King and the Queen

I wanted to be with the love of my life as early as possible, so instead of wasting my time taking a bus from the college, I took an auto and got off near the bus station. It didn’t take me too long to spot him. He was leaning on the electricity post outside the bus station and scanning all the passengers who were coming out of the bus station. He looked so different from the rest of the people at the bus station. He was more fairer, with a neat Chinese face, small nose and..
‘No, I am not going to think about the lips’. I told myself.
I walked towards him and because he was looking ahead, he didn’t see me coming towards him.
I sneaked up to him and shouted
He looked stunned. Then I saw the happiness in his eyes. The happiness turned to surprise
“Which bus did you take?”
“I took an auto”
“oh! Come let us go” He started to walk towards his bike parked by the side of the restaurant.
“Jomon” I whispered
“In front of the restaurant. I am going to walk to other side, meet me there”
I quickly turned and started to walk as fast as my legs would carry me. My heart was pounding. First it was George’s letter, then it was dating Arjun and now if Jomon saw me with Beautiful Eyes, he and the rest of the Mallu gang wouldn’t leave me alone. Did he see me? I hoped not.
I started to walk by the side of the main road, hoping Beautiful Eyes understood which direction I would be heading. I was afraid to turn back and look. Eventually I heard the sound of bike approaching me. I was so relieved.
He stopped the bike next to me and passed his back pack to me. While trying to sit and at the same time adjust the back pack, I held his shoulder to get my balance. He turned to look at me. He was grinning
“Why are you smiling?” I asked
“I wasn’t smiling”
“Really? then why did you show me all your teeth?”
“That is because, I wanted to show you that I brushed my teeth this morning”
“Get lost”
“Ready?” he asked
“For what?”
“Gosh! Ready to go!”
“Oh ok”

After about half an hour of ride, I felt we weren’t going through the usual route. But then again, I have zero sense of direction. May be I made a mistake.
A little while later I saw a sign board that said Hoskotte.
I tapped his shoulder and brought my lips close to his ears and asked
neevu elli hogidare?”
“What?” He shouted
“Where are we going?”
“So you noticed finally!”
“Notice what?”
“That we aren’t going to the same place”
“Where are we going?” I asked again
“You will see soon”
I looked ahead of us. The road was beautiful, almost straight road with trees lined on either side, from far it self I could see the red blossoms on the trees.
Gulmohar trees!
“It is so beautiful” I leaned towards him and whispered in his ears
“I know”He shouted over the roar of his bike engine
“Thank you” I whispered again
“You are welcome”
It was a very hot day, yet the ride was so pleasant, at some stretches of the road, I saw branches of trees from either side of the road meeting neat the center of the road and creating a leafy canopy. It felt so good and refreshing on a hot May afternoon.
There were Agricultural fields on either side of the road. Why are the fields so barren? I wondered.
‘You idiot how can anything grow under this scorching sun?’ I asked myself
Every once in while, we came across small villages with houses painted green or yellow. They all looked like boxes. Some how the village houses lacked the charm that houses in Kerala had. There was something beautiful about Kerala houses. Thatched roof, white washed walls, clean courtyard! That is such a beautiful sight. One day I have to take Beautiful Eyes to Kerala and show him how beautiful the land is.
‘Yeah right, where are you planning to take him? Chengannur house?’ Sensible one asked
I ignored her question. I knew it was a valid question. But some questions, how ever valid, should never be asked, because some questions do not have any answers.
“Look” Beautiful eyes pointed to my left. I saw a little boy herding a group of buffalo. The boy must have been 7 or 8 years old and he held a long stick in his hand. But the buffaloes were certainly bigger and stronger than him. Yet they listened to his commands.
Soon I noticed the rocky hills. Do I call them rocky hills? I wasn’t sure what to call them. It was hills made of boulders of different sizes, not one hill, not two hills.
Hills after hills of boulders. Beautiful smooth boulders.
“It is so beautiful” I screamed.
“I know”
He started to slow down the speed and I looked around. On the left side, a little far away from the main road, I saw a village. He parked the bike by the side of the road and we both got off. I gave the back pack to him and stretched my back. The bag was heavy and my back was aching. I wondered what he was carrying inside. Before I could even open my mouth and talk, we were surrounded by kids from the village. They were all staring at him. It took me a while to figure it out. They would have never seen a Naga before.
They started to ask a thousand question/second.
“Nina can you answer?” Beautiful Eyes was looking at me
“Why? Oh Don’t tell me, you didn’t learn to speak Kannada yet?”
“I can’t. It is so difficult to learn”
When one of the boys asked him something, Beautiful Eyes shook his head and said
kannada gothilla”
Everyone started to laugh.
“Why are they laughing?” He looked at me puzzled.
“nah don’t worry” I spoke.
Then one of the boys in the group asked me while pointing his hands at Beautiful Eyes
“Where is he from?”
“from Nagaland”
“Where is that?” he asked
“Far away” I replied
“How far away?” He asked
“Far far away”
“Is it another country?”
I looked at Beautiful Eyes. I understood suddenly why he is fighting a war. Because it was obvious even after this many years being part of India, not many Indians even knew where Nagaland was.
“hmm” I nodded.
“Nina, come let us go.” he started to walk up a pathway that led to the back of the houses. Soon we were climbing up the rocks. Actually he was climbing and then pulling me up. He seemed to have no trouble climbing all the rocks even while carrying such a heavy back pack, while I was struggling. This was the same woman who once climbed every single tree in Chengannur house. What happened to me?
“Where are you going?” I had to ask. I was getting too frustrated. First of all it was hot, secondly my hands and legs were hurting. This was not my idea of a quality time with the man I love. This was nothing but torture.
“Little bit more” He spoke calmly
“little bit more, ninte ammayi appante thala(your father in law’s head!!)”
“What did you say?” He asked
“Nothing” I grumbled, then I realized what exactly did I say. His father is law would be my father. Methran Thambi’s son! I started to laugh
“Why are you laughing?”
“No. I didn’t laugh”
“I saw you laughing”
“No I was just showing you my teeth. I also brushed my teeth this morning”
“God Nina, you are insufferable”
Finally he stopped climbing and I found us under a huge boulder, the top of the boulder extended almost three feet overhead
“Is this thing going to fall on my head?” I pointed the boulder to him
“It didn’t in the last few centuries, I won’t know about today”
“Get lost”
“Do you always say get lost when you are lost for words?”
“Get lost”
“There. my theory is correct” He started to laugh.
I walked a bit farther from where he was and sat down. From the corner of my eyes, I could see him using the back pack as a pillow and laying down.
I guess he was right. I normally never say get lost to anyone. That is because I normally have the last word. But it was different with him. He always had the last word.
Sore loser! That should be my name.
“Hey, do you want some water?” I heard him asking
“Sure” The moment I heard the word water, I started to feel thirsty, I realized my lips were almost dry.
“Here, he reached across and passed the water bottle to me.
Did he even notice that I was cross with him? Did it not bother him? I wondered
“Nina, are you hungry?”
I shook my head
“I have some biscuits and chocolates, do you want?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t hungry.
My back was hurting, so I used my hand to massage my back
“Do you want me to massage your back?”
“No” I shook my head
“Here, use this” He pushed the bag towards me. You can use it as a pillow and lay down”
I adjusted the bag and leaned against it.
From where I sat, I could see the highway down in the valley. There were very few vehicles on the road. On the far right corner I could see part of the village that we saw before coming up the hill.
That was it. Civilization was just a stone throw away, yet we were far from everything and everyone. It felt like we were in our own palace and The King and the Queen were in their chambers!


Does anyone remember this restaurant in Madras/Chennai
Year. 1990
All I remember is getting off at a traffic light, there was a huge brown colour building (?LIC) on one side of the road, then I had to walk for abt 15 minutes, passing office buildings, few salwar shops, then there was this place, almost at the end of the shop lots, white walls, majestic looking place, inside the restaurant was extremely pleasant with lots of tanjavoor paintings on the wall. From what I remember the place was owned by MGR or one of his family members. I did try to find this restaurant the last time I was in Madras..Everyone said it was closed down. Does anyone remember the name of the restaurant?

