I wanted to see Beautiful Eyes, I wanted to talk to him. I had to. But how? I couldn’t send a word through the canteen operator, that would be dangerous. Both Arjun and Caroline will come to know. I couldn’t send him a letter, knowing Indian postal service, it may never reach him. What else can I do? I felt so restless. I had to do something. I took the novel I was reading from underneath my pillow. The novel Arjun got for me from Eloor library. I felt so guilty thinking about what I am doing to Arjun.
‘Nina, you can’t do this to Arjun. You can’t hurt him. He does everything for you. How can you cheat on him?’
But I am not cheating him. I don’t love him. I love Beautiful Eyes. I tried to convince myself.
May be I should tell Arjun that I don’t love him. I adore him as a friend, but not anything further.

“Do you want me to lock the door?” Aparna asked as she was leaving
“Nah,I am hungry, I will go and eat breakfast and later ask Gangamma to lock the door”
I waited for everyone to leave the hostel. I didn’t want to answer a thousand questions as to why I didn’t go for the clinics. By the time I reached the mess, the cook was already cleaning the serving counter.
“Oh Madama,You are late, I already switched off the fire” He spoke
“Nina ma, today is poori day, I already switched off the fire,the dough also finsihed! so there is no break fast for you”
“Any tea left?”
I watched the cook tilting the stainless steel tea pot to see if there was any tea.
He shook his head
“Damn” I muttered
I didn’t eat dinner last night and now there is no break fast. There was nothing to eat in the room either. I should have brought some bread when I went out yesterday. Yeah you were in a good mental state to do that! I told myself
May be I should go to the canteen and eat something. May be I might get to see Beautiful Eyes!
I walked back to my room to take some money and walked to the canteen, hoping against hope that Princy won’t come to the canteen for inspection. I would be in big trouble, if he found out that I bunked the clinics. What is it with all these people that they think only the students who attend the classes would pass the exams? Then I should have never passed first year MBBS exams!

Canteen was empty. Not a single student around. Nobody wanted to risk getting caught by the princy in the morning.
As soon as I entered the canteen, the operator looked at me and asked
“Why madam, why you didn’t go to the clinics?”
“Fever” I replied.
“Oh no, you must have got it from the clinics” He sounded genuinely sad
“yes” I pouted my lips and nodded my head sadly
“You have anything to eat?”
“Oh No madam, don’t you know you shouldn’t eat anything if you have fever? My mother used to say feed a cold and starve a fever”
I could almost hear my stomach growling
“You shouldn’t eat anything Madam, you will get well soon, if you just take rest and drink plenty of fluids”
I thought of asking the fellow when did he become a doctor? I cursed my own stupid tongue for saying fever. I should have said head ache! Why am I so bad at lying?
“Can I have a cup of tea please”
“Sure madam”
I sat down on the chair. I was so tired. A part of me really wished Beautiful eyes would just walk in. I really needed to see him.
The canteen operator brought the tea and I drank it slowly, hoping each second that Beautiful Eyes would walk in. Finally when I drank the last drop of tea in the cup,I gave up waiting and paid the money and walked out of the canteen.
Gangamma was sitting on the floor of the hostel entrance with all the cleaning ladies
“What Nina Ma, why you didn’t go to the hospital?” She looked at me worried
“head ache Gangamma”
“Shall I massage your forehead ma?” She got up from the floor
“No Gangamma, I am fine, I just need to rest. I will sleep for a while. Will you lock the door for me?”
“Sure ma” She followed me to my room. I walked in and closed the door.
“Keep the key with you Gangamma” I shouted
I wished I could hide from all my worries as easy as I could hide from Princy’s eyes!
I switched on the fan and lay down on my bed. I woke up when the fan stopped suddenly
‘Damn it, the power supply went off again?’ I cursed. It was too hot inside and without a fan, I would die. I opened the windows hoping some wind would enter my room. I didn’t want to risk calling out from the room and ask Gangamma to open the door. What if the Princy was around?
As I walked back to my bed, I noticed Aparna’s emergency light. It should have switched on automatically when the power supply went off. It didn’t. What is going on? I switched on the light in the room. The light was working. I switched off and switched on the fan switch over and over. The fan was not working. Damn it. Not during the hot summer months, there is no way I can survive without a fan.
Shylaja was the first to come back to the room and as soon as she opened the door I told her
“Shylaja, I think the the fan is spoiled”
“What did you do?” She sounded angry
“What? I didn’t do anything. It just stopped working”
I watched Shylaja walking towards the switch board and trying to on the switch. She too tried to switch it on and off. Aparna walked in and we both told Aparna that the fan is not working
She too tried to on the switch, May be she thought she could do magic. Anyway it didn’t work. The fan didn’t move
“Well, you have to pay to get it repaired” Shylaja spoke looking at me
“Pardon me, why do I have to pay? We are all staying in this room”
“Well, you are the only one who needed the fan and you were the last one to use it, so you have to pay”
“Hey, that is not fair. Three of us have to chip in together, three of us use the fan”
“I can live without a fan” She shrugged her shoulder
I looked at Aparna, hoping she would see how ridiculous the whole situation is
“Come Aparna, let us go and eat” Shylaja spoke to Aparna and together they walked off.
I wasn’t going to pay for a new fan. I couldn’t afford it. It was only fair that the three of us shared the payment. I was so angry, thinking about how selfish people are. Why am I blamed for everything?
Well let me see, how long both of them would survive without a fan. I too decided to play along.

