Oru vattam koodiyen

“Ammachi” I called a little bit more louder. I was still standing near the main entrance. I wanted to go to the kitchen and look for her. But I felt, if there is something wrong, then I can run to the safety of the open land and the paddy fields. I didn’t want to be trapped inside the house.
Time stood still. Except for the howling of dogs in the distance, there was no sign of any other activities. I didn’t know whatelse to do. That is when I heard footsteps outside the kitchen door and I waited anxiously. Someone was wiping their feet on the door mat.
I didn’t know who it would be. I looked behind me, charting my escape route. There is no point running to Chackochan’s house, the owners wouldn’t know me. I should be safe, if I can make it to the main road.
I watched someone openingg the bottom half of the kitchen door* and entering the house holding an elephant yam.
“Where have you been? I have been calling your names so many times” I shouted. I was just so relieved to see my grandmother
Ammachi dropped the yam down and looked at me stunned.
“You scared me Nina. Why are you here?” She sounded irritated
I looked at her. What did she ask? Did she really ask me, Why am I here?
Before I could answer Ammachi spoke again
“Nina, why did you come at this time of the day? Look outside, it is so dark. If anyone attacks you, Who will come to rescue you? Girls shouldn’t travel alone at this time of the day. You are old enough to know that Nina!”
I wasn’t sure what exactly I felt. I did all this for my grandmother, so she won’t be alone for Onam. She just didn’t sound like, she appreciated what I did for her.
I thought of walking back to the main road and catch the last bus and go back home. But it was too dark and I didn’t have the courage to walk all the way back to the main road. I cursed my stupid brain for giving me stupid ideas. I went and sat down on the parapet wall. I wanted Ammachi to say sorry for hurting me like this. I knew she would say sorry. So I waited.
As soon as my butt touched the parapet wall, the mosquitoes started to attack. I was getting bitten all over. I knew all I have to do is go inside the house. But I wanted Ammachi to say sorry first. I wanted her to feel sorry. She had no right to scream at me like that. I am her grand daughter, the only one who loves her and she better treat me well!
From the veranda, I could see Ammachi cooking in the kitchen. She wasn’t even looking at me. I knew this isn’t how it worked all these years. She usually used to come with a sweet smile and ask
Deshyayo ente kuttikku?( have I made you mad) and kiss me.
What in the world has got in to my grandmother? Why is she behaving like this?
I looked down on the ground. Can snakes climb up the wall? I wasn’t sure. It was too dark and I couldn’t see anything. I was whacking the mosquitoes and scratching my body at the same time looking around for the shiny eyes of snakes, when I heard Ammachi speak
“Nina come and have your dinner”
I was just so relieved to hear Ammachi call me. I just wanted to go inside the house, away from the snakes and mosquitoes. Besides, Ammachi made the first move. She called me! So technically I didn’t lose the war.
Ammachi was already sitting at the table. I looked at the dishes on the table. Corelle dinner plates!
White plates with blue colour snow flakes around the rim. Those plates were my mother’s dream. Ever since she saw them in her brother’s house, she wanted them.
“Where did you get those plates?”
Ammachi looked up at me. Something about the way she looked at me, that wasn’t normal. She took her eyes off from my face and started to mix the moru (yogurt curry) and the rice.
“Where did you get those plates Ammachi?” I asked again.
“Come and eat your food Nina” She replied
I had to know. I sat right in front of Ammachi and asked her again
“Who gave you these plates?”
“Oh! Suzy brought it”
“Suzy who?”
“You won’t know her Nina. Now stop talking and start eating. The rice will get cold. I made your favourite yam curry”
No She didn’t. She should know I don’t like yam. She couldn’t have forgotten that. Even Chakki knew that. There was only yam curry and moru(yogurt Curry). If Ammachi really wanted to make something for me, then she would have made my favourite green gram curry.
I knew in an instant, I have lost the one person who loved me for what I am. I just couldn’t figure out what happened. I left this place happily 8 months ago. When I was here, I took my grandmother to watch Kathakali. Everything was perfect. Now all of a sudden what happened?
May be to make it more interesting, a cricket started to chirp continuously. That stupid creature must have known the turmoil in my heart and like Emperor Nero, he was playing the fiddle, only difference, my heart was the fiddle.
Shut up, I felt like telling the cricket. May be it really heard me, because it started to chirp more loudly.
I looked at the plate in front of me. Some how I felt the plate is untouchable, that it was from someone I didn’t want to be associated. I could hear Amma’s words. Did you know your Ammachi has been pushing your father to find a new wife?”
“Ammachi Who is Suzy?” I asked again
“Oh Nina, stop irritating me. Suzy is the sister of Achayan’s older sister’s husband”
“Which Achayan?”
“You won’t know Nina. She is a distant relative”
“Really? If she is a distant relative, then how come she was so generous to give you new dinner sets, coffee sets, new couch, new table cloth for the dining table and don’t forget, she even gave you curtains for the windows and the doors?”
“What is your point Nina?”
“You tell me.What are you hiding from me?”
“I am not hiding anything from you”
“Really? Then why are you not telling me who is Suzy?”
“She is your father’s second wife”
There was a temporary moment of silence. Even the cricket had taken a short break. May be I didn’t hear it right.
“What did you say?” I asked again
“I said, Your father wants to marry Suzy. She is a nice woman”
“Really? What about my mother? Is she not his wife? Or has my father converted to Islam, so he can have 4 wives?”
“Who will take care of your father in his old age Nina? You and your sisters? do you think you will take care of your father?”
“Have you even thought about what would happen to my mother?” I ignored her question
“She chose this life”
“Really, so everything is my mother’s fault eh? Your son is a paragon of virtue eh? Your son is the perfect guy right? All these years, he never even bothered to even come and visit you and you agree to all these nonsense?”
“he is still my son Nina”
“And my mother is still my mother Ammachi”
I was just so mad. I pushed the plate off the table. I wanted the plate to break. But it wasn’t designed to break when you just need it to.
“How dare you Nina? How dare you throw the food? You are becoming just like your mother” Ammachi was seething
“Me? Becoming like my mother? have you gone mad? I learned this from your son. He was a professional when it came to throwing things.”
“Clean up the mess Nina” Ammachi got up from the bench.
“You can do that” I kicked the plate one more time and walked to the veranda.
“I will make you clean it Nina” I heard her speaking
“You haven’t grown that much to make me do it.” I replied
I knew there would be mosquitoes and snakes outside, but I didn’t want to sit on a couch that Suzy brought. My mother came in to this house as a legal wife of my father and only daughter in law of my grandmother. I will not let anyone change that. I went and sat down on the parapet wall. I needed to figure out how to stop this nonsense. I needed a lawyer. I had no intention to let Appa abandon Amma.
“If you want to come inside, you will have to agree to clean the mess you made” I looked at Ammachi, who was standing by the door. She was about to close the door. I contemplated, if I should just push her and enter my home? This is actually my home, built by my grandfather. It was never Ammachi’s home, was it? I have a right to live in this house, Don’t I? Ammachi has no right to close the door on me? Does she?
While I tried to make any sense of what exactly is happening, Ammachi shut the door. I didn’t really think she would close the door. I was all alone outside. Could my grandmother really lock me out? The same woman, who an hour ago told me, girls shouldn’t travel alone at night? I looked around me. I thought I saw something sparkling on the floor? was that a snake’s eyes? I lifted my legs up and rested my head on my knees. If the snake ought to bite me, then let it be. This must be my destiny. Any way I have nothing much to achieve being alive. Death wasn’t a sojourn that I was seeking. Death was a liberation, a freedom from the burdens that I carry.
Darkness around me made me remember the time I was 7 years old. Amma had just came back from the hospital after giving birth to Sally. I couldn’t remember why my parents fought, but I remember Appa pushing Amma out of the house and closing the door. I remember Sally crying all through the night. We didn’t have any feeding bottles as Amma was breast feeding her. My father was immune to the sound of his new born daughter’s cry. I remembered how the maid sneaked the baby out, when Appa was sleeping, so Amma could breastfeed Sally. I wanted to see Amma, but the maid refused. She was afraid that I would make noise and wake Appa.
I was so afraid that day. So afraid that Appa would wake up to find that the maid took the baby out. When the maid came back with the baby, I was so relieved, then I became more afraid thinking that someone would kill my mother, because she was all alone outside.
I was so worried that Amma might leave all of us with the mad man that is my father and walk away. I remembered how I ran outside first thing in the morning before anyone woke up to look for my mother. She was sitting on the steps and resting her head against the wall. She heard my footsteps and opened her eyes
“What are you doing here Nina, go back inside this instant before your father sees you”
That time I thought Amma wasn’t happy to see me. But now I knew, she was only worried about my safety. If Appa had known that I went to check on Amma, he probably would have killed me!

