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.