I ate my lunch at the mess and walked to the gallery to attend the lectures. Arjun was waiting outside
“Hey, you ok? Why didn’t you come for the clinics?”
“I wasn’t feeling well”
“You ok now?”
I walked inside the gallery. Shylaja was sitting in my place. She was staring at me with a look that said
‘hey I beat you, too bad you can’t sit on your favourite seat’
I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I wasn’t going to bring myself to her low level.
I was angry with Shylaja for being so mean. I went and sat at the back of the class, promising myself tomorrow I would eat fast and be at the gallery before Shylaja. I needed to sit in the front row, so I can hear and be able to lip read the professors.
After the classes were over, I followed Arjun to the canteen. Beautiful eyes was in the canteen and as soon as he saw me I smiled at him. I could see the twinkle in his eyes.
When Arjun went to place the order I mimed and told him ‘Thanks for the flower’ He nodded his head and said ‘welcome’
“Sing a song Da” Someone told Beautiful Eyes.
I watched Arjun coming back holding two cups of tea.
“Shall we sit outside, it is pretty hot inside” Arjun suggested.
It was indeed hot inside the canteen, but I wanted to see Beautiful Eyes. I wanted to hear him singing, but I didn’t have any excuse to tell Arjun, so I took my tea from his hand and silently followed Arjun. The song was loud and clear
“There goes my baby
With someone new
She sure looks happy
I sure am blue
She was my baby
Till he stepped in
Goodbye to romance
That might have been”
Bye bye love,

I knew the song was meant for me. I wanted to see his face, so I slowly turned my head to where he was sitting and he winked the moment our eyes met. I quickly turned my face away. My heart was leaping with joy.
“What kind of a song is that?” Arjun asked annoyed. May be he saw me smiling?
“It is Bye bye love, sung by Everly brothers” I replied
“How do you know?”
“My father used to listen to it”
“Oldies. Stupid song”
“No Arjun, it isn’t a stupid song, it is a lovely song”
“Right! Only pansies like such songs”
“My father isn’t a pansy”
I was so mad at Arjun for calling my father a pansy. What does he think of himself?
“Why are you fighting with me? You don’t even talk to your father”
Damn it. I should have never told Arjun about my parents. Now what ever I told him, he is using against me. Damn it!
“But that doesn’t mean that he is a pansy, Arjun”
“You are weird, it is ok for you not to talk to your own father, but it is not ok for me to criticise your father”
“No it is not ok. He is my father for heaven’s sake”
“Whatever” He shrugged his shoulder. We drank the tea in silence.
“Arjun, I need to go”
“Ok” he didn’t even look at me.
As soon I entered my room, I noticed the new changes. Aparna and Shylaja had adjusted their beds. Earlier, my bed was facing the door, Aparna’s by the side of the windows and Shylaja’s was parallel to mine on the other sid of the room. Like the letter U. Now both Aparna’s and Shylaja’s were parallel to each other. What is going on? I wondered. Aparna was sitting on her bed and reading Femina magazine. She pretended not to notice me. May be she felt guilty.
Soon Shylaja walked in, holding a table fan. She grabbed her chair and placed the fan between my bed and theirs, with the back of the fan facing me and switched it on. She looked at me to see my reaction.
‘Bitch’ I thought.Earlier she said, She can survive without a fan, but now she managed to get a table fan from some where and placed it such a way that, I won’t get any wind!
Aparna, Shylaja and I are the future of medical profession. In 3 years, we would be entrusted with saving lives. We are expected to uphold the honour of our profession. How are we going to do that when we can’t even be nice to each other?