I heard the sound of the door latch being moved. I watched Ammachi opening the door. She didn’t say anything. I watched her going back to her room. This was a house I thought that was mine. My ancestral home where my grandmother and my mother came as a bride and my aunt left as a bride. This was the house, I thought I would leave as a bride. Until this moment, this was the only home I ever had and I realized, it was never mine, it never will be. I was nothing more than a visitor. Much as I wanted to escape the mosquitoes and the snakes, I couldn’t go inside, because I knew I had no right to go inside.

The first bus to Kottayam usually comes around 5.45Am. Around 5.15, I got off the parapet wall, walked around the house, passing the cattle shed and went to the well. For the last time in my life, I used the bucket and drew fresh water from the well. I washed my face and took a sip of water. So I would remember how it tasted till I die. I threw the rest of the water in the bucket and kept the bucket upside down, so the water won’t rust the bucket. I looked inside the well one last time. Was there any fish? I couldn’t see anything.
As I walked, I passed the Shathaveri plant my mother had planted. She brought that all the way from Malaysia, so Ammachi could use the roots to make medicine for arthritis. I continued to walk, by the side of the toilet I saw the old grinding stone that was once my great grandmother’s and now nobody wanted it. I gently removed the dirt from it. Did my great grandmother knew how this would all end? Is that why she tried to kill Ammachi?
I wiped my hand on my jeans and continued to walk, passing the pomelo tree, the mango tree and finally the Rose apple tree. There were no fruits on the tree. may be the tree too lost the will to live and produce fruits that was of no use to anyone. The children all gone..only the shells of dreams about wonderful childhood remained
As I reached the front steps, I realized I walked a complete circle around the house. Like how we do in the temple. Tears started to flow down my cheeks.Because only I knew how much this house meant to me. Only those who lost their home would know how it felt.
* Kitchen door was split in the middle, so in summer months the top half could be left opened and bottom half could be kept closed to prevent the hens/cats/dogs/cows etc from entering the house.


It was a spontaneous decision. I just wanted to hurt Amma. I knew the best way to do that. I looked at her straight in her eyes and told her
“I am going to Chengannur”.
I knew she couldn’t/wouldn’t stop me from going to Chengannur.
My mother thinks, she is smart. She wanted to hurt Ammachi and the only way she could do that was by keeping her children away from her mother-in-law. My sisters haven’t been to Chengannur for more than 5 years! And Amma thinks that was something great. I wondered what she would do if she knew that I have visiting my grandmother?
I knew Amma’s ego would be hurt, if she knows that I am going to Chengannur to see her dreaded mother-in-law and she can’t stop me.

“Sure Nina, why not? Did you know that your grandmother has been pushing your father to find a new wife?”

I was already walking up the road when I heard Amma say that. I knew my mother hated to loose.
“too bad Amma. I am still going” I replied. I knew my grandmother. There is no way she would do such a thing.
When I reached the junction, I turned back to look. I wanted to see my mother’s face. I wanted to see that pain on her face, the pain of defeat. But she had already gone inside. I suddenly felt my helium balloon lost all the helium!

By the time I reached the parade ground, I understood the stupidness of my intelligent idea. It was getting dark and it certainly wasn’t an ideal time for young woman to be outside without an escort. I couldn’t go back home. How would I face my mother?
What if Ammachi isn’t home? Where would I spend the night? Why did Amma let me go at this time of the day? Why couldn’t she tell me, Nina it is too late, why don’t you go tomorrow? I knew I have always been headstrong.. Even then how could Amma give up on me just like that? I hated my mother! even though it is I who need to get a good solid whack on my head.

I didn’t want to waste much time. So I took an auto and went to the transport bus station. It was crowded. People were all trying to reach their home in time to celebrate onam. I was lost in the crowd. There was a bus to Trivandrum at the bay and I watched the conductor standing on the step and blocking the entrance.
“Only Trivandrum passengers” He announced
The bus wasn’t the conductor’s personal or family property. He just wanted to show everyone how important he is especially on the eve of Onam.
There was a huge crowd of people around the bus, most of them wanting to go to nearby towns. They were begging and pleading with the conductor to allow them on the bus.
There were only handful of passengers in the bus. Only in Kerala can such things happen. An ordinary bus conductor employed by the state government to serve the public gets to decide who can enter a public bus.
There was no guarantee that the next bus conductor wouldn’t do the same and I didn’t want to spend the night at a bus station. So I walked up to the conductor.
“Where to?” He asked
“Trivandrum” I spoke
“Ok” He moved to the side to let me in.
I looked outside. I could see the frustration on every one’s face. I knew, we the public let this happen. Most of the passengers standing outside the bus were males. Why couldn’t they protest? Why couldn’t they ask the conductor, who gave such an order that only Trivandrum passengers are allowed on the bus? Apathy is the root cause of all ills in a place like Kerala.

I hoped the conductor wouldn’t ask me to buy the ticket before the bus leaves.
I watched the driver getting inside and starting the bus. When the bus reached the hotel Aida junction, conductor came to me with a ticket in his hand.
“One ticket to Chengannur please” I ignored the ticket in his hand. I knew he was holding the Trivandrum ticket.
“You said you want to go to Trivandrum. This bus is a Trivandrum bus. Only Trivandrum passengers can travel on this. You have to get down now” He blew the whistle and the driver stopped the bus.
“I am sorry.I am not getting down. I have a right to travel in this bus.”
Edi, Didn’t you hear what I just said. This is a Trivandrum bus. Only for Trivandrum passengers.”
Edi is your mother. Don’t you dare talk to me like that. Do you know who I am?” I asked him
“Who are you?” He looked a bit worried and I used the opportunity wisely.
“I am xyz’s niece” Much as I hated to utter that man’s name, it was becoming really handy. “You mess with me, I will make sure, you will sit at home. Do you understand that?” I asked confidently.
I watched the conductor blowing the whistle again and the driver started the bus. Without another word,he gave me a ticket to Chengannur. The way he pulled the ticket from the ticket box and the way he gave to me, it was obvious that he hated my guts.
I felt sick knowing that I used that dreaded man’s name. But desperate situations calls for desperate measures!

It was very dark by the time the bus reached Chengannur bus stand. There were hardly any people around. Most of them would have reached their home by now. I was scared. I wished I was a boy, then at least I wouldn’t have to worry about my safety like this. I got in to an auto and told the driver where to go. I hoped Shankaran Chettan wouldn’t close his shop early today.
When the auto reached the junction near my home, I knew how stupid I was. There was nobody there. All the shops were closed. Even the street light wasn’t working. I thought of asking the auto driver to accompany me till the bund road. But how do I trust a stranger. I couldn’t show the driver that I was afraid. I quickly paid the fare and got out. I decided to run. By running, I hoped I wouldn’t get bitten by a snake. (I knew the snake won’t have sufficient time to crawl after me and bite if I ran).
There was a half moon on the sky. The moon light was making ordinary shadows in to extra ordinary fearsome images in my mind. What if there are ghosts and vampires around? I didn’t want to be eaten by a vampire. I wished I had some sort of talisman to protect me. I had nothing on me, no cross, no iron nails, no garlic, no nothing. From the distance I could hear dogs howling. Don’t dogs howl when they see ghosts?
I was getting so scared, so I started to run even more faster. By the time I reached our paddy fields, I was out of breath. But I was relieved. There was light at home. That meant Ammachi was home. I started to walk, because I knew Ammachi can hear me, if I screamed.
The main door was left opened. There was light in the kitchen
“Ammachi” I called out loud. I didn’t want to scare her.
“Ammachi” I called again as I walked inside. I looked around the room.
Everything was different. As though I walked in to somebody else’s house.
There was a new couch in the living room.A huge vase full of plastic flowers was on the coffee table. There were new curtains on the doors and windows.
Even the dining table had a new table cloth.

