On the way back home, we passed by Best bakery.
“Nina, can we go inside and look at the Christmas cakes?” Sally asked
“No Sally, I don’t have any more money, knowing you, you will ask me, can you buy me puffs. or the cashew cakes or something else in the shop”
“I promise Nina, I won’t ask you to buy anything. Please Nina, please can we go inside and see the Christmas cake?”
I wasn’t sure, I really didn’t want to be embarassed in the shop.
“Please Nina, please” She started to plead
“Ok. But if you as much as open your mouth and ask me to buy you anything, I will kill you”
We walked in to the bakery. Inside the shop it was crowded. People were busy buying the Christmas cakes. We walked towards the display cabinet, there were so many different types of Christmas cakes, all covered with the white icing. Most cakes were decorated with pink roses made with icing on top and the words Merry Christmas was written with red icing.
“Nina, look at this cake” Liza shouted pointing to a cake in the corner .
I turned to look. On the table near the corner, there was a three tiered cake with lots of yellow flowers and golden ribbon was tied around each layer.
“Wow, that is a big Christmas cake, must be for some rich family. A cake that size surely costs a lot of money!” Liza spoke
“Shh” I tried to hush her. I didn’t want anyone to know that we are poor.
“That isn’t a Christmas cake, That is a wedding cake” Spoke the lady standing next to us
“oh” The three of us were awed.
My sisters and I have never been to a wedding till now. I wished Maria would get married soon, so atleast then we can eat a wedding cake.
“Come let us go” I pulled Sally’s hand
“Will you buy me a cream bun?” She asked me
It is only 50 paise!” Sally spoke again
I was so angry. I made her promise that she won’t ask me to buy anything and still she asked
“No” I answered
“Please Nina, please buy me a cream bun, How can you forget all the times I shared my cream bun with you?”
People in the shop were staring at us
“I said No, come let us go” I started to walk towards the door
“You are a mean sister Nina, all these while, you ate my cream bun, and now when I ask you to buy me one bun, you say No” Sally shouted, in front of everyone.
I started to walk towards home. I didn’t understand, why the word gratitude is so difficult to find in my family. Nobody ever gets satisfied with anything I do for them. I am still expected to do more. I told Sally before we went inside the shop that I have no money and don’t ask me to buy anything.
Amma was home, by the time I came back
“Where did you all go. I was getting worried about you”
“Oh, so you do get worried! I thought may be I am the only one who gets worried, when you go in the morning and don’t come back till night” I took all my frustrations on Amma
“What do you mean Nina, you think I am having a good time? Who will do all the work for me? You think it is all easy? I went all the way to Fisheries in Cochin to buy fish for my children and I just came back and you are already accusing me?”
“Why do you have to go to Cochi to buy fish? Don’t you get fish in Kottayam?”
“I went to Fisheries in Cochi, so I can get fresh fish for my daughters. At Fisheries, they only sell freshly caught fish. In Kottayam, you get fish that is kept in ice for days!”
“Oh, so you buy fresh fish from the fisheries and then travel in the train for an hour and a half to Kottayam! What difference would it make Amma, buying the fish that is kept on ice from Kottayam market or buying the freshly caught fish from Cochi and travel all the way from there without any ice?. By the time you reach home from Cochi, the fish is already at room temperature for more than 2 hours!”
“I should never waste my energy doing things for my children. They are so ungrateful. See, my daughter just came back home and she is already accusing me”
“I am not accusing you, but you should remember you have daughters Amma, you can’t just leave them home alone. There was not even any food for them to eat today”
“Who said there was no food? I made kapalanga thoran(green papaya with coconut) before I left”
“Amma, how do you expect them to eat rice and a dry curry?”
“There is yogurt in the fridge”
“Ofcourse with worms in it”
“the real wriggly worms, I saw it inside the yogurt”
“oh pinney. Worms grow in yogurt! Did you learn that in the medical college? It is the first time I am hearing it”
I was so mad at Amma. I wanted to show her the evidence. I walked to the kitchen,took the yogurt bottle, poured a bit of yogurt in to a saucer and brought it back to the living room
“Can you see? Can you see them moving?” I shoved the plate close to her face
Amma took the saucer from my hand, adjusted her spectacles and inspected the worms.
“Hmm, this is the first time I am seeing this. May be your sisters must have left the bottle opened and a fly would have laid eggs inside the bottle”
“Amma, stop blaming my sisters. This has nothing to do with my sisters. This is because, you don’t know how to make yogurt.” I was shouting at her
“Oh! my daughter went to the medical college for 6 months and now she is teaching me, her mother, how to make yogurt! Whatelse do they teach you there?”
“Oh for heaven’s sake Amma, you keep adding milk to the old yogurt in the bottle and that is not how you do it. To make yogurt properly, you just need to add a spoonful of yogurt in to warm milk and keep it outside for 6 hours, so it would set. “
“Well, this is my home, and I will do it the way I want. When you have your own home, you can set yogurt by adding a spoon of yogurt in to warm milk and keep it aside for 6 hours”Amma was mocking me
“Oh I intend to. I can’t wait to get out your stupid house. I wish I didn’t come home and instead stayed back in the hostel. At least in the hostel I can get three meals in a day and that too without any worms.”
“Did I ask you to come?”
Her words were like a sharp knife and it poked my heart. My heart felt so heavy. I knew what Amma said was true. She never asked me to come home. Why didn’t she abort me, when she had the chance? I had no right or reason to be born in to this world.
I walked back to my room, leaving the Christmas star and the fire cracker bag on the dining table. I will go back to the medical college on 26th.
I could hear Liza and Sally telling Amma about me taking them to Lakshminivas for lunch and buying them the Christmas star
“Where is the star?” I heard Amma asking
“I think Nina has it, I will go and ask her” I heard Liza speaking
She came to my room
“Nina, where is the star you bought?” Liza asked
“On the dining table”
“Amma, it is on the dining table” Liza shouted
I heard Amma asking
“How much did she pay for this star?”
“15Rs” Liza answered
“15Rs? She paid 15Rs for this cheap star?”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up walked back to the dining room and asked Amma
“Why didn’t you buy a star yourself?”
“What?” Amma stared at me
“You heard me, today is the Christmas eve, If you are so knowledgeable about Chrsitmas stars, why didn’t you buy a Christmas star yourself?”
“Who are you to ask me that?”
“Who are you to comment on the star I bought with my money?”
“Your money? When did you start earning your money?”
“Appa send me the money, so it is mine”
“And he is your father because of me. I married him”
“Why Amma? Of all the men, including your brother/lover in Bangalore, did you have to marry and destroy my poor father’s life?”
I don’t know what made me say that, but the moment those words came out, I regretted it. I wanted to take those words back, but it was too late.
I watched Amma getting up and walking towards me and I saw her hand coming in top speed towards my face. I could have blocked her hand with mine. The moment her palm hit my cheeks, a thousand lights flashed across my eyes and a thousand bees started to buzz in my ears. I watched her twisting and scrunching the christmas star that I bought for my sisters.
I looked at my sisters and I could see the hatred in their eyes.
“Come Liza and Sally, let us go out and buy a Christmas cake, before Best bakery closes” Amma spoke
I watched Amma holding their hands and going out. Liza turned and looked at me, just as they reached the gate. A look that said, you are a loser Nina.