The fan regulator had burned out and it would have only cost less than 200 rs to repair. Aparna and Shylaja refused to chip in. Eventually, after enduring 2 weeks of hot, sweaty summer days, I got the electrician to connect the fan directly to the supply, by passing the regulator.
Soon the table fan disappeared from the room and the beds went back to their original position!

so so so close!

Of all the mysteries my life offered me, this was the worst. All I ever wanted was to be loved. May be I didn’t specify that I only wanted one person to love me. May be I should have specified what I meant each time I looked at the first star and wished
Star light, star bright
the first star I see tonight
I wish I may
I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight
Please send someone to love me.
Someone is singular isn’t it? What would I do, when 2 men loves me?

I thought about Arjun. The only son of a rich Marwari family, the only brother of 5 girls, studied in one of the best residential school in India, good looking and smart, every girl’s dream. I asked myself, What is wrong with Arjun? When I asked that question, I suddenly remembered something. Oh my goodness! Amma!
I remembered sitting on the veranda one hot summer holidays in Kottayam. That year there was almost 10 hours of power cut.
Some how that morning even without the fan Amma was in a good mood and we were talking, while fanning our body with a newspaper fan. I saw Amma shaking her hand after a while and I knew her arms are tired.
“Amma, you take rest, I will fan you”
She looked at me and I turned my news paper fan towards her and started to fan her.
“Amma, can I ask you something?”
“How did you meet Appa?”
“Why do you want to know Nina?”
“Don’t know Amma. I was always curious”
“Well, when your father came to see me, one look and I knew he wasn’t the right guy”
“How do you know that?”
“You will know Nina, you will know. Your heart will tell you that”
“You feel it in your heart”
“Then what happened?”
“I said I don’t want to marry your father and in the evening Kochammai came to my room”
“Which Kochammai?”
“Chacha’s wife?”
“Which Chacha?”
“Oh Nina, my uncle, my mother’s brother”
“oh ok. chacha appachan”
“yes, Chacha Appachan’s wife, Kochammai came to my room and asked me Give me one reason why you don’t want to marry him.
“Is he not good looking?”
“Is he not educated?”
“Is he not from a good family?”
“What did you say Amma?” I asked her
“What do I tell Nina, your father is over 6 feet tall, fair, handsome, well educated and from a rich family.What do I tell? Do you think anyone would believe that I didn’t want to marry him because my heart was telling me otherwise?”
“Then what happened?”
“Well, she told me not to be stupid, your father being the only son, all the land will be his after the death of his mother. She told me, I could live the rest of my life like a queen. See Nina, how the queen is living now, see my clothes Nina, see the queen’s cloths” Amma’s voice was quivering and she looked at me. She pointed her night gown to me. A faded orange colour night gown,that was once a saree and when it was torn, Amma got the tailor to stitch a night gown out of that.
I didn’t know what to tell her. I wished Kochammai didn’t do this to my mother. I wished and wished that my mother would find happiness. I wished she could be a queen once in her life time. There was only four of us who could ever make her a queen. I knew Maria was a hopeless case. I promised myself that I would take care of Amma, I would make her happy
“Do you know what happened on the wedding day?”
“No” I didn’t want to hear.I was afraid to hear what happened. But Amma wanted to talk
“At the church, priest placed the ring what my family got for your father on my finger and What your father got for me on his finger. Nina I was raised in an Anglican family, we exchange rings at the wedding. Not enough that the Jacobites don’t exchange the wedding ring, I got my own ring back. I was so disappointed and as soon as the wedding ceremony was over, I ran to Chacha and told him that I didn’t get a ring. Chacha must have had a few drinks before the wedding and he screamed and asked Why my favourite niece didn’t get a wedding ring?”
“Your father and grandmother felt my family was insulting them and treated them very badly during the reception and the day ended with a fight with both sides of the family screaming. My family didn’t think that, after they leave in the evening, I still have to live in your father’s house for the rest of my life. Their ego was more important to them. How could they do that to me Nina?”
“I don’t know Amma”
“After everyone left, your father and grandmother screamed and fought with me. It didn’t occur to them that I was alone, it was the first time I was away from my own family, I was apprehensive, worried and scared. Your grandmother, who too was once a bride didn’t remember how difficult it would be to start living in a new house with new set of rules as a wife of a stranger. Your father was angry with me, according to him, I should have told him that I was upset about the ring, not to Chacha. He felt I didn’t respect him as a husband because I went to my mother’s brother for help”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to feel anymore
“You know Nina, after that incident, I never asked my family for help. Believe me Nina, there were so many times I wanted to walk out on your father. I didn’t do it because you children needed a home. I couldn’t go back to my home. They would keep me for a week maximum and then ask, when are you going back? My family felt the day I got married their responsibility was over”
I hated Amma’s family. I hated each and everyone of them in her family. This isn’t how you treat a family member.
“You have me Amma” I spoke earnestly.
“hmm” She mumbled
I reached out and held Amma’s hand. Her Palm was rough and was full of callous. She should have had the smoothest hand in the world, instead my queen, my mother, her hand was rough. Motherhood and series of misfortunes have ensured that her hands will always be rough. Not for long Amma, one day I will carry the burdens for you. One day you will be the queen, one day you will live with me, I will be your family, one day you will be a grandmother to my children and one day you will find peace. I squeezed her palm gently. One day Amma, one day. I promised.