No woman No cry

It must have been the anti histamine that made me so groggy and drowsy. Before I went to bed, I set the alarm for 5.30Am. So I won’t miss Gangamma knocking on my door to deliver the note and the rose flower.
I woke up even before the alarm rang. I looked at the clock. It was 4.15Am.
‘Too early Nina, Go back to sleep’. I tried to tell myself.
I closed my eyes and his eyes came in to view. I could see his nose, his lips and I wanted to kiss him.
I opened my eyes quickly. What is wrong with me? I don’t normally think like this. There is something wrong with me. It must be the after effect of the anti histamines.
‘Yeah Right’, the sensible one spoke from the back of my head.
‘The medicine that you ate yesterday afternoon is still in your blood stream. Come on Nina’

‘I am sure it is the anti histamine. May be I didn’t drink enough water yesterday and the medicine didn’t have the chance to get flushed out of my blood stream’.
‘Yeah Right, whom are you kidding’,the sensible one spoke
‘Shut up’ I spoke.
I must have said that a bit loud, because Aparna started to toss and turn in her bed. I didn’t want her to wake up. What would I tell her this time, when I get the letter and the flower? She knows Arjun had gone home.
I tried not to move or make any sound.
I was afraid to close my eyes, lest I start to think ‘unwanted’ stuff. I couldn’t read anything in the darkness either. I didn’t want to switch on the light and risk waking up Aparna.
I gently got up and adjusted my pillow, so I could sit up.
I wanted time to fly, not at all like during the exam time, then I wanted the time to go slow, very slow so I will have enough time to read the text book.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t read and I couldn’t even close my eyes. May be I could think something.
Who do I think of first?
Of course Beautiful Eyes. ‘No, No, No’ I don’t want to think about him.

I will think about Ammachi. I wondered how she has been doing. I hoped her legs wouldn’t give her any problems! Is Kutten still working there?
I could picture myself walking around the house, past the cattle shed with its multi colour painted walls, past the kuttakom (urn) that Ammachi uses to boil kaadi (feed) for the cows, past the rubber sheets hung on the clothes line and enter the house through the back door. There would be coconuts, cocoa and yams on the floor near the kitchen door, ready to take to the market to sell. The metal tins that are used to set the rubber sheets were stacked by the side of the kitchen wall. Oh I almost forgot, before entering the house, I must wash my legs. I walked towards the well and took the metal bucket at the end of the rope. I thought of the last time I used the same bucket.
‘No I can’t do this. I don’t want to think about Ammachi’. I quickly shut Ammachi out of my mind. There was a tinge of ache in my heart, but I ignored it.

Who is next?
Appa of course. ‘Nah, not him either’, Our last conversation ended with me slamming the phone down. Appa too was out of the thinking process.
‘Next’ !
I felt, I sounded like the nurses at the OPD clinic shouting Next to the patients waiting in the queue outside.
‘Amma’ I tried to think about Amma. But my thinking chest was empty. I had nothing to think about her. You don’t automatically become a mother by virtue of giving birth, do you?
‘But she is your mother’ the sensible one spoke
‘I know, I didn’t say she isn’t.’ I replied. I was getting annoyed with the sensible one. What is her problem anyway?
‘Chechy’ What do I think about her? ‘Nothing’
“Liza and Sally?’ Nothing, nothing. There was nothing to think about anyone in my family. That means only one thing.
That is, I need to create a new family. Something that I can call my own.
My husband and my children.
I knew I was blushing. So even in the darkness, I tried to rub my cheeks to remove the redness.
Where would we get married? Church wedding is out of question. What if he wants to get married in the church? Nah, like me, he is also a christian by name. He won’t be fuzzy, I knew that for sure. Civil service? B O R I N G!!!

I wanted to wear a wedding gown and a veil. May be Amma will give me her white stone necklace. That necklace would go very well with my white gown!
That Necklace was the only piece Amma’s wedding Jewelry that I wanted. It wasn’t a diamond necklace, but the stones sparkled almost like diamonds. There were 15 round stones in a single gold chain. Amma had already given all of her bangles to Maria. I hoped at least she would give me the necklace. Maria never had to ask Amma for anything, Amma always gave without Maria asking. I had to ask everything and she never gave me anything. Why is that?
‘Nah, don’t bother. We are thinking about pleasant things, ignore your mother’ Sensible one spoke
May be we will get married by the beach, with the sun set as a back ground. That will be so romantic. Wedding by the beach. Liza and Sally could be the flower girls.
Maria and Amma and Appa together with my baby sisters on my wedding day. I should warn everyone not to fight on the most important day of my life.
Would my family accept Beautiful Eyes?
The simple answer would be ‘NO’.
Suriani Kristiani chain had been tied to my ankles. I was supposed to marry my own kind. What is their problem anyway? I am marrying a guy I want to marry. I have the right to do so, don’t I?
‘Sure you do, be prepared to be excommunicated from your family’ Sensible one replied
‘Ah, no big deal. As long as the man I marry loves me and stand by me, my family’s view wouldn’t have to bother me’
I looked at the clock. 6.15. ‘Oh my goodness. Did Gangamma come and knock the door? Did I not hear it? May be Gangamma didn’t want to disturb me early in the morning. She might have left the letter and rose on the floor in front of my door. I got up quickly and opened the door. There was nothing on the floor. Could the wind have pushed it away? I looked everywhere.
May be I should find Gangamma. I looked all over for her, finally I found her, sleeping soundly near the hostel entrance on the floor. She had used part of her saree as a blanket and her tiffin bag as a pillow.
I was mad at her for sleeping!
May be she was so sound asleep that she didn’t hear the security guard calling her? All because of her, I would have missed the letter and flower.
But somehow, her shrivelled body on the cold cemented floor didn’t disappear from my mind.
Why can’t we even offer a proper bed for our servants? Why is that we consider people like Gangamma as ‘non existent’ in our day to day life? We worry about a clean room and a soft bed, yet those who clean our room gets cold cemented floor as a bed.
There was no point in waking her up and I walked back to my room. My head was aching and my heart felt heavy. But I was still hopeful. After all I send my first love letter yesterday. I should get a reply. May be he would call me. Nah not may be, surely he would call me.
I waited and waited. Time stood still. Everything around me was in slow motion. I watched Aparna getting up, checking the clock and going back to sleep. Some of the girls could be heard chatting outside the corridor and getting ready to go to the mess to eat breakfast. I was hungry, but I was afraid that, I might miss the phone call. So I stayed in my room. Each time I heard someone shouting someone else’s name, saying ‘Phone call for you’, I would go out and stand in the corridoor. What if I didn’t hear the name properly.
I thought of singing
Ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call
Ring, ring, the happiest sound of them all
Ring, ring, I stare at the phone on the wall
And I sit all alone impatiently
Won’t you please understand the need in me
So, ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call
So, ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call

But I knew, my wishes always stood as wishes.
I knew I blew it. I blew my only chance of being happy because I was stupid, dumb, ignorant,egotistical. I deserved this. I punched the wall as hard as I could.
I had to clench my teeth, so I won’t scream and wake up Aparna. May be it was the pain of probably broken carpel bones, may be it was the pain of losing the only guy I loved, tears started to flow. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. So I lay down on my bed and pulled my blanket over my face.
I heard Aparna getting up. I didn’t have any reasons to tell her why I was crying. I tried not to make any sound. I realized I didn’t even have a right to cry!

I don’t know how long I hid underneath my blanket. I heard one of the juniors knocking my door and whispering ‘Madam’.
I pulled the blanket off my face and got up
Where has Aparna gone? Must have gone to meet her boyfriend. She is so lucky, I thought.
“Madam” the knock continued
“Coming” I got up and opened the door
“Someone send this for you” I took the brown paper envelope from her hand
Did Arjun come back already? I wondered
“Don’t know madam. This was given to my classmate Ravi and he passed it to me”
“Oh ok. Thanks”
I checked the envelope for handwriting. There was nothing written on it. I shook the envelope. Something was moving inside.
I closed the door and opened the envelope quickly. There was a sony audio tape. Nothing else.
‘What is this?’ I wondered. I am afraid to try anything that isn’t the norm because George’s shadow always follows me. What has he got now? Did Beautiful Eyes record our conversation and passed it to George?
Nah, that won’t be possible.
I took the tape from the cover and placed it in my music system and pressed the play button
“Good morning darling”
I almost jumped up from the bed and looked around. It took me a few seconds to realize that the sound was indeed from the tape. I started to blush and I was so grateful that Aparna wasn’t in the room. I reduced the volume quickly and ran and locked the door.
“Thank you for the letter, missing piece of the puzzle? Well, that is something.
I never saw my life as a puzzle and now that you mentioned it, I realized it is indeed a puzzle. I spend the night recording all my favourite Bob Marley songs for you, my puzzle. Once you finished listening to them, get ready and meet me at the bus station. We have things to do.
The first song was No woman No cry, by the middle of the song, I was in love with Bob Marley.
I got up from the bed and started to dance. Because my heart was full of joy, a feeling that I have never known before. I was transforming from a girl to a woman and I wasn’t ashamed of my transformation.

