None of the girls congratulated me and I didn’t expect them to. I could see the disbelief in their eyes. I held my head high and walked back to my room. As I entered my room, I looked at the mirror Aparna kept by the side of her bed. I looked so different. The little girl with motta thala(bald head) had vanished. In her place I saw a very different person with almost shoulder length hair. But beyond the physical appearance, I could see something else that was different. I could see the strength that I never knew I had. It couldn’t have been a fluke of luck that I passed the exam. It was sheer determination. I couldn’t let George to defeat me. He thought he was smart and I was smarter. I looked at the woman in the mirror and told her, “
Round 1, you won. But there will be many more battles to win, remember this moment always. Remember that if you could write a public exam and pass even after facing such a calamity, you can do anything”.
On one hand I felt apprehensive that I didn’t know what George is planning to do next, on the other hand I felt I will survive. I don’t really know what made me grab Aparan’s hair brush, the next thing I knew, I was singing. My bed became Amma, Aparna’s became George and Shailaja’s became Maria. I started to jump from one bed to another and sing
Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now’cause
you’re not welcome anymore
weren’t you the one who tried
to hurt me with goodbye
you think I’d crumble
you think I’d lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
as long as i know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give
and I’ll survive
I will survive
Gloria Gaynor: I will Survive.
I visually imagined kicking the butt of my mother, Maria and the mighty George. It felt so good and I was just about to kick everyone out of my room and my life that I looked at the door. There was a crowd outside my door and I quietly kept the hair brush back and pulled the bed sheets properly. I didn’t have the courage to look at the face of all my classmates, so I quickly walked out of the room. I could hear everyone laughing, and I didn’t have much choice but to ignore them.
No one was in the room when I came back to my room. I had things to do. I had to send a copy of my marks card to Appa. My allowance is directly proportional to my marks and I hoped Appa would send me some extra money. I needed some new clothes!
I took a paper and started to write
Dear Appa, Hope this letter finds you hail and healthy. I am enclosing a copy of my marks card.
My mind went blank.
I looked at the paper. I only wrote 2 sentences. I didn’t have anything else to write. What else do I write to my father?
I added the next line, I am doing fine here, then I struck it off. If I write I am doing fine, then he might assume that I am partying and not studying. I could actually picture him saying
“I am not struggling in the desert for you to do fine. I am earning money not for you to do fine. You are supposed to study, nothing else, blah blah blah..”
The paper looked empty with just 2 lines on it. So I folded in to half and tore off the empty half.
How did this happen? How is that the relationship between a father and daughter became a two line affair?
How is that I don’t have anything to tell my own father? What happened to our relationship? What happened to the father I cherished and loved. How did he become a stranger?
There was an ache in my heart, when I realized the tomorrows I so very much dreamed about would never come. Even if my father comes home today, things will never be the same. I had to stop dreaming about my family and start to dream about my future. I thought of beautiful eyes. He hasn’t come back yet. He has already missed so many days of classes. I wondered what would his reaction be when he hears about the anonymous letter.
“Nina, phone call for you” I heard someone shouting.
Oh no, not another call. I didn’t want to take anymore phone calls after the last phone call I received.
I didn’t bother to respond
Aparna came in to the room and screamed
“Hey Nina, you have a phone call, how many times do I have to shout?” She sounded pretty annoyed.
I got up, walked slowly, very slowly up the steps and picked up the phone and put it back on the cradle. I felt pretty happy making the caller wait for such a long time and not getting a chance to harass me. 10 minutes later, again I heard someone shouting my name and saying I have a phone call. Again I walked slowly up and put the phone back on the cradle. Anyone can call me, but there is no law that says I ought to answer any calls!
My first posting was OBG posting! Seniors attended the rounds in the campus hospital Juniors had to go to another public hospital. In the morning I got ready and walked to the college bus stop and waited for the college bus. I was so excited. clinical posting is the best part of doing medicine.
Till now I was dealing with dead bodies, now for a change I see live people! Besides I won’t have to struggle with the stench of formaldehyde.
There were so many other students from my batch waiting for the bus and no one talked to me. When the bus came, I got in first and sat down by the window. I watched students from my batch getting in slowly. Boys sat at the back and the girls at the front. No one sat next to me. Anjana was the last girl from my batch who got in to the bus. I wanted her to sit next to me. There was no other girls waiting for the bus and if the seat next to me is empty, soon one of the boys will come and sit and I was afraid that I will get another letter from George. So I called her and pointed the empty seat next to me. She looked at me and I could see the disgust on her face. I watched her walking to her friends and getting them to adjust, so she can sit with them. Three of them sat in a two seat! She showed clearly that she would rather struggle and sit with her friends than sit next to me.
Dr. Nandita was our tutor.
“You guys are in luck, there is a delivery going on now. Come with me” She started walking towards the labour room. Everyone was excited to be able to see a delivery process. Few of the students were already reading up the text book as we walked!
I could hear someone screaming.
As I entered the labour room, I watched 2 nurses wearing white saree holding a young girl’s hand and she was writhing in pain. I had seen scenes in the movies that showed the woman about to give birth. This was nothing that I ever imagined it to be.
This was raw pain, with each contraction, I could see the veins on her neck bulging and she was screaming. The nurses were screaming and telling her to push and the patient was just crying.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can;t take any more” The patient started to howl
“What do you mean you can’t? You thought your mother went and vomited all of you out? We all went through this Ok? so stop whining and crying saying you can’t and start pushing” Shouted the nurse
May be it was the first time I saw someone suffering, may be it was all the screaming and shouting that got me, I started to cry. Only now did I understand the pain my mother had to endure to give birth to me. I promised myself, I may never love my mother, but I will stand by her. I will always remember that she gave birth to me.
2 days later, as I came out of the hospital one of my classmate guy came to me
“Nina I need to talk to you”
I looked at the guy. He had curly hair and I remembered his name is Avinash. Anitha and he were in the same batch and I have often overheard her calling him names and laughing at him. She used to call him ‘bird’s nest’.
“About what?” I asked curtly. I no longer trusted anyone and I didn’t enjoy anyone talking to me.
“Can we talk somewhere in private?”
“No. If you have something to say, you can say here” I looked around. Some of the students were looking at me. I wondered which one would infor George that I am now dating bird’s nest!
I watched him taking something out from his apron and I noticed that it was a letter
“What is it?” I asked immediately, almost panicking.
He handed me the letter and I quickly opened the paper to read. I could feel the whole room spinning. This letter was more damaging than the first.
“When did you get this? Where did you get this?” My hands started to shake and I leaned against the wall
“The postman and I are buddies. because there were so many letters with similar typed envelope, postman called me and showed me the letters. I opened the letter addressed to me and I realized this will destroy you. So the postman and I decided to destroy the letters. Don’t worry, as long as I am a student in this college, no one in this college will get another letter like this”
I didn’t know what to say. Gratitude I felt that moment was beyond words can say
“By the way, I saw how Anjana treated you the other day, when you asked her to sit next to you in the bus and I thought you are like the phoenix bird. You will always fly out of the ashes! I admire your courage” He had such a genuine smile on his face.
To Dr. Avinash
I always felt that, I have not thanked you enough for what you did for me. So here I am, 17 years later and still remembering what you did for me. I hope where ever life has taken you, you are doing well. I will never forget what you have done for me. Thank you for being there when I needed someone.
George: I heard that you tried to find out what happened to the letters you send the second time.. Now you know what happened.