Goal keepers

I watched my mother walking out of my room with her head held high. I knew she was pleased, not because I passed the exams, but because, she could hurt me by telling me that Sujith got married.
Are all mothers like this? Do they get some kind of satisfaction when they hurt their daughters? Why does my mother treat me like this. I am always her enemy. Her only purpose of having me as a daughter is to defeat me in everything I do.
I wasn’t sure why the news that Sujith got married was upsetting me so much. I felt so sad. My heart felt heavy. Why am I this sad? When I should be happy for Sujith?
He was a part of my childhood and my youth as much as I was part of his. As kids we shared our Balarama children’s magazine. I remembered all the times I fought with him because he did the dot to dot picture puzzle in the Balarama. I felt he was too old to do those puzzles and I should be allowed to do them.
I remembered during my pre-degree years, how he used to buy Nana magazine for me, so I could collect the coupons to get the autographs of Malayalee film stars.
We had so much in common. We read the same story books, listened to the same music. In fact he used to record old English songs for me. He is the one who introduced me to Don Williams. I closed my eyes, because the ache in my heart was extremely painful. I could hear Don Williams singing
You are my Best friend

You placed gold on my fingers
You brought love like I have never known
You gave life to our children
And to me a reason to go on

You are my bread when I am hungry
You are my shelter from troubled winds
You are my anchor in life’s ocean
But most of all you are my best friend

When I need hope, an inspiration
You are always strong when I am tired and weak
I could search this whole world over
You still be everything that I need

May be somewhere along the line, I thought Sujith gave me that tape for a reason. He was my best friend and may be I hoped one day he would sing this song for me. And now he placed the gold ring on someone else’s finger.He wouldn’t be singing that song for me.
Although I refused to talk to him that day when he gave me the love letter, somewhere in my heart I was sure he would wait for me, that one day everything would change and we would be able to live our dreams.
And now all I had was empty dreams, an empty shell. I felt so suffocated. I got up from my bed. Amma was in the living room stitching a fall for the new silk saree. I needed to talk to someone.
“Can I have Chechy’s phone number and address?”
“I don’t have”
“What do you mean you don’t have?”
“She is staying as a paying guest. Her house owner doesn’t like her to have visitors.”
“Oh Really? Did your brother tell you that or Did Chechy tell you that?”
“What is your problem Nina? Why don’t you mind your own business? If your sister wants you to see her, then she would give you her address”
“Of course. When will you stop playing this divide and rule game Amma?” I was so mad at my mother, who won’t give me my own sister’s address.
“Why are you eating my head Nina? It is not my fault your boyfriend married someone else!”
“He isn’t my boyfriend” I was so mad at my mother.
“Of course. And you think I was blind all these while.”
“What do you mean by that mother?”
“You wait for me to go to work, so you can go and talk to Sujith. You think I never noticed all these?”
“Amma, Sujith was my friend. He was my best friend”
“Of course. That is why he didn’t even invite you for his wedding!” Amma mocked
I had to get out of the house. I was going crazy. I walked to the main gate. I was planning to go to Paico and buy some books. I checked my jeans pocket to see if I have enough money. I had 50 Rs with me.
When I reached the main gate, I saw Sujith standing outside his house and smoking. I thought ‘oh my goodness, he started to smoke! That too outside his own house. How come his mother didn’t kill him yet?’
I thought If his mother could’t straighten him, I will do it. I will give him a peace of my mind. I knew he would listen to me. I wanted to ask him,What does he think of himself? Does he not know Cigarette smoking is injurious to health?
I walked up to his house and he looked at me. I wasn’t sure why, but I could feel the pain in his eyes. I thought, may be I am imagining. Why would he be sad?He just got married. May be it is the cigarette smoke that is irritating his eyes.
“Hey, Congrats” I spoke.
May be his wife heard my voice because even before Sujith could respond, she came out and stood next to her husband, like a goal keeper watching his net. She gave me one look that said stay away from my husband. He is mine.
I watched her whispering something to Sujith and together they went back inside the house and slammed the door shut. Sujith didn’t even say hello to me. I felt so hurt.
With a heavy heart I turned and walked up the road, Amma was standing near the gate.
avante kanjiyil pattaney ittillinkil ninakku urakkam varathilla alley?” (you wouldn’t be peaceful till you wreck his married life! Right?)

Vengeance… thy name

When I walked in to the class the day after the results were announced, I could sense a feeling of respect, awe, admiration etc on the faces of my classmates. After all, I was Kottayam from Nina, the only student in the class with just 2 years of English education and I was among the 85 students that passed the first MBBS exam. Not only that, I scored the third highest marks for Physiology.

I knew everyone must be thinking ‘how did she do it?’

I never felt this happy. I was delirious.

Second lecture that day was Physiology and I waited impatiently for the H.O.D’s arrival. He had told the class before the exam that the top scorers will be given special assignments for the upcoming conference. I was excited, because to be part of a team that presents paper in conferences is a dream very few medical students can achieve. I watched the peon entering the class with the Roll call ledger. He stood in the middle as though he was going to teach.

“No class today. Boss had to go to Bangalore University”

Before he could finish the rest of the sentence( ie students are required to go to the library or sit in the class and study etc), I grabbed my books and ran down the steps. No boss means I am free until the dissection class in the afternoon. I could certainly catch a few winks of sleep. I opened the door and bumped straight in to Dr. Tripadi.

“Where are you going young lady?” He asked

“To the wash room sir”

How was I going to tell him, I was planning to go to my room and sleep?

“With your books?”

“Sorry sir, In my hurry, I accidentally took my books. I will be back in a minute Sir”

Damn the stupid books.

I walked towards the washroom, knowing very well that Dr. Tripadi is watching me. I closed the door, checked my face, checked my hair, counted to 100 and walked out.

When I returned to my class, Dr. Tripadi was standing near the podium. That is when I noticed the bunch of answer sheets on the desk. His peon must have brought it, when I was busy checking my hair in the washroom.

I stood near the door in a pose that clearly showed my current situation. Madurichittu thuppanum mela, kayichittu erakkanum mela. I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

“Why are you standing there young lady. Come on. Find a place to sit” encouraged Dr. Tripadi.

With a heavy heart, I walked to the back of the gallery. Perhaps Dr. Tripadi’s eye sight wouldn’t be that good and he won’t be able to see me if I sit right at the back. Besides I felt, Dr. Tripadi has been nice to me. So I was sure, he didn’t read my answer.

“Dear students, compared to all the previous years, your batch has been the best. All of you wrote the test very well. In fact, Ms. Thomas wrote the best Answer”

I watched in absolute horror when all my classmates turned to look at me. Some of them were clearly jealous.

“Ms. Thomas, why don’t you come down here and read your answer for the whole class to hear. I am sure everyone should benefit from your vast knowledge”

Oh No this can’t be happening.

“No Sir, Thank you sir” I shook my head

“Nina, Go and read, don’t make the professor call you twice. That is not nice” Spoke Shivakumar who was sitting by my side.

I felt like boxing Shivakumar’s face. What does he know?