Stand up, stand up for your rights

“War? You are fighting a war? What do you mean? You mean you are involved in killing people?”
I thought I knew everything about the man I love, but this was something I wasn’t expecting. I don’t believe in war. I believe in peace.
“Do you know who is my favourite singer?” He asked me
I looked at his beautiful eyes, trying to figure out what exactly was he trying to talk. Here we are talking about war and killing and he is asking me about music. What has war got to do with music?
One of us for sure is gone mad and I hoped it wasn’t me
I shook my head and said “No”. I was too numb even to guess who would be his favourite singer.
“Bob Marley. Do you know him?”
“Well, he was born in Jamaica to a Jamaican woman and a English army guy. I like his songs, because he sings about his people’s struggle to be free from the modern slavery. Do you know about African history?”
“Good. Because of their colour, they have been enslaved by the whites. He wanted his people to break free from the clutches that enslave them. He said “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight” Nina, I am doing just that. I am standing up for my right”
“But what if anything happens to you? What will I do?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if you get killed?” I regretted the moment I uttered the word killed. I was afraid to jinx everything.
“Nina, the only sure thing in life is death. Everyone dies, Fear of death shouldn’t prevent you from living your life. Look at it like this. Water always flow from the streams in to the river to the ocean. No one can change the course of the streams or the river. Life is like that. You have to let your destiny takes you where ever it is meant to take you”
Destiny? I believed in destiny, but not the destiny where I might lose the guy I love because he was stupid enough to fight a war. He doesn’t have to fight the war. He can live peacefully in Bangalore. For that matter, any part of India. he doesn’t have to involve himself in the fight. That is the least he could do for me, right?
“What are you thinking?” He asked me
“Nothing” I shook my head
“hmm?” I asked
“hmm! hmm!” he started to smile and though I was afraid of the unknown future, I had him that moment and that is all mattered at that point of time and I smiled, but I still had thousands of questions that needed to be asked
“Nina, Can I ask you something?” He asked before I had a chance to ask him my questions
“Why do you love me?”
Why? Why do I love him? I never asked myself that question before and now when he asked me, I didn’t have any answer
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. Why do you love me?”
“because you are crazy”
“What? How dare you call me crazy?” I playfully punched him”I am not crazy, do you understand that?”
“You are fighting with me? You want to fight with me” He grabbed my hand and I tried to pull my hand away.
“Let go off my hand” I screamed
“tell me one good reason!”
“Because it is my hand”
“You are mine, so your hand is mine”
“Please let go off my hand” I pleaded
“Why Nina? why are you afraid of me touching you?” He let go off my hands and I pulled my hand and shrugged my chest.
“Don’t know” I whispered
“It is ok baby, I won’t do anything that you don’t like. Nina, I won’t hurt you”
“Thanks” I mumbled
“Do you want to go back?”
“Yes” I nodded my head. There was something about his touch that changed everything. I wanted him to hold me, yet I was too afraid of my own feelings. I was afraid to feel such a way. I shouldn’t even think such things, I tried to tell myself. Some where at the back of my head, I could hear the other Nina trying to say, there is nothing wrong in feeling that way, you love him and it is ok to feel that way.
He got up and extended his hand to help me get up. I wanted to hold his hands, but the two Nina’s were still arguing as to if it is right or wrong, So I got up on my own self. He was looking at my eyes.
“I love you Nina”
“hmm” I replied
“hmm? What about you? Do you love me?”
“What do you mean by hmm? Say, you love me”
“Say you love me” I replied
“I said, say you love me” He sounded annoyed
“I said, Say you love me” I replied
“God! you are insufferable”
“Thank you” I replied
“Do you know something? I know you love me.”
“Good, then you shouldn’t be asking me if I love you or not”
“Fine” He started to walk towards the bike and I stood where I was standing, feeling like an idiot. What exactly is my problem? Why couldn’t I tell him that I love him? Why did I have to make him so upset?”
“Are you coming?” He turned to look at me. I wanted to so badly tell him that I love him, but the words didn’t come out. I, the proud grand daughter of fearless Methran Thambi and equally fearless Thangamma, suddenly was afraid of my own feelings. He started the bike and I walked towards him. He didn’t say a word till the bus station. When I got off the bike I said
“Bye” Hoping he would say something to me. I wanted to talk about meeting each other tomorrow.
“Bye. Oh!Do you have money for the fare?”
“Do you want me to wait here till you get in to the bus?”
“No” I shook my head. I was angry with him for being so aloof.
“Ok” he started the bike and left without even turning to look at me.

I was still mad when I came back to the hostel. I was mad at myself and mad at him. I was mad at everyone. If only life wasn’t this complicated!
Soon the anger turned to fear. I was afraid that he might leave me because I refused to tell him that I love him. I couldn’t let that happen. I had to do something. I thought of going to the phone booth and calling him up. I had to apologize. But he may not have come back to the hostel and besides anyone can hear me talking at the phone booth.
It will be better if I can write it down. I tore a piece of paper from my record book and started to write.
Dear Beautiful Eyes,

Dear beautiful Eyes? Gosh, that sounds so formal. I struck that out. What do I write?
Then I remembered his question. “Why do you love me Nina?”
I thought hard and I started to write

Each time I see you, I want to run to your arms. I want to be close to you.I want to with you.
Each time I am away from you, I miss your smile, I miss the twinkle in your eyes, I miss your songs, I miss everything about you.
But when I ask myself why I love you, I don’t have one single answer, but I have so many reasons to love you,
I love you because you are you, that makes you unique,
I love you because you have the ability to make me smile,
I love you because you make me feel happy and contended.
I love you because I can look in your eyes for aeon and not be bored
But most off all, I love you because you are the missing piece of puzzle, that would complete my life’s puzzle.
I looked at the piece of paper in my hand. It was the first love letter I ever wrote, so it felt special.
When I read the last sentence, I realized why I love him and not Arjun. Arjun could never fit in to my life. He was not the missing piece. But how was I going to tell him that? I didn’t know the answer.
I had to give the letter to him. So I placed the letter in an envelope and sealed it well. I locked my room and walked to the Canteen. Aparna was with her boyfriend and as soon as she saw me, she got up and came towards me
“Hey, did you go to the clinic? What did the Dr say? are you alright now?”
“Yes I am fine now. It was just an allergic reaction. Dr. gave some Antihistamines”
“Oh ok. Do you have to go for some allergy tests?”
“Oh No. I am fine” I was about to say it won’t happen again. I had no intention of consuming an aspirin for the rest of my life. Fortunately I thought before I opened my stupid mouth.
“You guys carry on. Let me get something to eat”
I hoped against hope that he would come to the canteen. I couldn’t risk giving the letter to anyone else. I waited and waited. Few minutes before the canteen closed, he walked in with few other North Indian students. As soon as he entered the canteen, he saw me. He didn’t even acknowledge me. My heart sunk. I watched all of them going to the counter to buy cigarettes and pan parag. I hoped he would look at me, so I can give the letter to him. He didn’t and I wasn’t going to give up on him.
“Excuse me”I got up and started to walk towards him. Aparna was looking at me, so was the other North Indian guys who was with him. It was too late to walk back. He was looking at me and I could see a mixture of surprise and happiness in his eyes
“I have something for you” I gave the envelope to him and walked off.
“What is it Macha?” I heard one of the guys asking him
“Oh She was giving me her uncle’s contact details”
I thought of saying ‘yeah right’. But at that moment I was glad that he lied.

