Studying in a Malayalam medium wasn’t a crime. But it was like a scab that still stuck around long after the wound has healed. A scab that reminds you that you weren’t good enough or smart enough to study in an English medium like everyone else at the medical college.
All I ever wanted was to be accepted as normal. I wanted to be accepted as a good student because I already had so much imperfections. I had severe Astigmatism and I was almost deaf. Besides I was not pretty and tall like my sisters. I couldn’t change any of those imperfections. But I could still use my brain and score good marks. But even there I was losing out.
All because I studied in a Malayalam medium, it became certain to my classmates that I had external help( surely from my Uncle) to pass the exams. They were sure that there was no way I could have passed the first MBBS exams on my own merit. Not when I skipped most of the boring classes, not when I didn’t submit my assignments on time and certainly not when I get others to draw the diagrams in my record books.
I was so upset with Liza and as soon Anitha left the room I asked her
“Why did you tell Anitha that I am deaf and I studied in Malayalam medium?”
“Why not? That is the truth isn’t it?” She looked at me so innocently.
“I didn’t say it isn’t the truth Liza. But you didn’t have to let the whole world know that I am deaf”
“Well I didn’t see anything wrong with it” She just shrugged her shoulder and went back to lay down on my bed. She used my blanket and covered her body
“You know, you should get a new blanket. Your blanket is so rough” Liza complained
I thought of just strangling her. I knew my blanket was rough. If I had any other options I would be using a soft and fluffy blanket. I had no one to buy me a new blanket. It was funny because my father and my mother earns tons of money and I still had to use an old, torn, rough blanket. If this wasn’t karma, what else would you call it?
Saturday morning I went to the library to read the last one week of newspaper, then I went back to my hostel to have my shower. By the time I finished taking my shower, I was feeling very hungry. Then I remembered, today is ‘non veg’ day. If I don’t hurry now, I would only get the bones! I quickly walked to my room, so I can take Liza and go to the mess and eat lunch. My sister was playing Rummy with Aparna and Anitha in the room. I told her
“Liza, come let us go and eat lunch!”
“Not now Nina. Can’t you see I am playing now? You go and eat. I will go with Anitha chechy later”
“Ok” I mumbled. It was ironic that my sister was addressing me as Nina and called Anitha, chechy. It really hurt. Just as I was about to close the door, I heard Liza speaking
“Nina is so jealous. She doesn’t like me playing with both of you. That is why she is asking me to join her for lunch. Jealousy pig”
I heard Anitha and Aparna laughing.
I had taken enough and I walked straight to the phone booth and called Amma.
“Hello” Amma answered
“Amma it is me Nina, Liza had broken her arm and she is staying with me. But I can’t take care of her anymore. You will have to come and fetch her.”
“Yeah, I heard about it. Acha told me. Why can’t she stay with you Nina? After all you are a doctor!”
“I am not a doctor Amma. I am only a medical student”
“Whatever!. But isn’t it better that she stays with you? If there is any emergency you can take her to the hospital immediately”
What kind of emergency would occur for a simple broken bone? I wondered
“Amma, I need to study. I have internals soon. There is no way I can take care of Liza and study”
“You are always so selfish. You only think about yourself. You don’t have to take care of your sister. She is my daughter. I will take care of her. Anyway Why are you becoming a doctor? you can’t even take care of your own sister when she needs you the most!”
“Well, that is my business to worry about, isn’t? Why should you care?” I snapped.
“You will never do well in your life Nina”
“Thank you Amma” I put the phone down.
Four more years, just four more years I have to struggle. Then I would be out of this mad family. I promised myself, I will to go and live in some place far away, so I won’t have to see any of my family members.
On Monday afternoon I was just walking back to my hostel to have my lunch and I heard someone calling my name
“hey Nina, wait up” I turned to look. I knew the guy who was running towards me was a third year student. But I have never even talked to him before. I was surprised that he knew my name.
“Hi, I heard that you are deaf. Is it Meniere’s disease?”
“Excuse me?” I looked at him stunned.
“I heard someone talking in the men’s hostel that you are deaf. I was wondering if it is Meniere’s disease”
I didn’t know what is Meniere’s disease. But that wasn’t the issue. How dare he come and ask me such a question.
“Is that any of your business?” I asked him
” You don’t have to get so mad. You just have to say Yes or No” He was yelling now
“Who do you think you are? You are what? God almighty, That I should answer all your questions?”
“What is your problem? Why are you so touchy?”
I walked off quickly. Because I knew another word from him, I would probably slap him.
As I walked to my room, I wondered what Meniere’s disease was? I knew my deafness was because Amma had mumps when she was expecting me. Am I suffering from some other serious illness? Am I dying? I tried to think all the other symptoms I have. Except for irregular periods, I was fine. As soon as I reached my room I checked my medical dictionary for Meniere’s disease. It was a disease with symptoms of Vertigo, tinnitus and deafness. Oh my goodness, I am already deaf, but what is vertigo and Tinnitus? It took me half an hour to figure that I am not suffering from Meniere’s disease. It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t dying!
Amma came to the hostel around 5.30pm. She wore a beautiful blue colour Mysore silk saree. As soon as she came to my room, she hugged and kissed Liza. She didn’t even bother to say Hello to me.
“Liza, pack your bags. Car is waiting for us” Amma spoke.
Liza was struggling to get all her stuff inside her bag. I pulled the bag from her hand, so I could help her. Just as I opened her bag, I saw that she had already taken my Tracey’s audio cassette. I pulled it out from the bag.
“This is mine” I showed it to Liza
“No it is mine, Appa gave it to me, when he came last time”
“No he didn’t. I have been listening to this tape for the last 3 years”
“See Amma, see how Nina is lying? Remember when Appa came last time, he gave me this tape?” Liza started to cry.
There was no way Appa gave that cassette to Liza. He gave it to me. In fact once the tape got stuck in the music system and Amma threw it out. I picked it up from the garbage and snipped the damaged part of the tape and repaired it using cello tape. This was my favourite cassette.
“Oh Liza, don’t you know how selfish Nina is? Don’t cry, I will ask Acha to buy another tape for you” Amma spoke sweetly
Aparna, Shylaja and Anitha were all looking at me. I could see it in their eyes, that they thought I am some kind of a monster. How silly of me to fight with my younger sister for a stupid audio cassette? With a heavy heart I placed the tape back in Liza’s bag.
I wanted to ask Amma, if the train from Kottayam arrived in Bangalore at 6 in the morning, why did it take her so long to come to my hostel. But I also knew I didn’t really want to know the answer. Some questions are best unanswered.
