“Why are you smiling Nina?”
I looked up to see Ammachi staring at me. She started to frown and I felt it is only fair that I tell her why I was smiling.
“athey I finally figured what ails me!”
I looked at my grandmother to see her reaction. She was staring at me, trying to understand what I am saying
“Ammachi, all these while, everytime I looked at a man, the only thing I ever noticed was his eyes. Some people have such beautiful eyes, you know, those small tiny eyes that holds so much of emotions. I love to look at those eyes. I am sure I can cetainly spend a life time just looking at those eyes.!”
“Oh, so that is what you are doing at the medical college, Instead of studying. I will have to write to your father and let him know”
“Ofcourse, do you have his address? I can give you if you don’t have it. But don’t forget to add, ‘Nina is just like me, She likes beautiful eyes’. “I looked at my grandmother to see her reaction. She was smiling. She wiped her face with her palm and got up.
“Come, I will show you something”
I gave her my hand to hold and we walked towards the nutmeg tree. I was a bit afraid to walk that side. What if there really was a well? I didn’t want to be buried alive in a land slide.
Ammachi touched the tree trunk and spoke
“After the well was levelled, I planted this tree here. You know, somedays when I am overwhelmed with loneliness, I come and stand here and look at this tree and I can hear your father telling me
“Ammeykku njan illey”(you have me Amma!). Ammachi started to sob again.
I looked at the tree. I couldn’t hear my father telling anything. Instead, I hugged Ammachi and told her
“Why are you crying now? Ammachikku njan illey(you have me Ammachi)”
“No Nina, you too will leave me one day.”
“No I won’t”
“Yes you will. One day you will get married and go to your husband’s house. That is how it works”
“Then I am not getting married”
“Nina, don’t speak for the sake of speaking. You don’t want to get married? Then who will take care of you when you are old? Do you want to be like me?” Ammachi was yelling
It was the first time Ammachi yelled at me. I just couldn’t bear it. How can Ammachi yell at me? What have I done wrong?I was so upset. I turned around and walked towards the veranda. Ammachi can walk back home on her own for all I care. Only I know how helpless the whole situation is making me feel. What am I to do? My grandmother is all alone in a big house in the middle of now where. Who is going to take care of her? I am the only one who she has and I can only take care of her, if the man I am going to marry is willing to settle down in Chengannur house. Why is life so complicated?
In the midst of all the anger I suddenly felt sorry for Ammachi. I turned to look at her. She was gently rubbing the tree trunk with her hands. I walked back to where she was standing, held her hands and started to walk back home.
“You know Nina, he is just like you? Both of you are like malappadakkam(fire crackers). Quick to burst with all the noise and light and then there is nothing, as though nothing happend”
I didn’t respond. He isn’t my family and I felt absolutely no sense of closeness to him.
We walked silently. One part of me wanted to know more about him, the other part of me just hated him. I was tired and I had a splitting headache.
Once we reached the veranda, I thought I would go and lay down for a little while.
“Ammachi I am going to lay down for a little while.
“Don’t you want to know the rest of the story Nina?”
“I don’t know Ammachi. Do you want to talk?” I asked half heartedly, hoping she would say No.
“I was worried about this for so long. Each time you didn’t come home, I was afraid that your mother told you this story and you will start to hate me. Before you start hating me Nina I want you to know my side of the story”
I looked at Ammachi, What has my mother got to do with all this?
“After I saw him for the first time, there was a feeling in my heart that I don’t know how to explain. I felt a longing in my heart that could only be settled by seeing those beautiful eyes again. I thought I was going crazy, till that day Nina, I never even looked at a man like that. I knew I shouldn’t even think about him. Here I am, a widow, mother of two grown up kids! Each time I went to the market, I would promise myself, today I am going to end nonsense and I will buy the grocery from the old shop. But then I would think, today is the last time I am going to his shop and I will stop going to his shop from the next time onwards”
I looked at my grandmother. I was so afraid where this story is leading to.
“I remember that day very clearly. It was the first day of festival at the Bhagavathy temple and I went to watch the Kathakali. I saw him standing near the stage and speaking to the chendakkaran(drummer). When he saw me he smiled. I could see him looking at me all through the performance. When the performance was over, I looked for him every where. He was no where to be found. I started to walk back home with an aching heart. I thought may be he went home to his wife and that one should only wish for what one rightfully deserve.”
” There was hardly any one on the road and just as I reached the bund I heard a familiar voice that asked
“Shall I walk you back home? Woman shouldn’t be walking alone at this time of the day”
“He was waiting for me Nina! Do you know how that feels? To have someone wait for you?”
No one ever waited for me, so I had no idea how that feels.
“I asked him if he would like to stay for breakfast and he said yes. So I made puttu and green gram curry for him. You know what he did? He stole the coconut from my puttu” Ammachi was smiling like a little child.
“We spoke about Kathakali, about the paddy and everything under the sun. For the first time in my life I had some one to talk to. Like a friend. You know till then I never had a friend all of a sudden I had so much to tell him”
I just nodded my head
“Before he left, he told me, he was married and have a wife and kids in his native village”
Oh my goodness. I didn’t want to hear any more.
“You know Nina, when he told me that, although I felt a tinge of jealousy, I didn’t mind him being married. All I wanted was a friend. Somone to just talk to.”
Phew! I was relieved to hear the last sentence.
“He usually came after he closed the shop in the night, mainly to avoid unnecessary rumours. He would eat dinner and then go back
“Then one day when he came he bought me a present”
“What present?” I asked
“Saree?” I couldn’t picture my grandmother in a saree.
“hmm, a saree!, a red colour cotton saree. Till then I never wore a saree in my life. I started wearing chatta and mundu from the time I got married to your grand father. I didn’t even have a saree blouse, so I tried to tie the saree over my chatta. He helped me to tie the saree“
Ammachi was looking at me to see my reaction. I didn’t have to ask her what happend next.
“How could you Ammachi? How could you take someone else’s husband?” I was just so mad at my grand mother. I knew I should be more understanding. But I just couldn’t. No woman should take another woman’s husband. That is not right.
“I didn’t take, I just borrowed!”
“What? How can you say you borrowed? You don’t borrow husbands.”
“Why not? You can borrow a pencil, you can borrow a text book, why can’t you borrow a man?”
“Because you can’t. That is why people get married. Once you get married, your husband belongs to only you.”
“Really? Who made that rule Nina? Isn’t the same people who said, I should wear white colour cloths and not marry again when I became a widow? Don’t I ever get another chance to love and be loved just because my husband died?”
“You can. But you should have looked for someone who is not married”
“Where Nina? Where do I look?” Ammachi was weeping