Now that he got the letter, what would he do? He would surely call me! As I walked back to the hostel, I was convinced he would phone me.
I gave him 15 minutes to read the letter and after 15 minutes I walked to the phone room and stood on the corridor.
“Waiting for a phone call madam?” One of the junior Malayalee girls standing near the phone room asked.
I looked at her. She was Anitha’s good friend. Always with the prayer group.
“Madam, you can stay in your room, I will come and call you”
“No it is ok. I will wait here” I wondered why she was being so nice to me.
“I am serious Madam, you don’t have to waste your time standing here. I will come and call you. Any way I am standing here and waiting.”
“It is ok.” I spoke again

I heard the phone ringing and both of us ran to get the phone. She reached first and picked up the phone.
“It is for me madam” she spoke. ” I will call you when I finished speaking”
She was looking at me and I knew she wanted me to leave the phone room.
“Ok” I walked out. I stood near the veranda.
I could still hear the conversation outside. It didn’t take too long to figure out why she didn’t want me to wait for the phone call. She knew I speak Malayalam and didn’t want me to hear her conversations with her lover in Kerala and when they would be meeting each other in Bangalore.
This was the same girl who spoke against love marriage and wanting to marry the guy her parents would chose, during the ragging time.
When the phone call was over, she came out and I could see the shock on her face when she saw me still standing there. I ignored her. Her life is her business. I have more important things to do than worry about her hypocrisy.
Every time the phone rang, my heart would miss a beat while I ran to get it. It was always for someone else and my heart started to feel heavy. Is he going to break up with me? What would I do? He was everything I ever wanted and I was stupid enough to not to tell him a simple I love you. I hated myself. I regretted not telling him that I love him.
Eventually at 12.30, I gave up waiting for his phone call, but not before telling Gangamma to call me, if I get a phone call.
He never called.


Dedicated to all the people who lost their life in the Battle of Kohima
April 14 – June 22. 1944
for your tomorrow
we gave our today.

I laid down on my bed and tried not to scratch my body. But I just couldn’t. I regretted taking Aspirin. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t even think if I could go out and meet Beautiful eyes.
Aparna came back around noon time to check on me
“Nina, I got you some Calamine lotion.” She passed the bottle to me
“Thanks Aparna”
I was just so grateful. I opened the medicine bottle and quickly applied some lotion on my body. The cold lotion on my sore body felt so good.
“Did you get to speak to Arjun?” I asked her
“Yes, he looked disappointed”
“I know”
I felt sorry for being so mean
“Do you want me to bring some lunch for you from the mess?”
I wasn’t in a position to eat any lunch. I was miserable.
I shouldn’t do this to Arjun. I should have the courage to tell him that I don’t love him. But I was afraid how he would react. When we had a simple argument he went for a long bike ride and if I tell him that I don’t love him, what would he do? I wish he would just look at me and realize that I am a big huge mistake. I don’t speak the language, I refused to cover my hair, I have a temper and I come from a very very bad/terrible family. What more reasons does he need to break up with me? It was obvious, he deserves a sweet and gentle Marwari girl. Not a monster like me. But how was I going to tell him that?
But the truth is, he accepted me for what I am and I have been nothing but ungrateful.
I couldn’t do this to Arjun. It wasn’t right. I decided not to go and meet Beautiful eyes.
“Bye Nina, I will see you after the class” Aparna took her note books from the shelf and went out. I didn’t even ask where Shylaja was.
I knew, she would have gone straight to the mess to eat and then rushed to the gallery to sit in my favourite place at the gallery. Stupid woman, fighting for a place at the gallery!
I couldn’t lay down on the bed, because my back was itching. I sat down on the bed and re applied the calamine lotion on my body. I looked at the clock. It was 12.45 pm.
I looked outside my room. Even the leaves on the tress were turning brown under the hot summer sun. I thought of the guy who was waiting for me at the restaurant in this heat. There was no way I could let him know that I won’t be able to see him.
Damn it Nina, how can you not keep your word? You told him that you would see him after Arjun had gone home. I thought.
Was it the thought of breaking a promise or was it the desire in my heart that made me wipe the pink colour calamine lotion off my body, change my cloths and leave my room?
I never knew the answer.
The security guard was staring at me
“What happened to you madam?”
“Allergy. I need to go to the clinic, Can I have the register book please?” I took the pen from my bag.
“It is ok madam, no need to sign. I will get an auto for you”
I stood inside the guard house. The heat and the itch was killing me. I promised myself, Even if I die, I will never take an Aspirin again in my life. I rather die than suffer like this.
When the auto came I got inside
“Are you ok madam?” The driver was staring at me
“Yes” I barked.
“Clinic no?” He asked
“No, bus station”
When the auto reached the bus station, I paid the driver and got out. My instinct was to look for signs of Arjun or any of my classmates. But I was too tired to be bothered. I could see his bike parked outside the restaurant and I walked in. He was sitting in the corner table. As I walked towards where he was sitting, I could see that everyone was staring at me
“My God Nina, what happened to you?” He got up from the chair and was staring at me
“What did you do?” He was laughing. I must have been a sight!
“Don’t ask” I was mad.
He had the audacity to laugh, when I was suffering? I did this for him. I felt like throwing the falooda that he was drinking on top of his stupid head. That would have been a pretty sight. Naga warrior with pink falooda as a crown!
“come sit down, Can I get you something to drink? Did you take any medicine?”
“No thanks. Can we go?” I couldn’t risk sitting with him in a restaurant often patronised by medicos from my college.
He paid the money and we walked out together.
“Where do you want to go?” He looked at me
“Anywhere out of here” I shouted. I was irritated, agitated, itchy and angry
He started the bike and I sat down behind him.
“Did you take any antihistamine?” He turned to look at me
“No. Can you please go?”
“Ok, ok ok. Don’t get angry”

On the way he stopped at some pharmacy and bought anti histamine for me. By the time we reached his favourite place, The itch had subsided, but I was sleepy and tired.
We walked to the place where we sat down last time. He was looking at me
“hmm” I mumbled
“I missed you”
“Did you miss me?”
“hmm, hmm, hmm?” He asked
“hmm, hmm,hmm,hmm” I replied
“Angry with me?”
“What do you think of yourself? You left without telling me, I had no idea where you were and then you pop out like this and expect me to see you. I can’t do this anymore. I had to eat Aspirin, to get this allergy, so I don’t have to go with Arjun. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t” I started to weep
“Nina I am so sorry. I am so sorry for leaving without telling you. There is something I need to tell you, there is a reason I left without telling you”
“what do you know about me?”
“That is easy. you are a mad man, I am hopelessly in love with”
“Seriously Nina” He sounded serious.
I looked at him? What has he been hiding? Oh No George! Has he been collaborating with George? Did he bring me here for some other reason?
“You do know I am from Nagaland right?”
“do you know anything about Nagaland?”
I shook my head. I have been wanting to read about it. Never found any good books about Naga History.
“Most of the Naga’s trace their ancestors to Tibeto Burmans. Some people say our ancestors belonged to the Chinlung civilization. Do you know that my people and the Indigenous people of Philippines and Malaysia have so much in common?”
“Malaysia? Which people in Malaysia?”
“Dayaks. People in the Borneo”
“Really. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is that I am a Naga. I am not an Indian”
“Pardon me. What do you mean?”
“I am trying to explain that. For that you need to know the history”
“Tell me”
“Most of the Naga people lived in villages, each village had village chief. They never had a common king or a ruler. But they were happy. Most of the villages had their own dialects, customs and traditions. I belong to the Ao group. We have our own culture and dialect. In 1816, Myanmar invaded Assam. Some of our tribes lived in Assam and it was a very bad period. Innocent people were being killed by the Myanmar army. Finally British East India company defeated the Myanmar army and took control of Assam. While doing so, they also annexed part of Nagaland to Assam. 1832 king of Manipur, Raja Ghambir annexed part of Nagaland to Manipur. Because we are have so many tribes in so many villages and because we don’t have a distinct borders or boundaries, you will now see Nagas scattered in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and in the Kachin state of Myanmar. But we are still not Indians. Naga means ‘hills people’ or people from the hills. We have nothing in common with the plains people. Everyone of us felt the same way. So hours before India got independence from the British, Naga national council led by Mr. A.Z. Phizo declared to the world that we are independent(14th august 1947). No one listened. Not least the Indian govt. Not even the British Government. Did you know my people fought the battle of Kohima along with the British against the Japanese Army during the second world war? Did you know how many innocent Nagas were killed by the Japanese, because they supported the British? Even after that, the British cheated us. They should have granted us the Independence. They knew we have nothing in common with the Indians”

I could feel the rage in his voice. I have never seen him this angry
“Indian government refused to grant us our independence. Instead they chose to ignore our request for freedom. India wanted freedom from the British, yet they couldn’t grant us our freedom. On 16th may 1951, Naga national council led by Mr. A.Z.Phizo conducted a national poll and 99% of the population voted saying that they want to be independent. So on 22nd March 1956 Naga National council established Federal Government of Nagaland. So what did the Indian Govt do?” He asked me
“Don’t know” I shook my head
“They send their troops, to kill and torture our people. Not enough, they learned the tricks of the trade from the British. They learned to divide and rule. So now we have so many factions within the Naga national council and outside the council. To make things worst, when the British came, they brought in the missionaries as well. The missionaries! they destroyed my culture and converted my people to Christianity. Earlier we drank rice wine and danced in circles. Missionaries felt that was against Christianity and they banned everything. They made us lose our identity”
‘You are not alone there” I replied
“What do you mean?”
“Well, my ancestors are Brahmins. If it wasn’t for the missionaries, I would still be a Brahmin, with my own identity and culture.”
“So you can understand what we are going through. We, the younger generation are now trying to keep our traditions alive. But it is so hard. India will not grant us independence we so badly want, Instead, Indian govt is wasting the money to suppress the dissent by military actions. It is never going to work. if it isn’t today, tomorrow we will get our independence and you need to know when I vanish without a reason, there is a reason! We are fighting a war”
“What do you mean?”
“Nina, I am a Naga warrior, I will fight till my last breath for the freedom of my people”

note: One of the longest civil wars in the world has been going on in India. But the world and Indians are continuously ignoring the struggle of Naga people. British cheated them once, Indians continue to cheat them.