Amma gave Liza’s bag to the police man and he opened the trunk and placed the bag inside. My mother waited for him to come back and open the door for her. I wondered why she couldn’t just open the door herself. But what was more surprising was the actions of my sister. She got in to the car without even saying bye to me. I stood there and watched the car leaving, trying to figure out what exactly did I do wrong?
Does anyone know anything about a singer called Tracey who released an album called “feelings” in the early 80’s. None of the songs were originals. She sung”he ain’t heavy he is my brother”, “crying in the rain” etc. I have been looking for that album since the day Liza took the tape from me.
Update: Thanu send me this link. I searched every where for this album and after 18 years and I finally found it.
Big huge giant Thank you to Thanu
Fear was knowing that any man out there could be a hired killer. Every country had laws to protect its citizens. But what would you do if you need protection from those who are supposed to protect you? Where would you hide?
I was afraid to die. Not because I was afraid of my visa to heaven or hell. But because I was afraid of being tortured before they kill me. I have heard stories from the devil himself that once the nails are pulled slowly one by one from the nail bed using a simple pliers, no sane person would want to live another second and that is the moment of ultimate satisfaction. Satisfaction gained from prolonging the misery and desperation and pain of another human being.
I looked around the bus. No one appeared to look like an assassin. But then again I didn’t know how an assassin looked like. I looked at my sister, who was sleeping in my lap. She looked so peaceful. Why can’t she understand that there is no such thing called free lunch? If someone buys you expensive things, then they expect something else in return! You don’t need to be an Einstein to know that. I remembered the first time I saw Liza. Tante Ida took me to the hospital telling me that I have a present at the hospital. I was so excited that day, because I really wanted a new doll, like my best friend Siti had. A doll with blue eyes that open and shut when you move the doll. I was planning to take my new doll and go to Siti’s house. We would have a pretend tea party with our dolls!
Amma was lying down in the bed and I wondered why was she wearing a sarong and my dad’s shirt? My mother looked really funny in that outfit.
“Where is my present?” I asked Amma
“What present?” She looked at me annoyed
“Shhh!” Tante Ida hushed Amma.
“Come here Nina, I will show you your present” I walked to where Tante Ida was standing. There was a small cot by the side of Amma’s bed. I looked inside. There was a baby with wrinkled skin, hair stuck to the scalp and a flat nose. It didn’t look anything like the doll Siti had. It was one heck of an ugly doll wrapped in a white blanket. I was so disappointed.
“Nina, you are a big sister now. You have to take care of your baby sister. You can’t be like Maria. You must try to be a really good big sister” Tante Ida spoke to me
I was so happy to know that Tante Ida thought I was better than Maria and I wanted to be the really good big sister.
“Do you want to hold the baby?” Tante Ida asked.
I heard Amma saying “Ida no. She will drop the baby. Don’t give the baby to her”
I looked at Amma. I was so mad at her. Why does she think that I would drop my baby sister?
Fortunately Tante Ida didn’t listen to Amma. She asked me to sit on the chair by the side of Amma’s bed and placed the baby on my lap. I tried to sit as still as possible. I hoped my bony knees won’t poke the baby.
I wanted to be the world’s best big sister and I wanted Amma to see that I am capable of taking care of my baby sister. But as soon as Tante ida placed the baby on my lap, the baby started to cry and I didn’t know what to do. I remember I touched the baby’s soft cheeks and her forehead hoping she would stop crying. I was so disappointed that my big sister touch didn’t stop the baby from crying and Tante ida took the baby from my lap and held her close to her. She started to sing a lullaby. She sang
Rock a bye baby
in the tree top
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
cradle and all.
That was the first lullaby I ever heard and since that day, I had sung that lullaby so many times. I sung it for Liza and then for Sally.
I looked at my sister and gently touched her forehead. She still had soft skin!
I knew till now I have never failed in being the good big sister. I am not going to fail now! Only then I noticed my finger nails. I figured if I can bite of most of the nail, then it would be difficult for anyone to use a pliers and pull it out. I looked around the bus, I was a bit embarrassed to bite my nails in front of everyone. But fear was such that, it makes you do silly things and I bit my finger nails almost to the skin. By the time I finished biting all the nails, the edge where the nail ends were almost bleeding and it was hurting. Still I knew this was far better than losing the whole nail!
When the bus reached Bangalore, I was getting more afraid. Somehow I felt if I could reach my hostel in one piece, then perhaps I would be safer.
“Come on Liza hurry up” I started to pull my sister’s hand
“Oh Nina, stop running like a mad woman. Can we please go to Kamat and eat dosai? I haven’t eaten dosai for a long time”
“Not now, I will take you some other time. I want to go back to my hostel”
“Please Nina, I really want to eat some dosai. They don’t make dosai in the hostel. I even miss Amma’s over fermented super sour dosai!!”
I looked at my sister. If she was missing my mother’s super sour dosai, then it meant only one thing. That she is really craving for dosai. They do make dosai in my hostel. But Liza would have to wait till Saturday. I thought if I didn’t buy dosai for her, then who else would buy?
“Come, We will go to Kamat restaurant”
At the restaurant I ordered 2 ghee dosais. Only when I started to dip my dosai in the sambar and when the curry touched my finger tips, did I realize how painful my nails were. The spicy curry was burning the raw edges near the nail. If it was hurting this much now what would happen if I lost the whole nails? I was so afraid. Should I call my uncle and apologize for being so rude? But then he would know how to get at me each time, wouldn’t he? I couldn’t let that happen. But I knew If I ever regretted one thing that I did in my life, it was picking up the phone to talk to my uncle. I should have just put the phone down when I heard his voice. Why did I talk so much?
When the waiter brought the bill and saunf, Liza and I both reached for the saunf. At Kamat restaurant they serve sugar coated saunf. I grabbed the bowl first.
“Hey it is my saunf” Liza shouted
“Nope it is mine. I am paying the bill”
“Not fair Nina”
“Too bad Liza”
“You are a mean sister”
“That is why I bought you to eat dosai!!”
“But you are not sharing the saunf “
“Ok la. Here take” I passed the bowl to Liza
“You still haven’t forgotten the la eh?” Liza asked
“No la. I want to go back to Malaysia.”
“Why? why do you want to go back to that god forsaken place?”
“Don’t know Liza. I like Malaysia. I guess that is where my Shangri- la is”
“What Shangri La? The hotel?”
“Never mind. You won’t know. You need to read books to know all these!”
“Books are boring”
My sister became an instant celebrity at the college. First of all, she was taller than me, secondly she was prettier than me. So I couldn’t say that I wasn’t surprised.
