I didn’t want to fight with Amma, so I went to my room. I had brought plenty of novels with me from Bangalore. I decided to lay down on my bed and read.
“Why are you laying down here and reading your book? Can’t you go to the living room and read? Why do you want to waste electricity like this?” I looked up to see Amma standing near my room door. Without even asking me, she switched off the light. I got so mad. But I didn’t say anything. This is Amma’s house and she is paying the electricity bill. I have no right to complain. I got up to go to the living room.
Amma was busy in the kitchen. I thought of going and helping her, but I was in no mood to listen to complaints. so I continued to read the book.
“Who took the coconut that I kept in the fridge?” I heard Amma yelling from the kitchen
“I did. I threw it away”
“You threw it away? Do you know how much one coconut costs now? What were you thinking? You think money grows on trees?”
I thought of telling Amma the same dialogue that I told my grandmother sometime ago, that money certainly doesn’t grow on trees, but coconut does! But my mother doesn’t like jokes.
“Amma, the coconut was already red in colour and you know it is poisonous”
“Yeah right, Poisonous! then how come none of you died till now? I have been cooking using the red colour coconut all these while”
What answer do you tell a woman who asks, why her children aren’t dead yet? I just shook my head.
I watched Amma inspecting the fridge, she turned around and looked at the steel container on the plate rack.
“You threw away the Dosai batter? Do you think Dosai batter comes from heaven like manna ? Has it ever occurred to you, how hard it is to walk to the mill, carrying the soaked rice and dal to get it ground? Sometimes I have to stand almost 30 minutes in the queue. Oh Nina, why don’t you just stay in your hostel? Why do you come home and harass me like this? Next time when you have holidays, Don’t come back home. You are just a pest”
I hate it when my mother talks like that, so I retorted
“Too bad Amma. This is a democratic country I will come home, whenever I want. And you know something, you can’t stop me!”
I didn’t expect Amma to get that mad to come and hit me. So I continued to read the novel, I was surprised to see her running towards me with her hand raised, about to slap me. I ducked my head first, then got up and faced my mother and told her
“No, Amma. You are not going to hit me. I am 18 years old, I am matured enough to vote in this country according to Rajiv Gandhi. Stop trying to win an argument, by using physical force, like your husband. You know something Amma, There is no difference between you and your husband.”
“What did you say? That I am like your father? Then I should have just abandoned all of you like he did! Why didn’t I ever do that?”
“May be he wouldn’t have abandoned us, if you weren’t in the picture. My father never had problems with us Did he? His only problem was you, not us!”
“I knew you will always support your father. You just can’t see how much I am struggling, Can you? You are just dumb like him”
“Hmm very true. That is why I am doing medicine and you are still working for the telephones as an ordinary office worker, Right?” I just couldn’t control the spite I felt for my mother
“Doing medicine? What medicine? You think you will pass? Even Acha’s daughter failed the first year! Her father passed Indian civil service exam, she herself was a rank holder, she couldn’t pass first year MBBS exam. And you think you are going to pass? You can’t even string a single sentence in English. You got motta(Zero) marks for the 5th std English medium entrance exam! Oh Nina, You must only dream, within your limits!
Acha and I knew there is no way you are going to pass the first year, but you won’t listen to anyone would you? So we decided to let you struggle for a year and then come home saying mundiringa pulikkum(Aesop’s fable about the fox and the sour grapes). Don’t worry, I have already spoken to the BCM college Principal for your B.Sc Admission next year. You are lucky. Fortunately, She knows Acha, other wise who will give admisssion for an MBBS drop out??”
“Go to hell Amma” I threw the book I was reading at her and walked to my room
“Mundiringa sharikkum pulikkum( the grapes indeed taste sour)” Amma mocked.
I lay down on my bed. Four more years! Just four more years, then I can escape this mad house. I promised my self, the day I finish medicine, I will celebrate my freedom. I will soar like a bird, free from the cage.