Chinlung civilization
My three years in Manipur
Battle of Kohima

Uses of Aspirin

As soon as the class was over, I walked up to Arjun’s room mate and asked him
“Rupesh, Where is Arjun? Where did he go?”
“Oh Arjun! He said he is going for long ride on his bike. He wanted to clear his head! So what were you guys fighting about this time?”
“We didn’t have a fight” I protested. “We only argued!”
“Right, No fight. Both of you don’t fight. Seriously Nina, you are a walking dynamite and he is the match stick!” Rupesh was laughing. “and fadafat we have the fireworks!!”
There was a little bit of truth in what Rupesh was talking about. I don’t normally look for a fight. I always walk away from a fight, but with Arjun it is different. Instead of walking off when he told me to go to hell, I told him to go to hell first. He somehow has the ability to bring out the worst in me.
“Do you want to wait for him at the canteen?” Rupesh checked his watch.”He should be back any time now”
I sat on the veranda and Rupesh went inside to order.
“Nina, tea for you right?” He shouted from inside the canteen
“Yes” I shouted back. I turned my head to look inside to see if he heard me and saw the entire batallion of malayalee seniors staring at me. I ignored them.
“eda malayalikal entha utharendiakkarude koodano eppol koottu. Nammaley onnum vendayirikkum (why does a malayalee want to sit with a north Indian)
Athu pinney free ayittu chaya adikkana, alley da. Eval okkey paisa nokkiyalley orungi ketti nadakkuney. Veruthey medicine padikkanennum parnaju varum! Ellavanteyum koodey keri nari bakki ollontey perum nashippikkum ( She just wants to get a good catch, the one with the money!! She is out to spoil our(mallu) good name)
“Nina, are they talking about you?” Rupesh passed the cup of tea to me and asked
The last thing I wanted was a north Indian, south Indian fight.
Eda evalu arudey koodeya eppol? Ee marankothan ano atho mattavan Arjun ano? (who is she going out with now? This guy or the other one ie Arjun?)
“Nina your clan is talking about you No? I don’t speak your language, but I can surely understand what is going on. do you want me to tell them off? ” Rupesh asked again
“No, I am fine”
“Nina Listen, You need help, you just have to ask. Arjun and I will always be there for you”
“Thanks Rupesh”

“Football and cricket bat, they look good together. Don’t you think?” Rupesh asked me
“What?” I looked at him stunned. What was he talking about?
“Rajashree and Anil, see them” he pointed to my super senior couple walking towards the library
“Why did you call them football and cricket bat?”
“Look at their size! Rajashree Madam is short, fat and round like a football and Anil Sir is tall and thin like a cricket bat”
It was true. Both of them indeed looked like football and cricket bat. “Do you have a name for everyone?” i asked him
“Oh yes!”
We were both laughing.
“Hey,Did you know the story about the guy who send a telegram to his father*?” Rupesh asked me
“No tell me”
“Well, this guy spend all the money, he wanted to send a telegram to his father asking for more money. He thought he is very smart. Guess what he wrote in the telegram?”
“What? Tell me
“He wrote, no mon, no fun, your son”
“Mon for money”
“oh. ok. Then?”
“His father was even more smarter. Guess what he wrote?”
“Don’t know tell me”
” So sad, so bad, your dad”
I laughed so much that other students in the canteen were staring at us.
“Gosh Rupesh, you are so funny”
“He he he” He laughed
“Nina, Can I ask you something?”
I get freaked out, when someone ask me such a question. My heart started to pound
“Sure” I whispered. Trying very hard to figure out what exactly he wants to know? Is he going to ask about the letter? Does he know anything about my sister and my uncle? Does he know anything about my mother?
“How do you do it?”
“Do what Rupesh?” I desperately tried to figure out what I did that he wants to know more about? Is he going to ask how I wrote the exam after the letter fiasco? I would surely give him a piece of my mind if he asked him anything about that. It was none of his business
“When do you study?”
“Pardon me?”
“When do you study? We know you switch off the light in your room by 10.30pm. Aparna told John that you wake up only at 7.30. So when do you study?”
“How did you know that I switch off the lights by 10.30?”
“We know”
“Come on Nina, we just have to look at your window. If there is light in your room, then you are studying. If there is no light, then you are asleep”
“oh like that”
“So tell me”
“Tell you what?”
“Your secret. When do you study?”
“Well, The truth is, I start studying only a few days before the exam. I read and read and read. Then I revise and revise and revise. That is all”
“There your boyfriend is coming” He pointed to Arjun’s bike
I thought of telling Rupesh that Arjun isn’t my boyfriend. But it wouldn’t have made any difference. I also wanted to show to the annoying Malayalee bunch that someone cares for me and I don’t give a damn if he is North Indian, south Indian, West Indian or East Indian.
“Arjun” Rupesh called out. I watched Arjun walking towards us. He looked tired. I felt sorry for fighting with him
“Now you two lovers sort all our problems. I am going to my room and study” Rupesh got up.
“Rupesh, Thanks” I spoke
“For what?”
“For the tea”
“Come on Nina, you are dating my best friend and I am obligated to take care of you in his absence”
“Thanks anyway”
“You are welcome anyway”
We both laughed again.
Arjun came and sat next to me
“I am sorry” I apologized sincerely.
“Me too” He sounded so tired
“Thanks for the Salwar”
“You are welcome”
“When did you go and buy it?”
“I didn’t buy it. My brother in law went to Rajasthan for a business trip. He got Salwar material for everyone, including you”
“How did he know that I like green colour?”
“he didn’t. He got yellow, red, and green colur material. I knew you liked green, so I took the green one for you. Did you like it?”
“Yes I did. thank you very much”
“Nina” He called my name
“Are we always going to fight like this? I feel very sad when we fight. I don’t want us to fight. Promise me you won’t fight”
All I ever wanted was a family. A mother, father, brother and sister, who would love me for what I am. I got all that in Arjun’s family. But I just don’t know why I can’t love him and why I fight with him. Why is it so hard for me to love Arjun? May be I should try harder. I should really make an effort
“I promise I will try” I spoke
The sun was setting and the sky was clear. I looked for all the familiar stars I know. That is when I noticed planet venus
“Arjun look, that is planet Venus” I pointed Venus to him
“Which one?”
“See the bright one there. That is Venus” I showed him
“Oh ok”
He didn’t show even a tiny bit of interest. May be I should try harder.
“Did you know Venus is the only planet among the solar system with a feminine name?”
“is it?” Arjun asked
“The symbol for female that we use is actually the symbal for venus(circle with cross at the bottom) and symbol for male is actually the symbol for Mars”
“So?” He was looking at me
I looked at him trying to figure out why he asked So?
“So what Nina? So what if we use the Mars symbol and Venus symbol? What difference does it make?”
I didn’t know what to answer. I didn’t know what is wrong with me. But the guy I wanted to be with, I wanted him to be crazy like me. I wanted him to be knowledgeable and teach me things I didn’t know. There are things I didn’t know. I never understood why Venus is known both as morning star and evening star. But how can I ask that to Arjun, when he is not even interested in knowing anything about Venus.
Then I asked myself so what? What if a guy didn’t know from where the symbols came from? Would it make him a bad person? No It wouldn’t, would it?
“So you are coming home with me this week end?” Arjun asked
There was no sign of Beautiful eyes, I had no idea where he went and I no longer knew what I should do.
“Good, Preetha is waiting for you. She wants to take you to get the salwar stitched”