All the malayalee seniors including Jomon were vying for her attention. Some of them bought her teddy bears, some got her books to read and they were even arguing with each other as to what would be the best treatment for someone whose arm was already in a plaster cast.
I did feel a tinge of jealousy. I have never had anyone buy me a teddy bear and my younger sister who just came to my hostel for a visit already got 3 teddy bears. Then I remembered what my sister called me when I was in Chikmagalur. I quickly turned the jealousy knob in my head off. I didn’t want to be a jealousy pig.
Friday after the anatomy dissection class I walked straight to the hostel instead of going to the canteen and eat egg bhaji. I knew my sister would be bored sitting in my room all day. May be I will take her to the canteen and buy egg bhaji for her. I opened my door and was just about to close it when Anitha came barging in. This barging in to the room without any warning was becoming a habit to her. I don’t know why she can’t knock. I was just about to tell her off
“Oh Nina, how many times I called your name. I was calling you from the canteen. Why did you not come?”
“Sorry Anitha I didn’t hear you calling me” I replied
“Don’t you know Nina is deaf?” Liza asked. I tried to wink at her, so she would just shut up
“What deaf?” Anitha asked
“She didn’t tell you?” Liza looked at me. I was sure she could see the pleading in my eyes. Please Liza, don’t tell anyone that I am deaf. I begged with my eyes.
“No, what do you mean?” Anitha asked again. More curious this time.
“Nina is completely deaf in her right ear” Liza spoke
“Really” Anitha sounded too happy to know such a great news
“oh yes she is! She is also a little bit deaf in the left ear. She lip reads when you speak, No Nina?” Liza looked at me.
I wanted to kill my sister. All I wanted in my life was to be normal like everyone. There was nothing normal in my life. My mother has been having an affair with my uncle. The same man has now taken my oldest sister. My father has a second wife and now everyone in my college would know that I am not only dumb, but deaf also.
“You know Anitha Chechy, we never thought Nina would become a doctor. Who would have thought someone who studied in Malayalam medium can do medicine in English?” Liza spoke again
“Liza, why did you send a telegram to your sister? How did you manage to send a telegram? Did you see how much trouble you gave your sister?” Hostel warden asked Liza
I looked at the warden, relieved to know that, at least she understood what I went through.
“I didn’t do it. My uncle asked me to do it. So I asked Jamil’s dad to send a telegram”
“You mean Acha knew you broke your hand?” I could feel my blood boiling
“Yes, I told him when he called me. He told me to send a telegram to you”
If that bastard knew that Liza’s hand was broken, then Maria would have known too. Between the two of them, they did this to me? How could they do this to me? How could my oldest sister do this to me? How could she make me travel all the way from Bangalore to Chikmagalur? Isn’t she the oldest? Isn’t she supposed to take care of her sisters? Why was I expected to skip my classes and travel all the way here to take care of my sister?
“Did you eat something?” The warden asked
“huh?” I was too upset to talk
“I am sorry, our mess is closed already. I have some bread in my room. Would you like to eat that? You can eat bread with bananas!” She spoke again
“No Thank you madam. I am fine. I had something to eat at the bus station” I lied. I hated bread and there was no way I was going to eat bread with bananas!
“I think you ought to rest. I can arrange an extra bed for you, or you can sleep with Liza on her bed”
“I will sleep with Liza” I didn’t want to hassle the warden
I walked with my sister to her room. All the girls slept in one big hexagonal room. There were about 20 bunk beds. I had never seen a bunk bed before.
“This is my bed” Liza showed me her bed. I was so excited to notice that she had the top bed. I climbed up the ladder and sat on the top bed. I felt I was the Georgina(George) Kirrin of the famous five. My hair was short, I wore jeans and I was on the top of the mountain looking around for clues to solve yet another mystery.
“Why are you smiling Nina?” Liza was climbing up the ladder and staring at me
“Oh nothing” I looked around the bed. On the right corner there was an alarm clock. Small square shaped alarm clock. It was the smallest alarm clock I have ever seen.
“Where did you get this?”
“Don’t touch that. Put it back” Liza tried to snatch it from my hand
“Who gave you this?” I asked again. I looked around the bed. The bed sheet was definitely not from my home. I knew all the bed sheets Amma had. This one looked very much like an imported sheet. Liza even had a soft fluffy blanket.
“Liza, from where did you get all these?” I pointed to all the new stuff on my sister’s bed.
“Acha gave” She mumbled
“Acha? Why did you take it?”
“What is your problem Nina? You know something? Acha was right. He told me, you would be jealous when you see all the new things I have. He said you are a jealousy pig. You don’t like your sisters doing well. You always used to fight with Maria because you didn’t like the fact that Maria was more intelligent than you. Now you are fighting with me. I shouldn’t have asked you to come”
My sister’s words were like daggers piercing my heart. Why would I be jealous of my sisters? For heavens sake they are my sisters. I have only ever been proud of them. I have never been jealous of them.
I have never ever been jealous of Maria. It was always the other way around. Nobody liked me to do well. Amma and Maria even said I scored good marks for SSLC was not because of my merit, but it was because the valuation system had changed and was more lenient.
There was nothing that I could say or do to convince my sister that I care for her and that I was never and I will never be jealous of her. I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes. I watched Liza struggling to open the blanket with one hand.
“Lay down. I will put the blanket for you” I spoke
I opened the blanket. It was a soft brown blanket with a tiger motif in the center. I knew Liza always tucked the blanket under her feet. So I lifted her leg and tucked the blanket under her feet. She pulled the top with one hand and turned to the side to sleep. I looked at my sister. She didn’t even bother to offer to share her blanket. I travelled in the middle of the night to be with her and here I am, laying down next to my sister almost freezing to death, while my sister enjoyed the warmth from her cozy blanket.
Why is life so unfair? Why am I always the only one giving, yet everyone calls me selfish and a jealousy pig? Why do I get to use an old karimbadam( hard, old, rough blanket) that once belonged to some old man in my extended family, while my sister gets a fluffly warm blanket?
The night was getting very cold and my feet was cold and I started to get pins and needles on my feet. I slowly pulled a bit of my sister’s blanket from under her legs, so I can put my feet inside the blanket
“Stop pulling my blanket Nina. You know I can’t sleep if my feet is exposed!”
I didn’t say anything. I lifted the bed sheet from my side of the bed and used it as a blanket. Because it was a single bed and because Liza was sleeping by the side, I only got very little of the sheet to cover my body. I tried not to think how dirty the mattress would be. It was the first time in my life I slept on a mattress without a cover.
