I woke up hearing a lot of din coming from the kitchen. I knew I should, rather I must help Amma in the kitchen. But it was Christmas morning, and a perfect time to hide under my blanket and dream.
I pulled my blanket and covered my head, hoping that I will be able to shut the noise out and sleep a little while more. Besides I felt, if Amma needs help, she would know to come and call me.
I thought of all my family members. I thought about my father and all the times, he held my hands, while lighting the fire crakers. I wondered how Appa would be celebrating his Christmas. I hoped he received my Christmas card.
I thought of Maria and all the times the two of us collected foil candy wrappers, so we could wrap the cassurina seeds and make home made baubles for our Christmas tree. I hoped she would have a wonderful Christmas as well.
I thought of Ammachi. I hoped she would remember today is Christmas and celebrate. I hoped Kochumol aunty would visit Ammachi at least today. Then I remembered something that Ammachi and I did years ago, when I stayed with her during my Christmas holidays. I knew I must do it for Ammachi one last time. I didn’t know how I would be able to. I was feeling restless and I quickly got up from the bed and went to the kitchen. Amma was in the kitchen, struggling to remove the Appam that was stuck on the pan.
She looked at me
“Oh, your royal highness finally decided to wake up?”
I ignored her sarcasm and wished her
“Merry Christmas Amma”
“Merry Christmas” She mumbled.
I looked at the kitchen counter. There were bits and pieces of Appam all over the kitchen counter.
“Can I make the Appam?” I asked her
“Oh pinney, You think you are better than me? The batter isn’t right, that is why it is sticking on the pan”
“Amma, I will make the Appam”
I took an onion and cut it in to half. Amma looked at the onion in my hand and spoke
“Nina, this is Appam batter, not uthappam(dosai) batter”
“I know Amma, Can I please do my job, without you interfering?”
Amma looked at me and the onion in my hand. She didn’t say anything. But I knew, she is waiting for me to make the biggest blunder, so she can rub it in.
Using a spatula, I removed all the burnt Appam from the pan and and warmed the pan on low fire. I rubbed the cut side of the onion on the pan.
“Appam will smell of onion” Amma spoke
I poured the batter, swirled the pan and closed the lid.
“You didn’t swirl it properly. It is not perfectly round”
“You know something Amma?” I asked her
“Thank God,you don’t have a son, you would have made your daugher in law’s life miserable!”
Amma glared at me.
“What difference would it make, if the Appam is a perfect circle or a square? Anyway it is going in your tummy right?” I asked her
she didn’t respond.
I opend the pan cover and removed the Appam carefully from the pan. Not a bit of it was stuck on the pan and the appam looked neat with crispy lacy edge and soft fluffy center. I looked at Amma’s face to see her reaction. She turned and walked away
“you just can’t say that I am good eh?” I asked her. She pretended she didn’t hear me.
We sat at the dining table and ate Appam and stew for breakfast. In the beginning there were 6 of us, now only 4, next week, there would only be three. I looked at my mother. In a few years time, Liza would leave and then Sally. My mother would be all alone like Ammachi. I didn’t want Amma to have the same fate as Ammachi. I will take care of her, when she is old. I know I will have to, because I know my sisters. They are not going to waste their energy taking care of an old grumpy woman. She is already so grumpy, imagine how difficult she would be to handle when she is senile!
After breakfast, Amma cut the rest of the Christmas cake in to slices and placed few slices in to a plate
“Liza, go and give this to Akashavani. It is not nice not to share Christmas goodies”
“I am not going there, Why don’t you ask Sally?”
“Sally, go and give this” Amma asked Sally
“No Amma, Sujith always teases me, calling me names. I don’t want to go there”
“Oh God, you children are too much. Nina, go and give this”
I took the plate from her hand and walked to Akashavani’s house. Their gate was locked, so I knocked the gate.
I watched Sujith opening the door and peeking out.
“Give me a second, I will go and wear my shirt”
“Aiyyah, I came to give this to your mother” I was feeling shy, But he had already gone inside.
Few seconds later, he came out, while buttoning his long sleeved shirt. He was wearing a lungi(sarong) and looked very funny.
“Kochumaharani, how is Bangalore?”
“How would I know?, you will have to ask Bangalore that”
“Why kochumaharani, you are in a foul mood in the morning itself?”
“Is your mom home?”
“She is gone to visit her mother this morning”
“You didn’t go?”
“I have exams next month. So I am expected to sit at home and study”
“Oh!”.”here, Amma send this” I gave the plate to him
“You are welcome” I turned and walked off. I knew I had to do something. I turned back and looked at Sujith. He was just about to close the door
“Sujith” I called
“Yes” He opened the door and looked at me
“Can I ask you a favour?”
“What?” He started to walk towards the gate.
“promise me, you won’t tell anyone”
“Promise, What is it Nina?”
“Will you send a telegram to my college on 2nd of January?”
Why, I couldn’t tell him why, I had to find a good excuse
“because I have a test on 4th of January and I haven’t studied anything.”
“Why don’t you stay here, till your exams are over?”
“You think Amma will let me? She will kill me”
“So what is your plan?”
“Well, you send a telegram saying that, ‘grandfather seriously ill, start immediately’. College has to give me leave, if my grandfather is ill, don’t you think?” I asked him
“They should, but where will you go?”
“Chengannur, my dad’s house. I will stay there with my grandmother for a couple of days and then go back. I will have the ticket to prove that I really went to Chengannur”
“Do you have a grandfather?”
“Nah, he died when my dad was a little boy”
“Oh, so you want to kill him again?”
Sujit was laughing. I started to laugh too.
“I will pay you the money for the telegram”
“Nah, let us do it this way, you owe me free treatment for the rest of my life”
“Thank you kapalanga(papaya)“
“You are welcome valmakri(tadpole)
“valmakri(tadpole), is your mother in law”
“Aunty, Nina is calling you a tadpole” Sujit looked over our gate and screamed
“Shh, shut up, my mother is not your mother in law”
“We will see”
I stuck my tongue at him and ran all the way back home. Amma was standing on the veranda.
“What were you talking to him so long?” Amma looked pretty angry
“Oh nothing Amma, we were just discussing politics”
“What politics?” Amma looked at me
“You won’t know Amma” and I quickly walked to my room.