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
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)