“Come here young lady” Dr. Tripadi called again

I walked down the steps slowly wondering why only Sita was blessed and the earth could only swallow her?

“Here, read your answer for the whole class to hear”

“No Sir, please sir”

“I said Read”

I looked at the faces of all my classmates. They were eager to hear my answer. Some of them even had their notebooks opened in front of them, ready to jot down important notes. I looked at the paper in my hand and I started to read, as quietly as possible

“Sir we can’t hear” shouted Shivakumar. I stared at him, hoping that my stares would spew fire and burn him to death.

“Read louder. They can’t hear you” Dr. Tripadi looked pretty serious.

“Iceberg Phenomenon. How the mighty Titanic Sunk” I looked up. Everyone looked stunned. I was sure, they were trying to figure out the link between preventive and social medicine and Titanic.

“Continue” Dr Tripadi spoke again.

By the time I finished reading the 7 pages of my answer, there wasn’t a single student in the class that wasn’t laughing. Most of them were clapping.

“Students, you must give a standing ovation to this bright young lady. Without her, you would have never known the history of Titanic”

I watched all my classmates standing up and clapping their hands. I looked at Dr. Tripadi.

“If you do this again, I will ask you to bring your father. Do you understand that young lady?”

“Yes sir”

My transformation from Ms. Kottayam to Ms. Titanic was very quick.

Onam was in the end of August. I knew Sally will be home alone. Besides I wanted Amma to see my marks card. So I asked the Princy for special permission to take 3 days of leave. Princy too was shocked to see my ffirst MBBS results and he allowed me to go home.

I left on Thursday evening. Train was crowded with all the people going back home from Bangalore to Kerala to celebrate Onam. The excitement was in the air. I was happy, to be able to celebrate another onam in Kerala.

I decided to walk back home from the railway station, because I wanted to see all the athapoo decorations in front of the houses. I knew there won’t be any athapoo in front of our house, but I wasn’t really disappointed. It didn’t matter anymore. I suddenly felt too old to make athapoo. I couldn’t believe the changes that were happening to me. There was a time, the same me made athapoo with banana blossom because I couldn’t celebrate onam without athapoo.

When I reached the By lane, I could see that, Sujith’s house looked different. What did they do to their house? Did they renovate the house?

By the time I reached my home, I understood what has changed. They have painted the entire house. Even the gate had a new coat of painting.

Normally Christians in Kerala paint their houses before Christmas. Why did Akashavani paint her house before Onam? I didn’t understand. I couldn’t be bothered.

There was no one home so I walked to Akashavani’s house. I knocked at the gate. I saw a young woman opening the door and looking out

“yes?” She was staring at me

“Hi, I stay in that house. My mother usually leaves the house key with aa..” I bit my tongue. I was just about to say Akashavani. “With aunty here”

“Oh, ok. Just a minute” She went back inside and came back with the key. I looked at her. She must have been only 19 or 20 years old. Who is this lady? I wondered. Must be Akashavani’s cousin, must have come to celebrate Onam.

I took the keys from her hand, mumbled a Thank you and went to my house.

Amma came back around 4.3o.

“Hi Amma” I was so happy to see her

“Did you pass your exam?”

“Yes Amma”

She looked at me. I knew she didn’t believe me. So I showed her my marks card. Amma looked at the top of the Marks card. “What is MR/MCI?”

“huh?” I looked at her stunned

“I asked what is this?” She pointed to the word under First M.B.B.S degree examination-part-1-July 1989. It was written MR/MCI(If you look at yesterday’s photo, you can see it. Does any of you know what it means? MCI in all likelihood is Medical colleges of India.. MR?)

“What is it Nina? What does it mean?”

“How do I know. That must be some sort of Bangalore University code”

“How come you don’t know. This is your marks card”

I was just so mad. Why is she harassing me for some unknown words in my mark list when she can see clearly the word ‘pass’ written in red ink by the side of the mark sheet.” Because my father doesn’t work for the University” I snapped

I watched Amma taking my marks card and walking towards the phone.

‘She needs further confirmation from Mr. know it all’

I didn’t even bother to listen to the conversation. I went back to my room cursing the stupid Bangalore University and their stupid marks card.

A little while later I heard footsteps coming towards my room and I looked up

“Acha said, if you say you passed, then it must be true” Amma spoke

“Oh really. How kind of him” I mocked.

“Did you know Sujith got married last week? They found a beautiful girl for him” She replied.

athapoo.. This is Dumela’s Athapoo she made last year..


As I stood in the queue to buy my train ticket, there were two options for me. Actually there were 2 roads that I could take. I was trying to contemplate which road I should travel, when the lady in a white saree with blue border started to sweep the area where I was standing. She never spoke a word, yet when she reached near each person that was standing in the queue, they moved and allowed her to sweep. She had the power of broom in her hand. She reminded me of Chief Broom. Then I realized I am chief Broom. I didn’t really like my name. So I decided, I would be Ms. Broom. What road would Ms. Broom take?
The queue was getting shorter and shorter. Ms. Broom still had no idea where she should go. Just as I reached the counter, the lady inside the counter lifted her head and stared at me.
“Where to?” She finally asked
Ms. Broom closed her eyes for a second. She could see McMurphy with a pillow on top of her head. I shook my head. I couldn’t do it.
“Bangalore Please” I paid the fare and took the ticket from the lady and was just about to walk towards the platform when I heard two young guys who were standing behind me in the queue speaking
eda ethu Bangalore il mattey pani anenna thonnunney”( I think she is going to Bangalore to do ‘that’ business)
Ms. Broom shook her head. She has the power not to hear anything that hurts her. I was just so glad that I finally found her. With a smile on my face I walked to the platform. My life awaits me and the moment the fog clears, I will jump out. I knew that for sure.

A group of semi seniors( those in the final year, that have to repeat few subjects) were standing near the hostel entrance. They must be going for the morning rounds.
“Hi Nina, you came back early! I thought your classes starts next week?” Spoke one Kannadiga student
“Yes it is. I had some work to do” I smiled and answered
“Oh!. Hey, Did you bring any banana chips this time?”
“Sorry, I didn’t have time. I will bring it next time”
“Oh. Ok”

My room smelled musty as I opened the door. The first think that caught my attention as I entered the room was the three beds. The strangeness of the three people that are forced live in the same room was evident from the bedsheets. Mine was a flower printed Chinese bed sheet, that Amma bought in Penang before we left Malaysia. Shylaja’s was a colourful sheet that had temple arts type of motif and Aparna’s was a plain white sheet with pink embroidery.
Only then did I notice the book on my bed
‘Oh my goodness, my Chaurasia text book’. It was exactly in the same place where I left it before I lost it, near the pillow.
I was so excited to get my book back. It was like a friend, you meet after a long time. I wiped the dust off the book. All the pages and my scribbles, they were all there. Only what happened from the time I lost it to the time I found it was unknown. I knew it has to be one of my room mates who took it. Nobody else can just come inside my room and take a book. Was it Aparna? or was it Shylaja? I didn’t know.

I opened the window on my side of the bed. I could see few students standing outside the boys hostel and smoking. The sign of Princy’s absence! I smiled thinking about the futility of insane rules that are invented to produce the best doctors. Wasn’t Princy at one time a medical student? Didn’t he see his friends smoke cigarettes and break all the hostel rules? What makes a person think, he is better and smarter than the guy before him? What makes a person think that he can change the world? I never understood the logic.

I had nothing much to do, so I decided to go to the library and read the newspaper. The dissection hall was closed, so were all the lecture halls. I hoped the library wouldn’t be closed. I was so glad to see that there were lights in the library and I pushed the glass door to open, almost knocking in to Dr. Rajesh.

“Oh I am sorry sir. I didn’t see you” I know that sounded stupid. How can I not see through the glass door? I wasn’t sure what happend. But I didn’t see Dr. Rajesh.