I woke up with a splitting headache. All the girls in the room was busy getting ready to go to school. There was so much of din in the room and I wished they would just shut up. Liza wasn’t in the bed. She must have gone to brush her teeth. I didn’t know where the washroom was and I thought I would wait till everyone left for school, then I can get ready peacefully. I didn’t know what Liza wanted to do? I can’t stay here and take care of her. My exams are in January and I can’t afford to miss any classes.
“Liza phone for you” I heard someone shouting.
Phone call for my sister? Who is calling her? A part of me wanted to know who was calling my sister, at the same time I knew, it is better that I be not involved in my sister’s personal life. I was already a jealousy pig, I didn’t want to be a control freak too. I felt my sister is old enough to make decisions on her own. I closed my eyes.
“Aunty, Liza is in the washroom. There is a phone call for her. Can you take it” I looked at the girl standing by the side of the bunk bed. What did she call me? Aunty? When did I become her aunty? I wanted to ask her Do I look old enough to be an aunty? But again, I shut my mouth. I didn’t want my sister’s friend to think that I was rude. I got off the bed and followed the girl who called me ‘aunty’ and walked to the reception. I picked up the phone and said
Some times, certain voices can act like a power drill and the sound can go through your ears and drill a humongous hole in the brain and come out through the other ear. I almost dropped the phone when I heard the most despicable voice speak
“Hello darling. Good morning. How is your arm this morning?”
“Why are you calling my sister?” I asked
“Oh it is you. When did you come?”
“That is none of your business! When I come or where I go, when did that became your business?”
“You are still a bitch. I thought I tamed you”
“You are still a bastard, Do you think a bastard can tame me?”
“What did you call me?”
“bastard. I am sure you knew your own name? Don’t tell me you are suffering from sudden memory loss”
“How dare you Nina? If I snap my fingers, I can get you killed”
“poda nayinte money. Ola pappine eduthu pedippikkan nokkunno? You only know how to bark like an old dog. Don’t you know barking dogs never bite?”
“I will teach you a lesson”
I put the phone down. I looked at my hands. They were shaking. I knew I pushed my uncle. I knew he could get me killed. A year ago my uncle was ‘supposed’ to have ordered the killing of a lawyer, whose body was found in a railway track, in a gunny sack with hands tied at the back and the de- capitated head was found kilo meters away in another part of town.
I knew I had a big mouth. Why oh why did I come here? Why did I have to take that phone call? I knew I would have to be careful with every single step I take. But I was fighting a known enemy with unbelievable amount of power and money.
Minnows cannot fight wars, Can they?
I was just an 18 year old fighting a war with the most powerful man in Bangalore. I looked at myself. I have never done anything wrong in my life. If I ought to die, so be it. But I will not let him take my sisters. He will not touch my younger sisters as long as I am alive.
“Did Acha call? I heard someone shouting for my name? Did you ask him to call me back?” Liza asked
“I couldn’t speak, the line wasn’t good. Get ready. I will take you to my college. You can stay with me till your arm heals”
I managed to catch the last direct bus to Chikmagalur from Bangalore. There were only 7 passengers and I was the only female. I wasn’t really concerned with the fact that I was travelling alone to a place I have never been and I did not speak the local language. I felt it is no big deal as I have travelled alone from Kottayam all the way to Mysore at the age of 16. That trip included catching a narrow gauge train to Mysore from Bangalore.
When the conductor came to give me the ticket, I asked him in English
“What time will the bus reach Chikmagalur?”
He looked at me and I knew he was thinking what kind of an idiot ask such an idiotic question.
“Around 9 pm” He mumbled
“What?” I thought may be I didn’t hear him correctly.
“You have never been to Chikmagalur before ah?”
What do I tell him? Do I tell him the truth? Then he can use that information and probably harm me! I so very badly wanted to ask the conductor for help and tell him that I don’t even know where my sister’s school is. But I was too afraid to trust a stranger. So I lied
“I have been. My akka (sister)stays there. I just wanted to know if this bus was a express bus!”
He shook his head and went back to his seat. I looked around the bus. Most of the passengers were in their 30’s and 40’s except one old man. I was glad to see the old man. I would ask him to help me when we reach Chikmagalur. He would know where Valley view school is.
I thought of my sister. Her telegram only had two lines. Start Immediately. Had an accident and am badly injured. I tried to imagine what kind of accident my sister had? I haven’t been reading news paper for a while. Was there some kind of bus accident in Chikmagalur? Is my sister alright? Is she still in the hospital? I felt terrible thinking that my sister might be all alone in a hospital. She wouldn’t know Maria’s address either and may be that is why she send a telegram to me. I wondered if Maria cared at all about us? How can anyone just walk out of her family? I was so mad at my big sister. I felt she is the most irresponsible big sister on earth. Thank God my sisters have me. What would they have done, if I too was like Maria?
I looked outside. The first thing I noticed were the green hills. The scenery was so beautiful. I imagined living in a place like this. I wanted to build a nalukettu with a beautiful inner courtyard in the center. Instead of digging a pond near the house, I will build my house near a creek, so in that way I can teach my kids how to fish with a towel.
Ammachi and Appa can have my tharavadu (ancestral home). Let them do whatever they want with my house. They can’t take my memories away. I will build a house just like Chengannur house. The only thing I wanted from Chengannur house was my grandfather’s easy chair. I will ask Appa for that chair one day. Would he give? I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t too worried either. That chair is always kept in the veranda, if Appa doesn’t give, then I will just have to go in the night and take it. I laughed thinking about my brilliant idea. Whoever would have heard that a grand daughter stole her grand father’s easy chair from her father’s house?
When the bus reached one of the big towns on the way, all passengers got off to drink coffee. I was too afraid to get off the bus. What if the bus leaves without me? I didn’t want to be stranded in a strange place. I was thirsty and hungry. In my hurry to leave the hostel, I even forgot to take a bottle of water with me.
There were couple of sellers selling fruits and sotheykkai ( slices of cucumbers with chilli powder and salt garnish!!). I never liked to eat fruits and much as the sotheykkai was tempting, I was afraid of falling sick. I needed to be healthy to be able to take care of my sister.
Out of nowhere a little boy got in to the bus. He was carrying a small basket on his head. He came close to where I was sitting and lowered the basket to the ground. I looked inside his basket. I was so happy to see what he was selling.
Benda kadalakkai (Boiled peanuts)!!
I love boiled peanuts. In fact I always made sure I got off near the Kids kemp on MG road, so I can buy boiled peanuts from the seller near the Kerala handicrafts show room each time I went to MG road. I used to walk all the way up to brigade road eating the boiled peanuts!!
