As I walked with Ammachi, I thought of him. Does he know that my grandmother has been waiting for him all these years? What is this with men, that they just walk away and expect you to forget them and move on with your life? How could he do this to my grandmother?
I need to find him and give him a peice of my mind.
“Ammachi, what is ‘his’ name?”
“Just like that”
“No. I won’t tell you”
“because I don’t want you to go and find him”
“Nina, if he loves me, he will come back. I don’t want my grand daughter to search him for me. I know in my heart, he will come back one day!”
I didn’t say anything.We walked silently to the junction.
At the temple ground, Everytime Ammachi turned her head to look at the people around us, I too looked around, hoping that ‘he’ is among the crowd. I didn’t even know what I was looking for. How does he look? Does he have curly or straight hair? Is he fair or dark? I didn’t know that answer. All I wanted was for him to come back.
Much as I hated him, I wanted him to come back to Ammachi. I didn’t care if he was borrowed or bought. I wanted Ammachi to smile again. For her to validate her belief that she really found true love.
When the last Kathakali performance was over, I looked at Ammachi. What are the chances that I would be able to bring her for the next years Kathakali? How long will she last with that ache in her heart?
I got up and gave my hand to Ammachi. Her eyes looked so sad. I wished I could ease the pain in her heart. I wished Ammachi would find him again. But I knew in my heart, Ammachi wouldn’t find him in the temple ground!. But where else could I search for him?
“Nina, wake up” Ammachi was shaking my body and trying to wake me up. I was in no mood to wake up. After four days of watching Kathakali, I was exhausted. I am done with Kathakali!
Today is saturday and there is no need to wake up so early. All I wanted to do was to sleep. That too without being disturbed.
“Ammachi, Please leave me alone. I promise, I will get up in half an hour.”
“No. You are getting up now”
“Sorry Ammachi. I want to sleep and stop irritating me” I pulled the blanket on to my face. I really wanted to sleep. I could hear Ammachi’s foot steps and I lifted the corner of the blanket and peeped. She was going to the kitchen. She must have gone to make lunch. I will get up soon and help her. I closed my eyes.
“When I asked your father to wake up, he listened and you think you can disobey me” I heard Ammachi yell and before I could react, My face was drenched in water.
I pulled the wet blanket from my face and found my grandmother standing next to me holding the water jug. My dress was getting soaked and I got up quickly from the bed.
“You threw water on my face? How dare you do that? Look at what you have done!. You even made my pillow wet. How will I sleep tonight?” I was so mad at Ammachi
“Well, I told you to get up and you didn’t listen to me”
“So you will throw water on me? I told you I will get up in half an hour, Didn’t I? Why are you in a hurry? What will happen if I slept for another half an hour? Is the house on fire?”
“Nina, When are you going back to your college?”
“Oh, you want me to go away? Good timing! When the Kathakali is finished you are kicking me out eh? Am I like a curry leaf in the moru(yogurt curry). When you no longer have any use of me, you throw me out, like you throw the curry leaf before eating the curry,right?”
“Oh Nina, it is not like that”
“Don’t Oh Nina me. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. You are just like everyone in my family. I am only needed till your needs are met!” I quikly walked to the bathroom. I was so mad at Ammachi. I slammed the door shut. I looked around to find a plce to sit. Like most of the olden houses in Kerala, we had a separate room for bathing. There was a built in water tub in the corner. Ammachi fills the tub by pouring the water through the inlet outside the bathroom. I wanted to take my shower. I dipped my hand in the water. it was very cold. There is no way I am going to bath using the cold water. I will warm some water in the pan and mix it with the freezing cold water in the tub.
I opened the door to go out. I nearly stepped in to a pan of hot water. Ammachi had already heated up the water for me. She must have heated the water before trying to wake me up. She would have known, I wouldn’t take a cold shower. I looked at the two pot holders on either side of the pan. She even left the pot holders there, so I won’t burn my fingers carrying the hot pan. Only then did I look at the clothesline in the bathroom. My towel and salwar was hung on the clothesline. Goodness, she even got my cloths ready and I had the temerity to scream at her.