“Oh Hi Nina, you are early”
“Yes sir” I nodded my head, hoping he wouldn’t ask me why. I noticed Dr. Rajesh was holding a huge manila board and I used the opportunity to change the subject

“Sir. What is the manila board for?”

“Oh, I have a paper to present at the ASI( Anatomy society of India) conference”

“Oh” I nodded my head, hoping he wouldn’t ask me any anatomy questions.

“Nina, I remember someone telling me that you draw very well.”
“No sir. No such thing. I am extremely terrible when it comes to drawing!”
“You are lying. I remember now. Your anatomy record was one of the best. You can draw very well. Can you help me?”

I looked at Dr. Rajesh. I could see a 10 year old girl running to her mother to show her the picture she won the first prize in the class. It was the picture of a police man in Khaki shorts being chased by a dog. My teacher was so proud of my painting, she actually clipped it on the wall for everyone to see. I remember Amma looking at the picture and telling me

“You call this a painting? Look at the police man, his legs are shorter than his body. Which police man will pass the Physical test, if his legs are short”
“But Amma, Mrs Jacob said my painting was the best. She even clipped it on the wall”
“Oh Nina, Mrs Jacob and I know each other from the time we studied together in the boarding school. She would have simply said you are a good artist, because she knows me and is my friend. She is just doing me a favor. You know, just to make you feel a little important in front of your classmates!Who in their sane mind would call this crap as a good painting? Oh Nina, you can’t even draw a straight line and you call yourself an artist?”

“So can you help me” Dr. Rajesh was speaking to me.
” Here Nina, take this manila board. You just have to copy the shoulder joint pictures from Keith L More’s book. His illustrations are good” He passed the manila board to me.
“I am presenting a paper on ‘Winged Scapula’. When can you finish it? Actually Nina, You don’t have to draw it in a hurry. I only need it by sunday. You know, normally I would do all the srawing s myself. It is just that I have to prepare for my entrance exam. You will help me?” He looked at me
“Ok” I took the manila board from him and walked to the reading room

I spend the rest of the week, reading, sleeping and drawing the pictures for Dr. Rajesh. By sunday morning I finished all the pictures Dr. Rajesh wanted.
I kept the manila board on my bed, so it won’t get dirty. After my breakfast, I went to the library to read the newspaper. I only came back to my room after lunch. Aparna and Anitha was in the room talking.

“Oh hi Nina, when did you come back?” Aparna asked

“Few days ago”

“What is that?” Aparna pointed to the manila board on my bed

“Oh, it is for Dr. Rajesh. He is presenting a paper at ASI conference”

“Oh” Aparna didn’t sound too happy.

I didn’t want to sit in the room and gossip. So I took a novel from my cupboard and walked out. I will sit in the corridor and read.

I must have been so engrossed in the book, I didn’t hear footsteps coming towards me
“Nina” Someone stood in front of me and shouted
I was stunned for a second.

“What?” I looked at the same semi senior who asked me, if I brought Banana chips.
“I have been looking for you every where. How many times did I shout your name. Can’t you hear? Are you deaf?”
“I am sorry, I didn’t hear you”
“Dr. Rajesh is waiting for you at the canteen”
“oh ok. Thanks” I got up to go to my room.
“Hey, what is going on between you and Rajesh?”
Rajesh? Just because he is a Kannadiga, he is Rajesh not Dr. Rajesh or she has feelings for him?
I turned and looked at her, tying to figure out what exactly she is expecting me to say.
“Are you having an affair with him?”
“No” I walked off. Everyone only thinks about affairs!

When I reached my room, I could hear Anitha, Aparna and Shylaja talking. Shylaja must have come back early.
“She thinks, she can butter Dr. Rajesh by doing things like this. Dr. Rajesh was with me in the bus. He told me, she didn’t pass the viva” I heard Shylaja speaking.

My heart felt so heavy.I just wanted to cry. I never drew a single picture in the last 8 years. Liza and Sally were the ones who drew all the illustrations in my Anatomy records even my botany and physics records for the pre-degree.
It took me 6 days to draw those pictures for Dr. Rajesh. I had to struggle so much to shut that voice in my head that kept saying, you can’t even draw a straight line and you call yourself an artist?
I drew those pictures for Dr. Rajesh, because I wanted to honour my words. And that idiot failed me in the viva. I wanted to tear the drawings in to tiny pieces because I knew he was using me. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew my actions are making me grow smaller and Dr. Rajesh was becoming the new nurse Ratched. But I didn’t have the strength to fight.

I opened the door quickly, pretended I didn’t notice the sudden silence in the room and grabbed the manila board and walked towards the canteen. Dr. Rajesh was standing outside the canteen door and when he saw me walking towards him, he smiled. The wretch was smiling the winning smile. I gave the manila board to him and walked off. Ms. Broom was smiling because she was deaf and didn’t have to hear the fake gratitude.

Results were announced on Friday. Princy’s peon pasted the results on the notice board. I didn’t even bother to go and check. Because I knew I failed. Most of my classmates were in the canteen celebrating. I heard someone talking that only 85 out of 150 students passed. How I wished I was one of the 85! My luck is so terrible. Now I will have to study part 1 anatomy again. I ate the egg bhaji in silence and with a heavy heart I walked back to my room. Amma and her brother will be extremely delighted that I failed!

When I reached my room, I could hear someone crying. I opened the door quietly
Shylaja was laying down on her bed and crying. Aparna was trying to console her. I didn’t know what to do. I walked towards Shylaja’s bed
“Never mind Shylaja, it is ok. We will study together and write the exams again next term”
“What do you mean? Why do you want to write it again?”
I looked at her. Why is she crying? Isn’t she crying because she failed?
“Don’t pretend to be so stupid Nina, I know you passed”
“What?” I was too stunned to react
“You didn’t check your results?” she looked at me unconvinced
“No I didn’t. I thought I failed” I ran out of the room. I had to see it to believe. I was gasping for breath by the time I reached the notice board. I checked my number. It was there. It was unbelievable. I felt I was on top of the world. I wanted to sing. I wanted to dance. I wanted to scream and say
‘yeah, even the famous civil service rank holder’s daughter didn’t pass the anatomy exams in the first year and me, the deaf and dumb and blind Nina Thomas, who can’t draw a straight line, who can’t even string a single English sentence passed the exam’

My feet was so weightless as I walked back to my room. This time Anitha was also in the room and I heard her speaking
“She must have used her uncle’s influence and rigged the marks. There is no other way she would have passed”

Even after all the struggle, some body else gets the credit. But that is my destiny.

Anitha had to repeat Biochemistry and Physiology
Shylaja had to repeat all three and Nina’s Result is there for you to see. She passed all the subjects!
I scored 49 marks for anatomy practicals. 50 Marks are required to pass. Each department would know a students practicals score before sending it to the University, because they know the total marks the student got for the internals and externals. Normally the college authorities would give a bonus mark for border line cases. No one did that in my case. Because I passed all the other subjects, Bangalore university gave the bonus mark.

one flew east, one flew west and one flew over…..