“Peanuts for 1 rs” I ordered.
“akka ellige hogtaidira? ( Sister, where are you going?)
I understood what he asked in Kannada and I replied
He asked me something else and I had no idea what he was talking. So I told him
“nanege kannada gotilva (I don’t speak kannada).
The boy looked at me and smiled. He had the upper two teeth missing. He must be around 5 to 6 years old. I so very badly wanted to ask him pallevideya dry clean cheyyan koduthey?, but I didn’t know how to translate that in Kannada.
I watched the little boy scooping the peanuts from his basket and putting them in a pink plastic cover. He was still wearing his school uniform. Khaki shorts and white shirt. I wondered what his story would be? Why children like him have to work, when he should be playing with his friends or doing home work? Where are his parents? Why do people have kids, if they can’t provide food for them?
He handed me a the plastic bag. I looked for change. I only had a 2 rs note change. So I gave him that, hoping he would give me 1 rs back. I only had 100 rs with me and I couldn’t afford to loose any money right now, especially because I was travelling alone to a strange place.
I watched the little boy lifting the newspaper at the bottom of the basket and checking. he shook his head. He looked at me again and spoke Kannada. I understood what he was trying to convey. He doesn’t have change and he will go and get change from someone else and bring the money to me. I watched him get off the bus holding the basket on his head. He was walking straight to the fruit shop by the side of the bus stand. When he reached the shop, the boy turned to look at me. I smiled at him, because I felt happy. He didn’t have to go all out to get change for me. If I ordered peanuts for 1 rs, then I should have ensured that I had change. He was doing me a favour.
In the next second I watched the little boy running, as fast as his legs would carry and crossing the road. It took me a few moments to realize that he was actually cheating me. I felt so stupid. How could I have trusted an urchin like him? Not enough that, I even felt sorry for him. There was no way I could get off from the bus and chase him. It was just 1 rs. I wasn’t going to risk missing my bus for 1 rs!
I hoped the little boy would be able to out run his karma.
Soon the conductor came back. I looked around for the old man. He wasn’t in the bus. He must not have been going to Chikmagalore. I started to feel worried. Who am I going to ask for help? Just as the bus was about to leave, one young man got in to the bus. He must have been in his 20’s. I heard him saying Chikmagalure and buying the ticket from the conductor. I was so relieved. The man sat right behind me.
It was getting dark. The road was almost deserted. The bus driver started to speed and I was sure this was my last day on earth. Every time there was a bend on the road, I was almost getting thrown off the seat. I held on to the seat. I noticed a plastic cover near my feet and I kicked it underneath the seat. A little while later the plastic cover was again rubbing my feet. I kicked it underneath the seat again. After a while, the plastic cover was touching my feet again and I looked down. That is when I saw the leg underneath the plastic cover. I looked behind. The passenger was sound asleep!!!. He had no idea that his legs were travelling inside a plastic cover underneath the seat. I was so mad. I stepped on his leg as hard as I can. His legs stopped the journey. But I knew I couldn’t ask him for help to find where my sister’s school was.
When the bus reached Chikmagalur, there was no power supply. All the shops were closed. I got off the bus and looked around. There was a single candle burning in the station master’s office and I walked straight to the office.
A man in his 50’s was coming out of the room and I almost bumped in to him.
“Who are you?” He yelled
“I need to go to Valley View school” I blurted out.
“At this time of the day?” He was yelling
“I am sorry, The bus from Bangalore only came now” I replied
“Are you alone?”
“Yes” I mumbled
“How could you travel alone at night? Girls like you should learn responsibility! You think it is fun? Is it an adventure? If anything happens to you, how will your parents take it? How dare you hurt your parents?”
I was too upset, I knew travelling in the night was not a smart move. But if my sister needs me, what else can I do? I don’t have a brother!
“My sister send a telegram saying she had an accident. That is why I travelled in the night”
“Where does your sister stay?”
“Valley view school”
“Valley view school? It is another 8 km away from here. How were you planning to go there in the night? Walk?” He was still yelling at me.
I didn’t respond. I looked around. There were not many people in the bus stand. In the darkness I couldn’t see where the road was. This must be my destiny. Getting yelled by strangers.
“Come with me” He yelled. He took a torch from his table and started to walk. I wasn’t sure what I should do.
“Listen, before all the auto drivers go back home, hurry up. You might not get any auto if you just stand there and dream”
There was a bakery across the bus stand and an auto was parked in front.
“You are lucky” Muttered the old man. We walked towards the auto.
The old man barked the instruction to the driver and I got inside. I hated myself for being so stupid. I was also getting worried thinking about my sister.
By the time I reached the school, there was no light anywhere. The main gate was locked and the auto couldn’t go inside.
“Can you please come with me?” I asked the driver. he switched off the engine and got off. I followed him. In the distance we could see a glow of light. That must be the hostel. We walked towards the light. When we almost reached the building the auto driver spoke
“You can run along now. My children are waiting for me at home”
“Thank you” I mumbled a heartfelt thank you and ran the rest of the distance. When I reached the hostel, I could hear the humming of the generator and children laughing. It felt so good to feel safe. I knocked the door and an old lady opened the door. My heart was beating non stop. I was so sick with worries
“Yes” She looked at me from top to bottom.
“I am Liza’s sister. Is she ok?” I asked
“Of course she is ok. Why? Why did you come at this time of the day” She looked at me surprised
Before I could answer, I saw my sister running towards me.
“Oh Nina thank you so much for coming. I missed you”
“What happened Liza?” I asked her
“I fell down while playing basket ball. I broke my hand” I looked at my sister. her left hand was in a cast. Just for a broken bone, she send me a telegram?
“You idiot, Do you have any idea what you made me go through?”
“Why did you come, if you were going to fight with me? I should have asked Maria!”
I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure why I am the only idiot on earth.
By the time I reached the hostel it was almost 3 pm. Too late to go to the mess and eat lunch. My room door was locked from outside. Shylaja must have gone home and Aparana must have gone out with her boyfriend. I opened the door and went inside. Even before I had a chance to close the door, Anitha pushed the door open and came inside. If I didn’t jump backwards the door would have smashed on to my face. I was so mad!
“Nina, Jomon wants to see you now”
“Jomon is waiting for you at the canteen.”
I came back just a minute ago and Jomon already wants to see me? How did he even know that I came back? I had no intention to go and see him right now.
“I am going to have my shower. I will see him later” I replied hoping ‘later’ can be any time from then to infinity.
“No. He wants to see you this instant”
This instant? What does he think? That I am a 2 minute maggi noodles?