Thursday evening, I talked to Arjun till about 8.30. We planned to skip the afternoon class, so we can go and watch a movie before going to his house. After talking to him, I went and ate my dinner at the mess.
I was on my way to my room when I heard Anitha shouting my name from the first floor
“Nina, phone for you” Anitha was looking at me
I didn’t want to take any phone call, But I was already in the corridoor and there was no way I could ignore the phone call and walk away
” who is it?” I asked
“Arjun? I just spoke to him 1/2 an hour ago”
“Don’t know, may be he is missing you already” She was teasing me
I ran up the steps to the phone room and picked up the receiver
“Hey it is me. Skip the clinics tomorrow and meet me at the bus station in the morning”
“Where were you until now?” I was so mad
“I will explain everything tomorrow. I just came back 10 minutes ago. I need to see you tomorrow”
“I can’t. I am supposed to go with him” I looked outside. Anitha was still standing outside the door. She might be expecting a call from home
“Do something Nina, I need to see you. There is something I need to tell you”
There was something about Beautiful Eyes. I melt hearing his voice.
“I will see you after he goes home” I whispered
“what time?”
“don’t know. may be 12.30, may be 1 may be 2. I don’t know”
“I will wait for you at the restaurent across the bus station.”
“I love you baby”
“hmm” I mumbled
“What hmm?”
“I asked What hmm?”
“Nothing. See you tomorrow. Bye”
“Bye darling”
I quickly put the phone down and walked out of the room
“My God Nina, you are blushing”
“No I am not”
I quickly ran down the steps to my room. My brain was in panicky mode. What was I going to do? How was I going to avoid Arjun tomorrow?
Think Nina think.
I knew what I am going to do. I had to fall sick. Onion! I need onion. Years ago I read somewhere that if you keep onion in the arm pit, you get fever.(probably malgudi days!!)
I ran to the mess. They were just about closing the mess when I reached there
“Annai, I need an onion” I shouted to the cook
“Onion? Why?”
“There is a rat in my room. My grandmother says, rats will not come anywhere near the onion.” I bluffed
“Really” I nodded my head
“Then we should also try the same” He was speaking to his side kick
“Try it and let me know”
I took the onion from the sack and ran back to my room. I had to do it when no one was looking. I waited for Aparna and Shylaja to sleep and then cut the onion in half and placed it in both my arm pits. It felt awful. But I had to get a fever. I waited and waited. Every few minutes I checked my temp. There was no sign of a fever. I was beginning to smell like a rotten onion and my temperature was still in the normal range. I finally gave up trying to get a fever.
Because I smelled like a rotten onion, I was forced to take my shower at 12.30 in the night. I took my bucket and walked to the washroom. I turned on the water heater tap and filled the bucket. I dipped my hand in the water to check the temperature.
“Ouch” I screamed. Water was ice cold. Gangamma must have switched off the heater before going to bed.
“Damn it” I cursed myself. I deserved this anyway. I was trying to cheat Arjun. But still, I wanted to see beautiful eyes. I wanted to be with him. I was willing to take a very cold shower for a chance to be with him.
While taking my bath I remembered Aspirin. I am allergic to aspirin. I get severe hives.

When i came out of the washroom I spotted One of my junior was walking outside the corridoor and studying
“hey do you have any aspirin. I have a severe head ache”
“No madam”
“Does your room mate have an aspirin?”
“Don’t know madam. I can check for you” I watched her going to her room
I knew I was going crazy. Who ever would have heard of such a brilliant idea of taking a medicine to get an allergy?
“Madam, she only has a single aspirin tablet”
“That is fine. Tomorrow I will send Gangamma to buy some from the pharmacy. Thanks” I took the precious pill from her hand.

“Nina, Oh my goodness, What happend to you?” Aparna was screaming
“Allergic reaction. I think I am allergic to Aspirin”
“Do you want to go to the hospital? Come I take you”
“Oh don’t worry Aparna. I am fine. It will settle on its own”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh yes. Can you do me a favour?”
“Can you please tell Arjun that I won’t be able to go home with him today?”
“Sure. Nina are you ok?”
I wasn’t sure if I was ok because I was cheating on the guy who loves me, and my whole body was itching.

* When Rupesh told me the story, I thought it was an original,but I found later that it was from reader’s digest
You can see Venus now

green salwar!

I waited and waited. I needed to let Beautiful Eyes know that I am free this weekend, That Arjun had gone home. I stood near my room window and watched for his bike. There was no sign of him or his bike.
I saw Prasad(canteen boy) walking towards the ladies hostel. The only reason he comes to the ladies hostel is to pass a message from one of the boys.
And only the lovers send messages through the canteen boy and usually the messages are regarding the rendezvous. Simple messages that informs Where and When!

I ran out of my room and stood near the hostel entrance. It was already getting late and I had to be back in the hostel by 9.30 before Gangamma locks the gate. I didn’t want to waste time. Each second that I lose by waiting for the messenger to deliver the message is a second I could have spend with the one I love.
I watched the canteen boy walking towards the hostel in slow motion. So slow that even a snail could have won the race. I knew he was cherishing every free moment outside the hot sweaty canteen kitchen.
A part of me was so angry with him for walking so slow. But I knew the truth. Children like Prasad are the back bone of Indian economy.Child labour act of 1987 prohibits employing children below the age of 14.Yet you find Children like Prasad who are certainly below the age of 14 still working in places like a medical college canteen where nobody(including me) even bothers to bat an eyelid or talk about his rights.
Each and Every one of us in the medical college is aware of the fact that education is the key. That is exactly the reason we are all doing medicine, so we could have a better life. Yet not one of us was bothered about the education Prasad was missing out on.
May be it is ingrained on our culture or may be we are selectively blind, because we continue to exploit children like Prasad and blame Prasad’s destiny instead of blaming our own apathy.(see this, this, this and this )
“Hello Madam” Prasad looked at me and grinned
“Any message for me?” I asked him. My heart was full of hope and excitement
“No madam. I came to see Soumya madam” My helium balloon suddenly lost all the helium.
“Arjun sir went home No?” He was staring at me. I could see the disgust in his eyes.
“Oh yes, he did. I forgot” I tried to limit the damage. He shrugged his shoulders and walked off. I hated myself for being in the mess I was in.I felt guilty for double crossing Arjun. But I just couldn’t stop loving beautiful eyes. I just couldn’t.

I walked back to my room. Shylaja had gone home and Aparna was with her boy friend. I contemplated if I should leave the door open or close?
What if Prasad comes back with a message for me and didn’t knock the door properly. I left my room door opened, just in case he knocked the door and I didn’t hear. I waited and waited, every time I heard footsteps outside my door, I lifted my head to see if it was Prasad. He never came.
May be Beautiful eyes really did send a message and Prasad didn’t want to deliver the message, because he might have felt it was wrong of Beautiful Eyes to meet me when I am going steady with Arjun. How many Poppins I bought for Prasad? Is this how he treats me after all that I have done for him? What is his problem, if I see Beautiful eyes when Arjun is away? Who is he to bother about my personal life?
Some where at the back of my head I heard the sensible Nina trying to say something sensible like ‘Nina you are being unreasonable’. I quickly told her to Shut Up. Only I know how much I want to be with Beautiful eyes!

Saturday morning I woke up with a heart full of hopes. I knew by now Beautiful eyes would have noticed that Arjun had gone home. We can spend the whole day together because even Caroline isn’t around. Yay, I wanted to shout and do a victory dance. I looked at Aparna. She was still sleeping.
I wanted to go and brush my teeth. But what if Prasad comes with a message and Aparna tells him that she has no idea where I was?
I tore a piece of paper from my record book and wrote in bold letters
I looked at the paper in my hand. How stupid am I getting. What if Aparna gets up and see the note and asks me, why I wrote a message like that? What am i going to tell her? Stupid stupid Nina. I crumpled the piece of paper and threw it in the rubbish bin. I walked towards Aparna’s bed, trying to make as much noise as I can, so she might wake up and I can tell her. She was sound asleep.
“Aparna” I whispered softly. She didn’t respond. I didn’t have the heart to wake her up.
I opened the window to check if Prasad was walking towards my hostel. He wasn’t. I quickly grabbed my toothbrush and ran to the wash room, brushed my teeth quickly and ran back. I hoped I didn’t miss Prasad.