Just as I was about to turn to the by lane that leads to my house, I saw my mother walking up the road. I slowed down my pace. I didn’t want my mother to ask me why I am running.
Sujith must have noticed that I stopped running and used the opportunity to run towards me and spoke
“Nina, Nina please talk to me. Don’t do this to me. You should know I have always loved you”
It was a mistake. A big, huge mistake because my mother heard him.
I looked at Amma. She looked vicious. I just knew I am going to be in big trouble, for no fault of mine. I looked at the plastic carry bag in Amma’s hand. She must have been on her way to buy groceries. I thought, may be I will have enough time go to my room and shut the door, before Amma comes back from the shop. I quickly walked towards my home. I didn’t bother to even look at Amma. I was so relieved to reach the main gate. I heard footsteps right behind me while I opened the gate. I turned to look.
“Get inside” Amma yelled. She was standing right behind me, blocking my escape. I thought of pushing her and run to safety on the main road. Sujith was still standing near the main road. May be he will help me. Amma pushed me on my neck. I almost fell down.
“I said get inside” She was hissing.
I kicked the gate and walked inside. I didn’t do anything wrong. How dare my mother push me. As soon as I reached the main door, I heard Amma yelling
nikkadi avidey(stop right there)”
I ignored her and walked towards my room
“I said stop right there” I didn’t know my mother was this strong. She pushed me towards the wall and I hit my head hard on the wall. Amma stood right in front of me and I tried to move sideways and escape. She kept her hands on either side of me.
ithinanodi nee kalathu orunggi ketti erangiyathu?” ( Is it for ‘this’ you got all dressed up and gone out?)
My head was hurting and I looked at the woman who was standing in front of me. What was she talking about? What is that about getting dressed up? I looked at my clothes. I wore a simple blue skirt and t-shirt. The skirt was part of my girl guide uniform, that I wore in my 9th std and t-shirt was Liza’s. It was her Basketball Uniform t-shirt that she left behind, when she went to Chikmagalur.
Suddenly Amma started to hold my neck with both her hands and strangle me, all the while saying
“You are spoiling my name? How dare you? What would people say, if they know that you have been seducing neighbourhood boys in the morning itself? Are you not ashamed of yourself? have you thought about your sisters? Who would marry them, if anyone knows that their older sister is a prostitute?”
I couldn’t breath anymore. I tried to push Amma away. My eyes were beginning to hurt. I just couldn’t break free from my mother’s grasp. I felt this is it. This is the end. My life is over. I looked at my mother. May be this is what she wanted. She wanted me to be dead long time ago, when I was in her womb itself, she did not want me. She is getting her wish. I closed my eyes. I could hear my mother calling me a prostitute over and over.
I don’t really know what happened next. When I woke up, I was sitting down on the floor and Sally shouting
“Nina talk to me, Are you ok?” I looked up. My mother was leaning on the wall and staring at me.
“What is wrong with you Amma?” Sally was shouting at Amma.
I got up slowly.
“Sally, I copied your notes for you. Here is your book” I picked up the notebook from the floor and gave it to Sally.
I could hear my mother’s words over and over and over in my head
“You are a prostitute” I tied to shake my head, so I could get the voice out of my head. But the more I shook my head, the more louder the voice became.

I went to my room, packed my stuff and walked out. Just as I was leaving my room, I saw my image in the mirror. I thought, hmm I don”t look one bit like a prostitute, but I looked very much like a mad woman. Very much like the woman who sits near the catholic church, opposite BCM college. How many times she threw rocks at the boys who were waiting for the bus? She always chanted enikku mathram vattilla( I am the last sane person on earth!)
I walked towards the mirror. I was quiet amused to see my own reflection. Nina Thomas, grand daughter of famous Methran Thambi and Thangamma was known as Kochumaharani(little princess) when she was growing up and now looked hilarious in an old blue skirt and a ragged over sized t-shirt.
My hair was in a mess and I pulled it towards the back, so I could make a pony tail. That is when I noticed the red marks on my neck. Most young girls in Kerala get gifts of gold chains from their mothers. I got a gift of strangulation. I couldn’t stop laughing thinking about the ironies of my life.
“Nina are you ok? Where are you going?” Sally walked in to my room. She looked at the bag in my hand. She looked pretty worried.
I looked at my baby sister. She is the last sane person of the Thomas family. She needs me. My mother will destroy her life too, if I am not around. I need to be strong for my baby sister. I didn’t want anyone to see my mother’s gift on my neck. So I changed my clothes and wore a salwar. I used the shawl to cover my neck.
“Nina, where are you going? Please talk to me”
“Don’t worry about me. I won’t do anything stupid. I am going back to the hostel. Take care of yourself” I mumbled
Amma was sitting at the dining table. She looked at me. I thought of telling her, ‘you were so close to achieving your dreams to eliminate me!.. good luck next time’.
I knew I am going mad, so I walked out quickly. May be the faster I leave the mad house, the faster I would escape from madness.
My hands were shivering. I was so afraid. What if I am really becoming mad? Would I be locked up in a mental institution? Am I going to get electric shock? Are they going to do lobotomy like the did on R.P. McMurphy?*

Tingle, tingle tremble toes
She is a good fisherman
catches hens
puts’em in pens
Some lay eggs
Some lay none
wire, blier, limer lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew east
One flew west
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
Goose swoops down and plucks you out

Suddenly it occured to me, Chief Bromden, Big nurse Ratched, McMurphy were all part of my family. I wasn’t really sure who is who. But I knew the outcome. I am Chief Bromden, because I am going to escape from this mad house and one day I will tell my story
I been silent so long now it’s gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen” (p.8).
I smiled thinking about the future. Thinking about everyone who one day will know the truth. Who will then institutionalize me, because they think I am insane. I laughed more, because I remembered why McMurphy laughed!’ you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy” (p. 237)’.
As I walked to the railway station, I named each of the Characters in my life. My mother was certainly Nurse Ratched. May be I will call her the Nurse Wretched. Who will be McMurphy? Not me, certainly not me. I shook my head vigorously. I don’t want to be McMurphy. I had no intention of ending up not being me at the end. I am not going to be a loser at the end after all the struggles that I had to overcome.
Then it occurred to me, Mcmurphy has been in my life all along in the form of my Ammachi. She taught me to be free and to dream, while she was a prisoner of her own dreams. My grandmother was dying each day, while teaching me to live. I wanted to cry, thinking about her.
In the end, I knew Ammachi is going to be in a bed, not knowing who she is, or why she struggled all these years and I will throw the big control panel out of the window and escape!

Then I thought of Billy Bibbit, my favourite character in the story. I so very badly wanted him to stand up for himself once in his life. I so very badly wanted him to fight his mother and Nurse Ratched. Who would be the Billy in my story? I didn’t have to look far. Maria is Billy Bibbit, She has been manipulated by my mother all these years. Oh my goodness, she fits the role perfectly. I shook my head, because I didn’t want Maria to be Billy Bibbit. I didn’t want to lose my sister. I have to look for a better role for her. I promised I will look for a better role for my sisters.
But before all that I knew, I needed to find myself. I am lost in the maze of madness that runs in an institution called family.
“Randall Patrick McMurphy( One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Ken Kesey)

Open and Shut

Note: Very nostalgic post with lots of malayalam words! Sorry I just don’t know how to translate the feelings behind each malayalam word!

I looked at the piece of paper in my hand. A single white sheet of paper, the silent witness of love. In each of those beautifully handwritten words I could feel love. At the bottom of the paper there was a small picture of a dove, with a piece of paper in its beak with a caption, would you please love the messenger of this message?
Would I?
I knew Sujith since I came to Kottayam. I played hide and seek with him when I was 10 years old. I threw rocks at him when he teased me by singing
nalukalulloru nangeli penniney
kolunarayanan kattondu poyi (I have no idea what this song means).
He used to sing that every time I climbed the fence or the guava tree. I used to get so mad at him.
I remembered the first time I wore saree! All the 10 std students had to wear a plain white colour saree for the fare well party. Sujith was busy walking up and down their veranda on the pretext of studying. I knew he was waiting there to see me in a saree! I tried to sneak past his house without him seeing me and I still remember the song he sang, just when I thought he didn’t see me.
Omanathinkal paskhi
neela thamara Kulathile
thinkal pakshi
Pettoru pathira muthinu perenthu
Ilam thennal urangumbol
Ilakingini kudilil
Thoovella pudava chutti
Thulasi poompadavil
Urangatha mizhikalumayi
Thalolam mani paithal
Kal thorum valaran
Ayiram paurnnamikal
Ayussil vidaran
Thalikayil kalabhavumayi

I was so mad at him that day and I called him kapalanga(papaya) just to irritate him and he retaliated by calling me nellikka (Gooseberry).
For a long time after that every time he saw me he used to say nellikka adyam kaykkum pinney madurikkum (gooseberries.. they taste bitter at first then they taste sweet!) and I used to retaliate by saying kapalanga kriminashini (papaya de-worm medicine!!)
All this while I thought he hated me and that is why he was calling me names!
Was he in love with me all this time? I just couldn’t believe it. Sujith, the most annoying neighbour one could ever get was in love with me all this while! and I never noticed.
I felt something I have never felt before. My feet were floating in the air and my body felt weightless! I felt I was walking in the clouds. Someone loves me. I really have someone to love me. Like Aparna and John Jacob. Oh my goodness I am in love. I wanted to dance. I wanted to sing. I wanted the world to know how happy I am. My heart was beating like drum rolls. I was just so happy.