“I said, I will see him later. I want to take my shower now”
“He is already very mad that you left without his permission. Now don’t make it worst. You can always take your shower later”
I thought of sticking my tongue out at Anitha and tell her that I know I can always take my shower later. I don’t need someone to tell me that.
“Please Nina, if you don’t go now, then he will come after me and scold me. He would think that I didn’t pass the message to you. Please Nina, go and see him. Please do it for me at least.”
I looked at Anitha. I didn’t like her one bit. But I didn’t want to her to get in to trouble because of me. Besides I thought I will let Jomon know once for all that I am not interested in him. I marched out of my room and walked straight to the canteen. Jomon was standing near the canteen entrance
“Where did you go?” he asked
I thought of asking him who is he to ask me that? But there were other seniors around in the canteen and I didn’t want to create a scene
“I asked you. Where did you go?” Jomon spoke again.
“Home” I muttered
Why do people go home? As though he doesn’t know.
I wanted to say Ammeney kanan( to see my mother) instead I said
“Aneney Kanan(to see the elephant)” Only after the words came out, did I realize my folly. I looked at Jomon to see if he actually heard what I said. May be he didn’t. I was about to feel relieved and he asked
It was too late to correct. I was already Ms. Titanic. I didn’t want to be Ms. Elephant.
I nodded my head and said “Yes”
“Your family has elephants?”
I remembered the times when I was about 4 years old. Appa used to carry me on his back and I would pretend to be the mahout and shout Edathaney, valathaney(turn left elephant, turn right elephant) and Appa would obey. Amma hated it and she would grumble viddi anakku cherunna viddi pappan (like father, like daughter..Dumb)
“yes sir” I replied
“Wow” Jomon replied. He was suddenly lost in deep thoughts. I knew he must be calculating the total costs of 2 elephants and dividing it by four to see how much would be his share( 4 daughters, so parental assets have to divided by 4!!)
I thought of bopping his stupid head and tell him,’forget ana(elephant), I don’t even own a kuzhi ana(?)’
“But I still didn’t like that you left without telling me. If you had told me, I would have dropped you at the station on my bike”
‘Sure, what makes you think, I would want to follow you on your TVS 50? I thought of asking him. Besides, that is not a bike, that is a moped!’ I thought
“I am capable of going to the railway station on my own” I replied, hoping he would get the subtle message that I am not interested in him
“I know, but I like to take care of my wife”
I looked at the moron standing in front of me. Couple of months ago, I was the girl he was going to marry. Now we are married already? How come he didn’t invite me for the wedding? I was really getting pissed off with Jomon
“Come, let us go inside. We will have something to drink”
I had no intention of going inside the canteen
I quickly looked at my watch
“Oh I am sorry Sir, I have to go now, My dad usually phones around 5pm. he will be upset, if he didn’t get to talk to me”
“How is he?” Jomon asked
“He is fine”
“No not that, Is he a modern thantha(dad)?”
“Ofcourse” I thought of telling Jomon that my dad is so modern, he is already got a second wife. But I wan’t sure, if Jomon really would appreciate such honesty. With a quick bye I walked off. I had to find a better way to get the message across Jomon.
Life was almost back on routine at the medical college. I still struggled with anatomy, still bunked all the Preventive and social medicine lectures, still had plenty of assignments pending. Even with all that after spending months in a medical college, I started to feel that I am home. I began to enjoy the life at my home away from home.
It was a rainy November Wednesday and I was sitting at the top of the gallery and busy dreaming. Dr. Rajesh was drawing something on the black board. There is something about the rain in Bangalore. It is not at all like the monsoon in Kerala. The rain in Bangalore is gentler. You would want to go out and dance in the rain. Someone was knocking the class room door. Must be one of my classmate guys. He must have just woken up from his drunken stupor and noticed that, it is still day time and he has anatomy lecture to attend. I didn’t even bother to look at the door. From the corner of my eyes I could see Dr. Rajesh opening the door and talking to someone. At the same time I could hear a bike sound. A very familiar bike sound!
“Nina Thomas, Princy wants to see you” Announced Dr. Rajesh
I could hear a bike coming in to the campus and I was busy looking at the parking spot.
Please, please let it be Beautiful eyes. I wished desperately
“Nina” The girl next to me nudged.
“Wait” I whispered. I just wanted to see whose bike that was
“Princy wants to see you” She spoke again
“What?” I was too taken aback. I looked around. Everyone was looking at me. Princy’s assistant was standing near the door.
What is going on? Why does Princy wants to see me? I got up quickly and walked down the steps. Something has terribly gone wrong! Princy doesn’t ask to see a student unless it is a serious offence. Did Gangamma snitch on me? Did she tell the Princy that I have been hiding in my room most of the time, instead of attending lectures? Did one of my juniors go and tell Princy that I asked her to draw all my physiology record books? I looked at Princy’s assistant. His face looked grim. My hands started to shiver.
“Come fast” spoke Princy’s assistant.
By the time I reached Princy’s office, I was sweating, I could hardly breath and I wish I never bunked any classes. I wished I never asked my juniors to draw my records.
“Go inside” Princy’s assistant opened the door for me
I walked inside. Princy looked at me. His spectacles was at the tip of his nose and he pushed it up.
“Sit down” He ordered.
“No sir, thank you sir. I am fine” I mumbled
“I say Sit down”
Without wasting another second I sat down
“How many sisters do you have?”
My brain was already wired with all possible excuses for all possible crimes I had committed. It took a few seconds for me to understand the question
“I say how many sisters you have”
“2” “Sorry sir 3” I replied
“2 or 3? I say, you don’t even know how many sisters you have?”
“I have 1 older sister and 2 younger sisters”
“Where are they?”
“My youngest sister is still in Kerala sir, the other sister is studying in Chikmagalur and my oldest sister works in Bangalore”
“Hmm” He nodded his head.
Why is he asking me about my sisters? Did someone tell him that I made my sisters draw some of my anatomy records?
“You need to go to Chikmagalur”
“Huh?” I was taken aback
“Your sister had some accident. She send a telegram asking you to go to Chikmagalur immediately.”
“what? Where? How? Is she ok?”
“I tried calling the Valley view school. Their phone is out of order. If you take a bus to Chikmagalur now, you should be able to reach there before night. I will ask my driver to drop you to the bus station”
I have never been to Chikmagalur. I didn’t even know where it wass. But if my sister needed me, I would be there for her. Come what may. I checked my watch. It was already 3 pm.
Does anyone know what is Kuzhi ana in english?
I thought of asking Amma again for Maria’s address. But then again, I didn’t want to jinx that tiny little happiness I felt being close to her. I had a better idea.