The entire Saturday, I put my life on hold. I had lots of clothes to wash. I had 3 assignments to do, one assignment was due couple of weeks ago. It was a forensic medicine assignment and I didn’t do it because I haven’t bought a text book yet. I should go to the library and borrow a text book. But I chose to stay in my room,because I knew for sure he would send a message. By evening I was mad. I was mad at him for not sending a message. I was mad at myself for not going with Arjun. I could have eaten some home cooked meals at Arjun’s house, I could have partied all night long. I could have gone out for a movie. Instead I am stuck in this stupid room waiting for a message.
I was sitting on my bed and cursing myself when I noticed a cockroach climbing up my cupboard. My first instinct was to get up, grab my slipper and whack the cockroach and kill it. I smacked the cockroach with my slipper and it fell down to the ground. The antennae and the legs were still moving. I lifted my slipper to hit it again, then I remembered something.
I sat down on the floor and tried to figure out the best way. I had to be careful. That means no finger prints, no handwriting. My heart started to pound because I was petrified, at the same time excited. I took out my dissection set used the forceps and lifted the poor creature from the floor. Part of the gut had already come out of the body. I felt disgusted.
But I convinced myself by saying
‘Come on Nina, you have dissected so many cockroaches when you were doing pre-degree, you have even dissected deadbody!.
This cockroach can’t/shouldn’t make you sick’
“What are you doing with that?” Aparna was standing near the door and screaming. I didn’t even hear her opening the door
“It is a cockroach”
“I know, I can see, what are you doing holding it with your forceps?”
“I am going to throw it” Sadly I walked to the rubbish bin and threw the cockroach inside
“Is it dead”
“Oh yes” I lied. Hoping Aparna won’t go near the bin and check it out. If she saw the legs of the cockroach still moving, she would freak out!
The cockroach gave me hope. It kind of opened up that part of me someone predicted long ago.. The shrewed and cunning part of me. I knew what I am going to do. The only part that I didn’t know was how was I going to do.

May be it was the cockroach,may be it was the sheer boredom of waiting for a message, I stopped waiting for the message. I had more important things to do.
Sunday morning, I went and washed all my clothes, applied oil on my hair and took a very long shower. Went to the library and borrowed a forensic medicine text book. I still looked for his bike at the parking area. It wasn’t there. I had no idea where he went. I felt a sense of betrayal. My heart felt so heavy.
Then I thought, It is ok for me to betray Arjun, and not ok for someone else to betray me! I shook my head and walked back to my room.

Monday morning, Arjun was waiting for me at the bus stop.
“Hi Nina, I missed you” He spoke as soon as he saw me
“Me too” I replied. hating myself for lying
“I got something for you”
“You want to get it now or later?”
I looked at the bus and at Arjun. I wanted to see so badly what Arjun got for me, but the bus would leave in the next few minutes
“Oh Arjun, I want to see, but I will miss the bus”
“Nah, I will drop you”
“Ok” That was a super good idea.
“wait at the canteen” He ordered
“Ok” I walked to the canteen. I didn’t want to be seen standing outside the canteen, so I walked inside. I must have waited only for a few minutes. I could see Arjun walking from the boy’s hostel holding a parcel. I was so excited. it isn’t often I get gifts!
I also saw Dr. Jagadish walking in to the canteen
“Good morning sir” I greeted him. My instinct told me I was going to be in big trouble, but it was too late.
“See what I got for you” Arjun shouted as soon as he entered the canteen. He too wasn’t expecting to see Dr. Jagadish. I could see the shock in his eyes and I saw the look on Dr. Jagadish’s face.
“Good morning sir” Arjun too greeted him
He ignored both of us. But we both knew we are in for big trouble.
I walked out and Arjun followed me
“Why did you have to scream and let the world know you got something for me?” I hissed
“Well, I wasn’t expecting Mr. Filthy to be in the canteen. How was I to know? Why didn’t you give me a signal that he was inside?”
“How can I give you a signal? Before I could even open my mouth, you were shouting already and saying See what I got for you”
“You could have stood outside”
“I could have, but I didn’t have time. You could have just shut your mouth. You have a big mouth.” I screamed
“Go to hell” He screamed
“You go to hell first”
“Fine, I will see you there” He walked off.
I stood there watching him going to the bike parking area and starting his bike. He was looking at me. . He can go to hell for all I care! I walked back to my hostel. I missed the college bus, I missed my morning rounds. I was mad.
I was still hopping mad when I reached my room. I looked at the parcel in my hand. I threw it on my bed and screamed
“Damn you Arjun. I hate you”
I kicked my shoes off and watched it flying and hitting the door. I removed my lab coat and threw that also on to my bed. I was so mad.
I looked at the parcel Arjun got for me. I was angry, but curiosity got the better of me and I opened the wrapping paper. Inside was a green colour tie and dye salwar suit material. The duppatta still had the tie and dye knots on it.
Green colour!
Arjun knew my favourite colour is green and he took the trouble to go and find a green colour material.
Damn you Nina. I cursed myself. I felt so miserable for treating Arjun so badly.

In the afternoon, I waited outside the class room for Arjun. I had to tell him I am sorry. I waited and waited. There was no sign of him. I saw Dr. Jagadish walking towards the classroom and I quickly entered the classroom and went and sat the back of the gallery,hoping he won’t notice me. I was just so relieved that when he took the attendance and started to give the lecture.
“Today we will discuss the medico legal aspects of rape” He spoke.
He looked around the class and his eyes came to a stop when he saw me. My heart started to pound.
“Define rape” He barked
I didn’t bother. There were plenty of students in front of me. He could have been asking any of them
“Nina he is speaking to you” One of the students sitting next to me whispered. everyone started to look at me.
I got up slowly
“I said define rape” he barked again
I shook my head
“You don’t know the definition of rape?”
I refused to answer. I knew this was a trap, set for me after the morning incident. I don’t know why, but the moment a professor sees a couple, he/she start to harass them. They seem to derive some sadistic pleassure in mentally and emotionally torturing student lovers!
“Class, your friend doesn’t know to define rape. Why are you wasting your time and my time madam?”
I didn’t respond. I knew what was going to happen. He will ask me to get out of the class. I took my books, ready to walk off
“sit down” He yelled. I was taken aback. Why did he ask me to sit down? His standard procedure is to throw the student out of the class.
“Class, today let us talk about rape and virginity” I could see him looking at me through the tinted glass.
“What do you do, if one of your patient comes to you and say she has been raped? It is your job as a doctor to verify that claim. We can easily find out.”
He proceeded to explain the physical signs and the procedures we have to follow. I was expecting a personal attack and it didn’t happen. All that Dr. Jagadish spoke was from the text book and I felt relieved. Then he dropped the bomb shell
“What if someone says that the girl isn’t a virgin” Dr Jagadish was looking at me. There was a pin drop silence in the class and I knew each and every one of my classmate knew what Dr. Jagadish was referring to.
“What would a girl do, if she has been falsely accused?” He asked the class.
No one responded.
“If she has nothing to hide, all she needs to do is go to a medical doctor and get a physical examination done. It is so easy! Even I can do it” He was staring at me now.
I stared at him back. Straight on to his eyes. My virginity was none of his concern. And if he was trying to harass me because I was going out with Arjun, it wasn’t going to work.
May be he wasn’t expecting me to look at him. May be he was expecting to see a shattered Nina. I saw him looking at all the students. He looked at me again and I stared at him. He looked down quickly.
My heart was pounding. I was angry. I was angry with George for making me go through all these. I will make him pay. There were plenty of cockroaches around!

