opening the main gate and I looked out. Appa was holding a news paper wrapped bundle and trying to close the gate. I ran outside
“How is Ammachi?” I asked him
Appa looked at me and for a second I was very worried. Ammachi must have told him my secret.
“Why do you ask Nina?” he asked
“Because she is my grandmother” I replied
“Really? Then how come none of you bothered to visit her all these years?”
Phew, I sighed. That was close.
“How come you didn’t visit your own mother all these years Appa?” I knew, he would get mad. But I had to ask him. That is the least I could do for my grandmother.
My father was angry, really angry. He started to point his fingers at me and yell. I was not at all afraid. Some how all that went through my head at that moment was
pandan nayude pallinu shouryam pande poley falikkunnillai (the good old dog has lost all his charisma!)
I watched Amma and my sisters coming out and standing near the veranda and watching the free show.
My father ranted on and on about how a woman should talk and behave. He warned me
“Your ‘Kottayam’ tongue will bring in only destruction. Don’t you dare try to be like your mother. You know what her words and actions have gotten for her. I am warning you Nina. Control your tongue”
I couldn’t care less. As far as I know, I asked a valid question and Appa had no answer. I watched my father huffing and going inside the house. Just as he reached where Amma was standing, he told Amma
“You are doing an excellent job and raising your daughters well” Amma didn’t respond. But she was staring at me and waiting for me. I wished I was boy. I could have just opened the gate and gone for a walk, till the situation cooled at home. I looked at the guava tree, hoping that there is one ripe fruit ready to pick. Perhaps I can waste a little time looking for a guava. Unfortunately in the evening it is a little difficult to find a guava amidst all the green leaves. I looked at Amma. She was still standing there and looking at me.
I looked down and slowly started to walk towards the door. I passed Amma and was just about to breath happily that nothing untoward happend, I heard
“Nikkadi Avide”(stop right there).
I wanted to run inside, but my feet didn’t move. Amma pushed my shoulder really hard, so I would face her
“You will only be happy, if you destroy this family eh? I should have never given birth to you. You only bring destruction and bad luck. Why did you have to make your father angry? He came 24 hours ago and you couldn’t shut your bloody mouth for another day till you leave? Oh! I am waiting for you to leave this house. I hope I will never have to see you again”
She pushed me again and went back inside the house. I didn’t do anything wrong. All I had done was to ask my father, what his excuses were for not visiting his own mother and I am blamed for everything that goes wrong.
My heart felt so heavy. I desperately wanted to cry. But not infront of my mother. She will not get the satisfaction,seeing me crying.
I walked inside the house. I watched my sisters opening the news paper bundle Appa bought from Chengannur. There was a big packet of jackfruit chips and another packet of kuzhalappam(fried savoury). Only Ammachi knows how much I love kuzhalappam. She and Chakki would have spend the whole day making it for me to take to Bangalore. Ammachi would have kneaded the dough and Chakki would have rolled each marble sized dough to thin circles and both of them would have worked together, rolling the circles on the fingers to form a tube shape and deep fried each kuzhallappam in home made coconut oil to perfection. When I was young, Ammachi would make the rolls a little big so, I could slip them on my fingers, including the thumb and eat.
“That is mine. Ammachi send it for me” I spoke
“oh pinney! Is your name written on it?” Amma was mocking me.
“Please” I begged my sisters.”Please don’t eat that. Let me take it to Bangalore”
“Children, you eat. I already made pickle and Chutney powder for her. That is enough. She is only going to medical college not going to Timbuktu”
My father came out after changing his clothes and I looked at him. He knew the truth and didn’t even bother to stand up for me. My family thrives on vengeance. I went back to my room.
Little while later I heard my father calling
“Nina, come here”
I pretended I didn’t hear. Being deaf, there are certain advantages.
“Nina” I heard him call again. I was laying down on my bed and reading Vanitha magazine. I continued to read.
I could hear Amma telling Liza” Go tell Nina that Appa is calling her” I concentrated more on the Vanitha. I could hear Liza’s footsteps coming closer and closer. She stood near the door and called me softly
“Nina” I didn’t respond
“Nina” She yelled
“What?” I pretended I was shocked
“Appa is calling you”
“Really? I didn’t hear. Quickly I walked to the veranda. Appa was laying down on the easy chair and Amma was sitting on the rattan chair.
“What is it Appa?”
“Did you get your coat?”
“Go wear it and show me”
I didn’t want to.
“Appa, I folded and kept it in the bag already”
“Go and wear it and show me” He yelled. I looked at him and at his wife. I hated both of them.
Grudgingly I went to my room, opened the brown paper bag that was on my bed and took the damn white coat and put it on. It was the first time I ever wore a white coat. It should have been the happiest moment in my life, yet in the midst of all the hatred I felt for each and every member of the family, I hated the coat too. I walked slowly back to the veranda. Appa got up from the chair and stared at me.
‘Don’t you even dare to feel proud of me. You don’t have any right’ Appa perhaps understood the hatred in my eyes. Without another word he leaned back on the chair. I watched Amma getting up from the chair and I quickly removed my coat. I knew she was going to give a comment about how hunched my shoulder looked under that coat or how badly the coat was stitched or how I should walk smartly or use any of the millions of verbal missiles that she has in her arsenal. I didn’t even look at her. I walked back to my room, with my head held high, I am Dr. Nina Thomas. I will survive. For once I didn’t need the Methran Thambi’s tail to be just me.