I felt so sorry for shouting at Ammachi. I had to tell her I am sorry. I found Ammachi in the kitchen. She was stirring the fish curry in the pot. She heard my footsteps and looked at me.
“Ammachi, I am sorry”
She turned her head the otherway and continued to stir the fish curry, totally ignoring me. I deserved this. I yelled at my poor grandmother
I walked up to her and tried to hug her.”Please forgive me”. She pushed me away.
“What did you say? You said I treated you like a curry leaf? Do you have any idea, how I wait for you every single day of my life? I know it isn’t possible for you to come that often, Still I think, may be it is a holiday in Bangalore and you would come to visit me. Every saturday I sit on the parapet wall, waiting for you. When I hear the bus stopping at the junction, I feel so excited. I look and look and look at the bund road to see if you are coming. I sit here and wait. Whatelse can I do?”
Ammachi started to sob. I hated myself for my stupid temper. Why do I have to make an old woman cry like this?
“I am sorry Ammachi. I am so sorry. But why did you have to throw water on my face? You are the one who made me angry”
“Nina, I thought if you leave today, then you can rest for a day, before your classes start on monday”
Classes start on Monday? What was that about? I wondered.
I had completely forgotten about my other life. I suddenly got worried. What would happen if Amma or Maria made a surprise visit to the college and found that my already dead grandfather is seriously ill? Suddenly there was an urgent need to go back to the college, before I get in to any serious trouble.
“You are right Ammachi. It is time for me to go back. Otherwise they might think my grandfather died already!” I was afraid that Princy would ask for Photographic evidence of the funeral!
“Grandfather died? Which grandfather?”
Oh oh! That is all I could think. Quick Nina, quick, think something quick, before you are buried alive. I thought
“Oh nothing Ammachi. I will take my bath, before the water in the pan cools” I quickly turned to walk away from a potentially dangerous situation.
“nikkadi avidey(stop right there young lady)”
I so very badly wanted to run away to the safety of the bathroom. But my legs didn’t move.
I turned to look at Ammachi. She was staring at me. Should I tell her the truth?
“Which grandfather died Nina?”
“Ammachi, promise me you won’t get angry with me”
“You promise first”
“I will decide, if I should get angry after you tell me the truth. So go on, tell me the truth”
“I wanted to take you to watch Kathakali, so I asked my friend to send a telegram saying that my grandfather is seriously ill”
“Good Lord, I thought you had holidays! So you didn’t have holidays? You actually skipped the classes to come here?”
I nodded my head.
“Oh Nina, why did you do that? How can you be so irresponsible? If you don’t study, then how will you pass your examinations?”
“Don’t worry Ammachi, I will study hard and I promise you I will pass all the exams” I had no idea how I am going to do that.
There was hardly any passengers in my compartment. Everyone would have gone back to Bangalore after the Christmas holidays.
I thought of my grandmother. I could see her sitting on the parapet wall, till I reached the bund road. I knew for sure, she was crying. How does she survive living in that house all alone? I have another four and half years more to finish medicine. How often can I come home? Why can’t Appa come back and take care of his aging mother? I wished my father understood how much Ammachi is struggling. I wished my father would once stop thinking about himself.
Aparna and Shylaja were busy studying when I reached the hostel.
“Nina, how is your grandfather?” Both of them asked as soon as they saw me
“He is better now. What are you studying on sunday morning?”
“We have anatomy exam tomorrow”
“Tomorrow? Which chapter?”
“We finished Upper limb dissection on friday”
“What? you finished the entire upper limb? We were doing cubital fossa on monday. How can you finish all that in 5 days?”
Aparna shrugged her shoulder. “We will be starting dissection of the thorax on tuesday.”
I knew I should have never skipped the classes. But I did it and now I must pay. I have to study the entire upper limb in one day.