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.

12 thoughts on “Open and Shut

  1. You are right, it is difficult to capture the mood of the song when you translate it.

    But I can demystify the “nalukalulloru nangeli penniney
    kolunarayanan kattondu poyi”

    “nalukalulloru nangeli pennu” is four legged woman and it refers to the frog and “kolunarayan” is water snake (neerkoli). “Kattondu poyi” means stole away. Basically it means that the snake ate the frog.

  2. Upsilamba: Thank you

    Sujit: They are.. so near that most people don’t realize how easy to find and

    Thanu: more specifically why are Malayalees so nosy?

    Neihal: I never knew.. I wish that lady knew, how much that one single question affected me.. and worst of all, that knowledge of if my mother was married before wouldn’t have helped her in any way

    Ursjina: May be one day!!

    Sumitha: That wrecked everything!

    Alexis:when I taught my daugher this song, she asked for the meaning.. and I told her nang’eli’ is a big huge giant rat..a tall Narayan uncle stole someone’s rat!.. Now do you think I should tell her the actual meaning??? Darn.. how am I to know kolu narayanan is a snake??

    Starry: Love is funny isn’t it??

    Thanu: I agree..

    Chickoo: Thank you

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