Although I only had to be in the college on Monday, I decided to leave Kottayam on Saturday.
“Amma, I will go back to Bangalore today” I spoke to Amma after helping her wash all the dishes.
“Go tomorrow Nina, You only need to be in Bangalore on Monday right? Today is Thiruvonam. Why do you want to travel on thiruvonam day?”
“I have to do Physiology assignment Amma, I have to submit on Wednesday. I may not have enough time to do it.”
I really had a physiology assignment to submit on Wednesday. Actually I had about 4 pending physiology assignments to submit! I have been waiting for the arrival of Juniors!
“I am thinking of renting a house in Bangalore” Amma spoke. She was looking at me to see my reaction.
I had to think before I answered. What would be the right answer?
“I think it is a wonderful idea Amma” I replied
“You think so? Really?” Amma looked at me surprised
“Of course. Sally can go to a better school in Bangalore and I can come home during week ends.” I thought of telling even Maria can stay at home, instead of staying as a paying guest in someone else’s house. But I wasn’t sure if I should mention that, so I didn’t.
“Houses are expensive in Bangalore!”
“Yes Amma, but we can surely manage”
“You think so?”
“Yes Amma. I am sure”
“Ok. I will tell Acha to start looking for a house”
Acha! Acha! Acha! Everything in my house has to be done by that mad man. Why does my mother have to depend on that man? My blood pressure was going up. Amma was looking at me and much as I wanted to yell at her for being so dependent on that bastard, I kept quiet. I will find a house myself. I will ask my classmate Arjun for help. Anyway he is from Bangalore. He would know all the good residential areas in Bangalore.
“I will get ready” I spoke quietly and walked out of the kitchen. I knew I should move on with my life and ignore that idiot who is my uncle, but the mere mention of that man’s name still freaked me out.
There were hardly any passengers on the train. I sat by the window seat and watched the scenery. For the first time, I noticed the graffiti on the walls. There were election logos and film posters all over the streets. Even the electricity poles were not spared of graffiti. There were banners tied on the poles. Most of the banners were made of cloth material and there were holes in the banner. Holes created by the person who hung the banner, so people won’t take the banner down and use the material to stitch a skirt or pillow case!
I looked at the pathetic condition of the narrow roads. Buses,autos, small one ton trucks, bullock carts, cyclists and pedestrians were all fighting for their right of way on a road that at its best was fit for bicycle transport.
Soon the train was passing Bharathapuzha river. I looked outside. Most parts of the river was dry. There were puddles of water here and there. There was a time Bharathapuzha held so much importance to the Malayalee. The emperor of Kerala was chosen, during the 28 days of Mamankam festival held every 12 years on the shore of Bharathapuzha. And now thanks to advancement in techonology and ensuing feats like bunds and dams, the river was dying. Only a Malayalee can forget his history. When the rest of the world worries about heritage and conservation, we are busy destroying the vestigial remnants of our past. I felt sick being a Malayalee.
There was a reason why Kerala is called God’s own country. There never is a place on earth geographically more beautiful than Kerala. Like the two sides of the coin, Kerala was also devil’s own country. The ugliness of Kerala can be seen on the total disrespect Malayalees show on their environment, the way they treat their women and the way they twist and turn rules and regulations to suit their needs.
I was just so glad to be back in Bangalore. The roads were wider and cleaner. Most people cared to obey the law. There were hardly any graffiti on the walls. But more than all that, the thing I enjoyed the most in Bangalore was my personal freedom. No one ever asked me, Where am I going? or What am I doing. I ate breakfast at the railway canteen. I had a full day to look for my sister. I had once heard Amma saying that Chechy was staying in Ulsoor close to the Gurdwara. I took an auto and went to the Gurdwara. I wasn’t sure, how I would be able to find my sister. But I am not the one to give up that easily. I paid the rickshaw and got off. I looked around. Across the road there was a small stable, inside had 2 small ponies. I was always amazed to see ponies. It is not often you see a pony in Kerala. Someone was feeding the ponies. After feeding the ponies, the man placed a metal like thingy on the face of the first pony to cover its eyes. Then without any warning, he used his whip and hit the pony on its hind legs. The poor creature was whinnying. I was so mad. Why do people hurt animals without a reason? I thought of going up to the man and giving him a piece of my mind. But my Kannada vocabulary was limited to Eshtu, Gothilla, halu and hatti. Besides I needed to find my big sister.
I decided to walk each street. I knew it won’t be that hard to find my sister’s house. Today being Sunday, Chechy would be home. Knowing her she would have washed all her sarees. I just have to look for the sarees that were hung outside the homes to dry to find my sister.
I walked slowly. Streets were full of traders pushing the carts and selling everything from vegetables, fish, meat and even plastic wares. I could hear someone singing
“Thakkalippazham, vendekkayeeee Beanseeeeyyy(tomato, okra, beans)”
I looked around to hear who was the owner of such a melodious voice. I found him squatting near the cross road, there was a round cane basket in front of him. He must have been in his 60’s. Unlike all the young traders pushing the carts, the man had just a few vegetables in a basket. Everyone was ignoring him, but he kept singing
“Thakkalippazham Vendekkayeeee Beanseeeeyyy”.
I felt sorry for the trader. May be he is the sole bread winner of his family. What would his family eat if no one buys vegetables from him? I knew Maria likes okra theeyal. I stopped in front of him hoping to buy some okra. The man looked at me with hopeful eyes. I looked at the basket in front of him. I just couldn’t believe it. There was not a single tomato or okra or beans in his basket. He had one ridge gourd, 4 semi dry cucumbers(sotheykai) and some coriander leaves that at some stage was green colour but now was full yellow.
“Amma, buy sotheykai(cucumber), good one!” he lifted one pathetic looking Cucumber and was showing me. He was speaking Tamil
“Where are all the tomatoes and okras?” I asked him in Tamil. He was so happy to hear me talk in Tamil.
He smiled a toothless smile and replied “Don’t have”
“Then why are you singing about tomato and okra?” I asked him
“Aiyyah Amma, it sound nice that way, that is why I am singing” He spoke so innocently.
I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. There was no way I was going to eat cucumber that was already yellowing at the edges. But I didn’t have the heart to extinguish the hopes in that trader’s eyes. I gave him 5 Rs and told him to keep the vege and walked off.
I walked for almost 2 hours, looking at each and every house.There was no sign of my sister’s clothes anywhere. I knew I was stupid to have thought that I would be able to find my sister from the clothes on the clothes line. I didn’t even know where I was, so I decided to get in to an auto and go back to my hostel. Just as the auto turned in to one of the lanes, I saw the familiar blue saree with white flowers. April pathinettu saree! It was a saree popularised by the heroine of the April 18 movie. It was Maria’s favourite saree.