I walked quickly to Sally’s friends house. I wanted to copy the notes quickly and come back home. I wanted to see Sujith. I had so much to talk to him.

Sally’s classmate stayed close to the park. It was very easy to find the house. I rang the bell and waited. I could hear children running around and laughing inside. Happy home, I thought.
‘Who is it?” a female voice asked
“I am Nina, Sally’s older sister. Can I please borrow Sajini’s english note book for a few minutes?”
“Why?” the lady opened the door and stared at me. She must be in her 30’s. She had bobbed hair and she was wearing a salwar Kameez.
“Sally lost her notes, so I have to copy everything for her” I smiled and told her. I knew she must be thinking what kind of an idiot looses her notes in the first term of school? I just couldn’t bear anyone thinking bad about my sisters. If she asked me how she lost the notes, I was planning to tell her that, someone stole the book, rather than the truth.
“Are you the one who is doing medicine?”
“Yes Aunty” I nodded my head. Somehow doing medicine is a very respectable job. You get instant respect. I never understood why. But I thrived on it!
“Sajini, go and get your note book” she called out. “Come on in” She moved to side and allowed me to go inside.
The house was so beautiful. As soon as you enter, you see the picture of mother Mary and Jesus on the wall. There was a small red colour bulb lit infront of the picture. The walls were covered with bibilical verses. There was a huge poster on the side wall ‘God lives in this house’.
“Can I get you something to drink?” She asked me
“No thanks aunty. I just had my breakfast” I lied.
My house must be the only house where people eat when they are hungry. There is no such thing as regular breakfast,lunch or dinner. One day when I get married I knew all this will change. I will have a house with the man I love and we will have normal meals three times a day.
“Aunty here is the book” I looked at the small girl standing in front of me. She called me aunty? I am only 18 years old and she is calling me aunty. I thought of telling her off. But then I thought, I am indeed 18 years old, old enogh to vote, old enought to get married, old enough to have my own kids. I blushed thinking about my own kids! I didn’t want anyone to see me blushing, so I took the book from Sajini’s hand and quickly started to copy the notes. From the corner of my eyes, I could see an old lady wearing chatta and mundu nudging Sajini’s mother and asking her to go and ask. That old lady must be Sajini’s grandmother. I wasn’t sure if it was her mother’s mother or father’s mother. It didn’t make any difference to me, so I ignored them. I just wanted to finish copying the notes quickly, so I can see Sujith.
I had another two more pages to copy and I saw Sajini’s mother coming and sitting in front of me on the three seater couch.
“Just a few more pages aunty. I will write fast” Perhaps she wanted the book fast, so her daughter can prepare for the test.
“Oh, no no. Take your time. You can write slowly” She smiled
My hands were hurting by the time I finished writing all the notes. I closed the book and got up
“Thank you very much Aunty.”
“have a seat Nina. I want to talk to you”
Talk to me? What does she want to talk?
“have a seat” She spoke again
I wanted to leave. I wanted to see Sujith, But it will not be nice if I say I am busy and walk off. So I sat down.
“Can I get you something to drink?” She asked again
“No thanks Aunty”
“Tell me about your family”
I looked at her. Why does she need to know about my family? Is she scouting for a girl for her brother or something?
“Where is your father?”
“He is working in Dubai”
“Your mother works for the telephones eh?”
“yes aunty” I looked at the clock. It is almost 11.20. Sujith must be waiting for me near the parade ground. pavam,must be getting all worked up not knowing where I went and what my answer would be.
“Before this, weren’t you guys living in Borneo?”
“Not Borneo aunty. We lived in Malaysia” I thought of telling her the geography, that only part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia. Then I felt she wouldn’t understand anyway
kuttinte ammente randam kalyanamano kuttinte achanum ayi? (is this your mother’s second marriage?”
I was too stunned to react. What was that? What is she talking about?
“Excuse me?” I looked at the woman sitting in front of me.
I watched Sajini’s mother looking at the old lady and showing all faces. The old woman came towards me and spoke
“Everyone here says, your father is your mother’s second husband. Is it true?”
I didn’t know what to answer. Is it true? I had no idea. It was the first time I heard such a thing? Is my father Amma’s second husband? Then where is her first husband? That is nonsense.
“No aunty, my father isn’t my mother’s second husband. He is my mother’s only husband”
“But everyone…” The old lady was trying to say something
“Thank you very much for letting me borrow the book” I walked out quickly. I was so upset. I thought I knew everything about my family and all of a sudden I didn’t know anything.
I no longer knew what is truth and what is a lie in my family. Although I told Sajini’s mother that Amma only has one husband, I wasn’t sure. Who do I go and ask? Who will tell me the truth?
As I walked back home, I knew that I would never be able to escape my mother’s shadows. That people would judge me,not for what I did, but on what my mother did.
I realized, I can be a fool and believe that Akashavani would accept me for what I am or be a realist and accept that my life sucks and there is no escape.
From the distance I could see Sujith was standing near the church. I knew he is waiting for me. Much as I wanted someone to hold my hand, I knew he wouldn’t be able to hold my hand. he just wouldn’t be able to. i started to walk fast. When I reached where Sujith was standing, I didn’t even stop to look at him
“Nina wait” I could hear him calling me
But I had already shut the door of my heart.
Some mother’s don’t realize what they make their children go through.

Ente Prana sakhi

“Where are your notes? How are you going to study for the exam, Oh Lord, why are you giving me so much trouble in my old age? Sally I am talking to you. Where are your notes?”
I woke up listening to my mother screaming at Sally. Should I get up and find out what is going on? Or should I ignore? From my past experiences I learned, never to interfere when Amma is scolding my sisters. So I chose the latter. I hoped the problem would solve on its own.
Amma and I haven’t been talking to each other since the Idli batter incident. I didn’t want to create any trouble. In just a few more days I will be going back to my college.
“How dare you ah? See! All the papers are missing? What did you do? Answer me Sally! What happened to all your notes?”
“Amma, please don’t hit me, Amma please” I could hear Sally crying.

was pretty sure, Amma must have got her periods this morning!, that is why she is going after Sally