I felt so alone. Would I get someone to just hold my hand, while I struggle each day just to survive? Would beautiful eyes understand what I have to endure in my own home? Would anyone understand?
The world is full of people who tells you, how you should treat your parents. Even the great Sanskrit scholars have written countless articles about the respect hierarchy. They have even coined a magic Manthra. Matha, pitha guru daivam(mother, father, teacher and god)I am supposed to pay respect first to my mother, who gave birth to me then to my father, without him I wouldn’t have been born, then to my teachers for the gift of knowledge and lastly to God.
How do I give respect to a mother, who wanted me to fail each step of the way? How do I give respect to a father, who uses me as a pawn in his fight against his wife? How do I give respect to my teachers who pass their judgements on me and lastly how do I give respect to God, when he makes me go through all these?
Then it occurred to me, there are only three people that mattered. I,me and myself. I figured, I will just have to survive with myself to provide a better future for me. I just have to. I don’t have anyone else. That was the truth, that I am all alone in this world!
I heard the phone ringing and I knew it must be the idiot( aka as my uncle) from Bangalore.I over heard Amma complaining about me throwing away the dosai batter and the coconut. Then I heard Amma saying,”No I didn’t ask her. You know she won’t pass. she is just wasting her time.”
I so very badly wanted to get up and strangle Amma’s neck and ask her Why can’t you have an iota of faith in me? Is that too much to ask?
I so very badly wanted to pass the exam, not so much because I will be able to write the entrance exam for master’s degree, but for the satisfaction of shoving my marks card on my stupid mother’s face. Then I remembered Dr. Rajesh’s face during my viva and I knew I will not get the satisfaction this year!
In the morning I walked with Sally to the bus stand. I remembered those days when I used to carry Liza’s and Sally’s school bag and drop them to their school. I remembered the times, my sisters stood on the back seat of the bus and waved at me.
I looked at Sally. She is almost 9 years old. She no longer wanted me to carry her school bag. She didn’t want to hold my hand. How fast the time flew!
“Nina, why do you fight with Amma, each time when you come back from the medical college?” Sally asked
“I don’t know. I guess it is because, I am never good enough for Amma. I just want her to say once in her life, that I am good at something”
“But you are good”
“I know. But not good enough for Amma. Maria speaks good English, knows how to get dressed well, Liza is good in sports, taller than me, and you, you are very pretty, smart, and sweet and me.. I am not good in anything. I studied in Malayalam medium, I don’t like to wear make up, I wear the same clothes all the time, I am not good in studies and most importantly, I am deaf, dumb and blind”
“No you are not. I think you are the smartest of us all”
“Then why doesn’t Amma say that? Didn’t you hear her saying that, I am going to fail my first year. Do you know that my room mate Shylaja’s mother observed ‘fast’, so she would pass the exam. Aparna’s mother send tons of food and Anitha’s mother called her every night. My mother, she was in Bangalore and didn’t even visit me. Do you know how that feels Sally? Do you know how much it hurts when I know Amma is waiting for me to fail?”
She didn’t say anything.
Perhaps she would never know how much and how desperately I want my mother to say that I am good at something. May be Amma knew that, may be she gets some kind of satisfaction making me beg for her approval.
As soon as we reached the bus stop I watched Sally running towards her friends who were already waiting in a line. They were talking and laughing. I just stood there like a tiang telefone(telephone Post) and watched the school bus arriving and my sister entering the bus. I thought at least my sister would say a good bye to me. I watched the conductor closing the door and the bus leaving. I desperately looked at all the window seats to see where my sister is sitting. All the children looked alike in the school uniform. I knew my sister would be upset, if I didn’t wave my hand and said goodbye. So I waved my hand and in my heart I knew she would be standing in the last seat of the bus and waving, like she did all the times.
I looked at the back window of the bus, all the while waving my hand. It was difficult to accept as an older sister that, you no longer are as important as friends in your baby sisters life. So like a mad woman, I kept waving at the bus that was disappearing fast from my eye sight. Mad woman