“Stop the auto” I shouted.
The driver was yelling at me. I ignored him and ran all the way. I knew I would find my sister. I was just so happy. The saree was hung on the first floor balcony. I ran up the steps and rung the bell. My heart was beating non stop. I wasn’t sure how Maria would react, when she sees me. But I knew she would be happy to see me. I could hear footsteps coming towards the door and I heard the latch being opened.
A lady wearing black Purdah opened the door.
“yes” She was staring at me
“Maria?” I asked her
“is this Maria’s house?”
“Who is Maria?”
“you don’t know where your sister stay ah? Liar, you are coming to check out the houses, so you can get your friends to break-in at night don’t you? I should report you to the police. Get out of my house.” she removed the slipper from her feet and was almost about to hit me. I ran down the steps. I could hear her hysterical screams. But I knew, no one would believe me, even if I tell them that, I was actually looking for my sister.
Chechy: Do you remember,During Liza’s graduation, you were complaining that I never bothered about you during the times you were in Bangalore. Remember I told you, if only you knew!
If only you knew, the kilometers I walked each Sunday looking for you..then you would have known how much I cared for you.
As I stood on the top of the steps, I felt the steps from the house suddenly lead to no where. All this while that road, the same road that I used when I came to this house the first time wearing a beautiful Chinese frock and a tiny ponytail on the top of my head was a link. A link to my past, a link to my present, a link to my future. More importantly it was a link to my existence.
I stood there on that steps looking at the empty space beyond. I could hear my mother’s words” Always dream achievable dreams”. Was I dreaming something that was not achievable? When I was little, all I wanted was to grow up, so I can be the Amma Maharani of this house. I wanted to buy a proper set and mundu, grow my hair long and be the real Amma Maharani.
I could picture myself in a red border set and mundu with a tiny line of sandal wood paste on my forehead, a black gopi pottu beneath that,brown glass bangles on both my hands, jasmine flowers on my hair. I wanted to raise my children here. I dreamed of making athapoo with my children on this front porch. I dreamed of dancing Thiruvathira on this very front porch. What happened to my dreams? Why such a simple dreams were not achievable? I didn’t understand.
I heard sound coming from Ammachi’s room and I saw the light being switched on in her room. Any moment now, she would notice that I haven’t slept on my bed and I knew she would be coming out looking for me. I couldn’t say goodbye to the person I love the most on planet earth. I also didn’t want Ammachi to see me leaving without a goodbye. Like a thief Kochumaharani of Puthenveettil house tip toed slowly down the steps.
Suddenly the light in the front porch came on and I knew Ammachi would see me. So I ran quickly and hid behind the jackfruit tree. The same tree, Ammachi and I hid when we went to flood Chackochan’s paddy field.
“Nina, kunje Where are you?” I could hear Ammachi calling me.
“Nina, stop fooling me, Where are you?” Ammachi was looking for me all around the veranda.
“Believe me, when I find you, I will break both your knees today. You are so big already and still want to play hide and seek ah? Wait till I will find you today. This is the last time you are going to play such silly games. You should learn to act your age” I watched Ammachi holding the pillar and climbing down the steps. She almost tripped and I stood there watching. I so very badly wanted to go to her. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. My feet was frozen to the ground. Although I never loved my mother as much as I loved my grandmother, I wouldn’t agree to another woman taking her place. My mother was never a perfect wife, daughter in law or a mother. But she still was the first and only daughter in law of my grandmother. I will not let Ammachi change that.
I watched Ammachi bending down and picking an eerkkili (stick) from the broom stick. She waved that in the air and spoke
“I will break your bones today for playing silly games in the early morning”
She too started to walk the same way as I did. The moment she reached the cattle shed, I started to run, past the creek, past the paddy field on to the bund road. I wanted to see my house one last time, I wanted to spot a part of the thatched roof one last time, but I was too afraid to even look. On a day when his his royal highness Mahabeli was coming to visit all his subjects in Kerala, I was leaving my home, like a king who lost his crown.
The houses by the main road were already bustling with activities. I could have taken the first bus and gone to Kottayam. But I wanted to feel, smell and see my land one more time. I walked slowly to the bus station. I could hear little children singing songs. Few girls were already outside with baskets in their hands, looking for flowers to make athapoo. All of them wore colourful silk skirts with matching bouses. When they came near me, they wished me
“thiruvonashamsakal Chechy(happy onam)” I smiled and wished them the same.
From the distance I could hear the temple bells ringing. There were signs of happiness all around me. Yet I felt like a wick floating in the oil. The only purpose was to burn and shine. I was burning like a wick! I was burning my dreams, my hopes and my identity.
When I reached home, I could smell the familiar aroma of onion being fried in coconut oil. The last time I got such a smell in my home was when Akkachi was home. Did Akkachi come back? I walked quickly. The dining room door was open and there were pots and pots of dishes on the table. I quickly opened the lids. Amma had already made Rice, sambar, parippu curry, avial, thoran, injipuli and pappadam for the sadya. I looked around to see where Amma and my sister had gone. They were not to be found and I couldn’t resist an ona sadya. So I took some food in the plate to eat. I was about to mix the rice with Sambar when I heard Amma speaking
“Nina wait, I cut the banana leaves already. we will eat from the leaf” I looked up to see Amma carrying the banana leaves and walking inside. I was surprised to see that my mother actually went out and cut the banana leaves, so we could eat a traditional ona sadya. She was never in to celebrating onam. I looked at her stunned.
May be Amma understood why I was staring at her
“I don’t know how long I will be around, so I thought, might as well make you guys a proper sadya, so even if I die tomorrow, you will remember the onam we had together”
“oh” I mumbled
“Chechy, Amma bought you a Kerala saree” Sally came out of her room holding a brown paper bag.
I got up, washed my hand and took the paper bag from my sister’s hand. Inside was a brand new, handwoven cream colour saree with a golden Zari border. There was a separate piece of matching blouse piece. I didn’t know what I felt, on one hand I lost everything and on the other hand I was gaining things I never thought I would.
“Thanks Amma” I whispered
“How was Ammachi” Amma asked
“Did you find anything about Appa’s second wife?”
“You are useless”
Suddenly there was a moment of silence. The fog was being cleared. My mother got her wish finally, to make me admit that I am indeed useless and I got my wish, that I got my mother. For the first time in years we looked at each other and smiled and neither of us were mocking each other.
Sorry.. I am still half sedated.. Will try to blog tomorrow