Much as my heart told me, not to go and interfere, I just couldn’t bear to hear my baby sister crying. So I got up and went to the living room. Amma was holding a note book in her hand and hitting Sally.
“What is going on?” I asked
“What is your problem? Don’t you dare interfere. You have no business in my house”
“Why is Amma hitting you Sally?”
“I lost my notes Nina”
“You idiot, you lost your notes” Amma started to hit her more.
“That is enough Amma” I spoke
“Who are you to tell me what I should do?” Amma raised her hand to hit Sally again and and I grabbed her hand and held it tight.
“I said that is enough. Sally, go to your room, now” She looked at me and Amma. Amma was struggling to break free from my grasp.
“Sally, I said go to your room, NOW” I screamed.
Sally ran to her room.
“I will give it to you later” Amma shouted. She was using all her strength to break free from my grasp, I let go of my hand. Suddenly Amma lost her balance and I quickly held her. I didn’t want Amma to fall down and hurt herself.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t you dare touch me” Amma pushed me away, the moment she regained her balance.
I felt I should have just let her fall!
I thought of pushing Amma, so she would fall. I was so angry. Then I realized, there isn’t much difference between my father and I!
“Move” Amma pushed me. I wasn’t expecting her to push me and I almost fell down. There was enough space for Amma to walk without pushing me.
“What is wrong with you?”
“Wrong? Wrong with me? Ever since I gave birth to you, nothing good has happened in this house. You are asking me what is wrong with me?”
“Then how come your mother and the rest of your family says, I brought luck to you, that I am a makam piranna manka( Excellent horoscope)”
Makam Piranna Manka,” Amma repeated the sentence in a mocking tune. I ignored the sarcasm in her voice. I know, my dad got a better job after I was born. My parents bought a lot of stuff for the house after my birth. So there is no way I could have brought bad luck to my family. Can one’s birth bring bad luck to their family? Is it true?
I thought of all the things happened since my birth. Was I the reason Appa and Amma fight? Was I the reason, Ammachi and Amma fight? If I was a boy, then would Ammachi and Amma had a better relationship? If I was a boy, then Amma need not have given birth to my sisters. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t imagine a life without my sisters. I quickly walked to Sally’s room.
She was lying on her bed with a blanket over her head.
“Oh Sally, why do you cover your face? You know only dead people cover their face” I pulled the blanket from her face. Her eyes were red. I felt sorry for her.
“What happened to your notes?”
“I don’t know Nina”
“Show me your note book”
Sally got up, took the notebook from her desk and gave it to me.
It was her English notebook. I opened it, there was just 2 pages of notes. Nothing else. There were so many lose sheets at the back of the book.
“Did you tear the paper from your notebook?”
“No. I never do that”
“Sally. Don’t lie, See this?” I showed her the lose pages.” These pages won’t just fall out of your note book. What did you do? Did you tear the paper”
“When my friend Amina asked me for a paper to make a boat, I tore a sheet from the back of the book”
“Only one sheet?”
“I made a boat also. so two sheets”
“Only two sheets?” I looked at the note book. It was a 220 pages notebook. It didn’t look like it had more than 100 pages!
“Yesterday I only took 2 sheets. I swear, Nina, I only took two sheets”
“What about day before yesterday?”
“I can’t remember Nina”
“Oh” I shook my head. “Sally, see what you have done? When you tear a page from the back, the page in the front section of the book becomes loose, so it will come off. That is how you lost your notes! Oh Sally Didn’t Amma tell you not to tear the pages from your note book?”
“I am sorry Nina” She started to cry
“Stop crying. Do you think by crying you get your notes back” I scolded her.
“When is your test?”
“Excellent! How are you going to study without your notes?”
“I don’t know”
“Does any of your classmates stay near our house?”
“Sajini stays near the park”
“Wonderful. Go get ready. We will go to her house and you can borrow her note book and copy everything”
“But Nina, I have to study maths”
“when is your math’s test?”
“On Tuesday”
“On Tuesday only right? You have enough time to study. Get ready. You are coming with me”
“Nina, will you please copy the notes for me”
“No way. I don’t write my own notes, so you think I will write for you?”
“Please Nina, didn’t I help you to draw your Botany record book for the Pre-degree?”
“Shhh!” I hoped Amma didn’t hear that.
” Please Nina, please copy the notes for me. I will fail my test if I don’t have any notes. You are the only one who loves me, please Nina!”
“Oh ok.Where does your friend stay?”
I took the address from Liza. I really didn’t want to copy the notes for Sally. But she is my youngest sister. If I don’t do it for her, who will do it? I took her notebook, pencils and walked out. Amma was sitting at the dining table and reading the news paper. I looked at the clock. It was only 9.45Am. Too early to go and visit Sally’s classmate.
I looked at the newspaper in Amma’s hand. I really wanted to read the paper. but I knew if I asked Amma for the inside the sheets she would say
“I only get 10 minutes to read the paper and in that time, you want to share. Go away Nina, let me read the paper in peace”
I don’t know what is Amma’s problem, Why can’t she give me the inside sheets?She knows, I read faster than her and can give it back to her, even before she reads the front page. But still she won’t share.
Wait till I earn my own money, Then I will subscribe to all the newspapers available on planet earth and I won’t share my paper with Amma!
“Why are you standing there and staring at me” I was startled to hear Amma speaking
“Oh nothing, I was just reading the headlines”
“I am going to Sally’s friend’s house”
I looked at the woman who was sitting at the dining table. That is my mother, the woman who gave birth to me. She didn’t even ask me, where I am going? why I am going? When will I be back? Why can’t she ask me anything? Why can’t she show once that she cares for me?
When I have my own children, I will make sure, I show them how much I care. I will not treat them the way my mother treats me. I promised myself.
I walked towards the gate. I opened the gate and as usual, I looked at Akashavani’s house. I saw Sujith looking out through the window and ducking his head the moment he saw me looking at him
Weirdo! Why is he playing hide and seek? Stupid fellow. I planned to tell him off the next time I see him.
I walked slowly, passed the parade ground. Some of the Lawyer’s offices were already opened for business. The corner shop owner was standing on a small stool and hanging a bunch of ripe bananas on a hook in front of his shop. I looked at the row of glass jars, where he stores all the candies. I remembered narangamuttai and inji muttai(candies). I haven’t eaten a candy for such a long time. Actually the last time I ate a naranga muttai was, when Maria was home. Then I realized, I haven’t seen my big sister since then. She lives in Bangalore and I have never once bothered to call or write to her. What is wrong with me? How could I not keep in touch with my sister? Oh my goodness I am such a colossal failure!
I promised myself, I will ask Amma for Chechy’s address and will contact her once I am in Bangalore.
I checked my pocket. I had some coins and I decided to buy some naranga muttai( candies). I walked to the shop
chetta, Do you have naranga muttai(candies)?”
Naranga muttai? Who eats naranga muttai now a days? I have cadbury’s”
I looked at the glass jars. The shop keeper was telling the truth. All the candy jars had cadbury’s and Poppins etc, Not one jar had any candies without a wrapper.
I don’t like Chocolate. I like the traditional hard candies that comes without any wrappers. Like the Injimuttai. Why do we change so much in the name of modernization? What is wrong with all our traditional sweets? I was just about to walk off when I heard someone calling my name
“Hey Nina, wait up”
I turned my head to look. Sujith was running towards me. By the time he reached where I was standing, he was huffing and puffing
“Where were you?” He asked me
“Huh?” I looked at him. Not enough that he was vayumnokkifying(?peeping) this morning, now he has the nerve to ask me, where I was? Who is he? My father?
I was just about to give him a piece of my mind
“This is for you” He had an envelope in his hand and was giving it to me.
“What is it?” I asked him. Sujith was struggling to answer.
“Just take it” He replied.
I looked at him trying to figure out what is going on.
“Money, Sujithey(Dear son Sujith), Does your mother know this?” Shop owner asked Sujith.
Know what? I looked at both of them
“Oh No Chetta, this isn’t what you think. This is a letter that came for her. Postman accidentally put it in our mailbox”
“Take it” Sujith pushed the envelope in to my hand.
“Hmmm! hmmm!” The shop owner was humming and grinning.
What is wrong with the shop owner? I didn’t want to stand there any longer and create further confusion. I walked off quickly.
I wondered, which idiot send me a letter? I have never given my address to any of my classmates. I didn’t want to receive a letter from one of my classmate guys and fight with Amma over that. I looked at the envelope. There was no address. It was a plain white colour envelope with nothing written on it. It didn’t even have a stamp.
Why did sujith lie to me?
I opened the letter quickly.
First line was
Ente prana sakhi (my darling)

Wishing all of you a very happy valentine’s day..

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires,
let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of
too much tenderness.
To be wounded by
your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn
with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour
and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer
for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.
Kahlil Gibran:Prophet

Note: Sting,Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers(Police) will be launching their 30th Anniversary reunion world tour on may 28th in Vancouver. Presale tickets will be on sale on 14th feb at 12 noon( Vancouver time)