Government statistics shows that currently there are 12.6 million child workers in India.(unofficial statistics shows 3 times more)

“Often, child labour is considered to be a “necessary evil” in poor countries such as India for the maintenance of the family. In that context, some consider it virtuous to give a job to a child. In fact, some academics and activists campaign not for the reduction of child labour but only for a reduction in the exploitation of children.
However, the question has to be asked whether it is justifiable to allow children from poor families to undergo physical, cognitive, emotional and moral hazards because they must help their families.
Is the joy of childhood reserved only for some, privileged, children? (Clarence James Coonghe)


I didn’t talk to my father, because I had my own reasons not to. It was none of Arjun’s business to accuse me like that. I was so mad at him for being so mean and nasty. But there was a bit of truth there wasn’t it?
Why is it ok for me not to talk to Appa and not ok for Arjun not to talk bad about him?
What is wrong with me? Appa and I are related by blood, half of my genetic make up is from him, we even like the same music, not only that he even sends me money every month. He doesn’t have to send me money. I am already 18 and there is no law that says father’s should support their children financially once they reached the age of majority. He is still supporting me financially and I have been nothing but mean to him. My idea of keeping in touch with my father was by sending a letter to him every month. I don’t even bother to read the letters he sends to me and yet I was so upset when Arjun called him names. Hypocrite! That is the word I should call myself.
I looked at the clock. 5.30pm. Must be about 4pm in Dubai. I took my wallet from my lab coat and walked out. I didn’t want to call Appa’s house again. So I dialled his office number.
“Hello” I heard the familiar voice. It felt so good to hear my father’s voice. I suddenly felt like a Daddy’s little girl!
“Hello” I spoke
“Who is this?”
“It is me Appa, Nina”
“Why are you calling me? You want more money right?”
“No” I felt so indignant knowing that my father thinks the only reason I would call him up is for more money
“What do you want?”
“I just wanted to talk to you Appa, that is not a big crime is it?”
“Where is your mother?”
“pardon me?”
“I asked Where is your mother?”
“Appa, I didn’t call you up to talk about Amma, I just wanted to hear your voice. Why are you asking me about Amma, when you should be asking how I am?”
“You are just like your mother. You have the caustic ‘Kottayam tongue’. If you don’t change your attitude, like your mother,you will also destroy a poor, innocent man’s life”
Poor innocent man, my foot! I know how he has treated my mother all these years. I remember clearly each and every time he hit/kicked/punched her. I remember each and every time he threw her out. He had the nerve to call himself innocent. I could feel the anger surging through my veins. I wanted to strangle my father to death. Poor innocent man. Does he even know what that means!
“Bye Appa” I didn’t even bother to hear his reply. I slammed the phone down.
I hated myself for making an international long distance phone call during the day time, that costs me 118Rs, I hated myself for feeling guilty for not trying hard to make the father daughter relationship work, I hated myself for getting angry with Arjun and more than all that, I hated myself for feeling sorry for my father.
I collected the balance from the phone operator and walked out of the phone room. Arjun was standing outside. He must have heard my conversation with Appa*
“Nina” He was looking at me.
I didn’t respond. At that moment I was still angry. Angry with my father, who only thinks about himself.
“I am sorry” He reached out to hold my hand
“Don’t touch me” I hissed
“Nina, I am truly sorry. I know you are having a tough time with your family. It wasn’t right for me to judge you to win an argument”
“I am trying ok? I am really trying, You think I enjoy being isolated from my family like this?” I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my eyes
“Nina, I am so sorry”
I didn’t need his sorry, for that matter I didn’t need anyone’s sorry. I didn’t give a damn anymore.
“Arjun, I am not in a mood to talk” I walked off
A part of me hated telling Arjun that my parents are separated and I don’t talk to my father. If I didn’t tell him, then he would have asked a million questions about my family and there were too many ugly secrets that I could never reveal to anyone.
When I was little, I always wanted to tell someone all the secrets. I wanted to unburden the secrets I am forced to carry.. But now I realized, it is not possible. There is no way I can tell someone all the secrets that I am carrying, because when they need to, they can and would use the same secrets to attack me!

What I am is irrelevant. I would be judged because of my family. It didn’t matter that I am honest, kind and caring. What mattered was I didn’t call or speak to my own father, thereby I am a terrible person! Guilty by association!

I learned, my secrets, they have to stay with me. That is the only way I would come out of my family unscathed. I also learned that I should stop depending on Arjun, for that matter anyone. I have to learn to stand on my own two feet. I need to be independent.

Arjun was waiting for me at the bus station in the morning. I thought of asking what happened? Didn’t his parents buy him a bike, because they knew he would never get up on time? So it is possible that he can get up early in the morning!
I sat down by the window seat and he came and sat next to me
“Hi” He said
“Hi” I replied. Much as I wished to,I could never be rude to someone.
“I am going home this evening, do you want to follow?”
“ok” I too said ok, while trying to figure out, why exactly did I say ok?
“Here” He passed the news paper cutting
“Thanks” I took it and mumbled
“You are welcome”. I didn’t want to open it. But he was looking at my hands to see what I was going to do. I could have showed him my spite by putting that paper cutting in my lab coat pocket. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I opened the folds to see
“love is…. liking her for what she is”
I couldn’t prevent the smile from coming to my face. What are the odds that one can find a cartoon that matches the occasion?
“Glad you liked it” He spoke
“hmm” I mumbled
“Coming home with me tonight?”
“No Arjun. I need to study for the Pathology practicals. I can’t remember any of the slides”
“Oh Nina, why are you worried? The slides are so easy”
“No they are not. I can never remember which one is squamous cell or basal cell or blah blah”
“That is because you are not looking at the right places”
“What do you mean? I look through the eye piece”
“Oh Nina”
“Don’t Oh Nina me” I almost screamed
“Sorry!” He looked at me apologetically. I almost laughed seeing how worried he was when I yelled at him
“It is like this Nina, You need to look outside. If the slide has a cut in the right corner and the smear is like a cauliflower, then it is a squamous cell one”
“Aiyyah, our seniors have already marked the slides, so we don’t have to struggle remembering each and every points to identify the slides. All you have to do is just learn the 5 points to identify each slide, look at the slide from the outside, if there is a cut in the right corner, you know it is squamous, then write the 5 points. Bingo, you get everything right”
“What about the other slides?”
“Each one has a special identification point”
“Are you sure they keep the same slide for exams?”
“Of course, they have 2 sets of slides, one set is only kept for exams. One of the seniors paid money to the lab attendant and marked the slides. He passed on the list to his juniors and now I have the list!”
“Doesn’t the professors know?”
“Of course not. The exam slides are kept under lock and key!!!”
“oh like that ah!”
“Still not coming home with me?” He looked at me. I could see the hope in his eyes.
“Not this time Arjun, may be next week”

Arjun left for home around 5pm. He tried at least 2 more times to convince me to follow him home. I refused. I watched his bike leaving and I was relieved when he and his bike disappeared in the evening traffic. I could now peacefully look for someone else. That someone who would make my heart miss a beat by simply looking at me.
I walked inside the canteen and ordered
bhaiyya, one Torino”
“How is your fever madam” Canteen operator asked
“Oh it is gone. I am better now”
“See I told you. old wisdom! it always works”
“Cheers to that” I lifted my ice cold Torino and said cheers
He looked really pleased to have cured my non existent pyrexia! May be he too was suffering from guilty by association syndrome. Being in the midst of all the medicos, may be even he wanted to be a doctor.
I ordered a plate of egg bhaji, eating it slowly, hoping against hope that he would come.
I waited and waited, after eating two plates of egg bhaji, I could no longer eat anymore. With a heavy heart, I walked back to the hostel.
I saw Caroline standing near the entrance with 2 heavy bags on the floor next to her.”Going home?”
“Yeah, My cousin is getting married. I am going home for a week.”
“Gangamma, Gangamma” Caroline was screaming.
“Yes Ma. coming ma” I watched Gangamma running down the steps. Her saree was wet. She must have been cleaning the wash rooms.
She was struggling to breath when she reached where we were standing.
“Gangamma, help me to carry the bag to the main gate” Caroline pointed the bags to Gangamma and started to walk.
Gangamma took the sling bag and placed the strap on her shoulder. She tried to carry the duffel bag and I could see that it was heavy.
Caroline could have held one end of the handle and help Gangamma to carry it. She didn’t bother.
“Hurry up Gangamma, I will miss the train”
Gangamma turned and looked at me. I could see her eyes. I could see the pain and frustrations in her eyes.
I knew how unfair this was. I knew I had a mouth and could tell Caroline to carry her own bag. But Gangamma still needed this job. She has a asthmatic husband and an alcoholic son at home waiting for her to bring the money, one for medicine and one for the alcohol each day. She needs to work till the last day of her life, because India isn’t a welfare state and people like Gangamma will starve to death if they don’t work.
When your parents are well connected and are in the hospital boards, small fry’s like Gangamma can lose a job in an instant. I wasn’t going to risk the job security Gangamma has right now.
I watched the scrawny body of Gangamma struggling with the bags and trying to keep up with Caroline’s pace, while her wet saree tried to cling on to her feet.

Is it right that an able bodied person, can make someone who is not so strong to carry her bags for few Rs?
Is it right that we as a society justify our actions by making people like Gangamma, who had no chance of gaining an education, who struggles each day to keep the fire burning in their house, carry our bags because we can afford to pay a few Rs as porter charge ?

*Phone booths of my youth didn’t come with the plexi glass booth that offers privacy!