I woke up hearing soft knocks on my door. Aparna too got up
“Who is it?” Aparna asked. I looked at the clock. 6.30Am. Which idiot dares to knock at my room door at this time of the day? Must be for Aparna. Any way since she is already awake,let her go and open the door. I quickly closed my eyes, hoping Aparna didn’t see me awake!.
I could hear her cussing and walking towards the door to open it. I heard some whispered conversation.
“Nina, wake up, it is for you” She shook my legs
“What?” I pretended to wake up.
Gangamma was standing outside my room holding a single rose and a piece of paper. She looked pretty funny standing there holding the rose in her hand like a hindi movie heroine!
“Come in Gangamma, What is it?”
“Nina ma this is for you” She passed the flower and the paper to me. Someone must have got up very early in the morning to steal the flower from the hospital garden. Oh Arjun, what am going to do with you? I wondered
I opened the letter slowly.
Ah my beloved, fill the cup that clears
Today of past regrets and future fears
tomorrow? Why tomorrow I may be
myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years

Omar Khayyam, I checked the handwriting. It didn’t take too long to notice that it wasn’t Arjun’s hand writing and it didn’t take too long to figure out who send it.
“Who is it from Nina?” Aparna was looking at me
“Arjun” I lied
“Aw, that is so sweet, That is so romantic. What does the note say?”
“Here” I passed the note to her
“What does this mean? Who wrote it?”
“Omar Khayyam”
” Omar khayyam? Who is he?”
“He was a famous Persian poet and mathematician”
“Oh the guy wrote the novel named Rubaiyat? The famous love story?”
“Rubaiyat isn’t a novel, Rubaiyat means a poem written in 4 lines, a quatrain.” I tried to explain
“Whatever” She passed the note back to me
I didn’t want to get up. I suddenly didn’t have the mood to do anything. It was a very hot morning and I covered my face with my blanket and tried to sleep. The blanket was killing me. It was too hot. I kicked the blanket away. I tried to close my eyes, so I could sleep and escape from all this heart aches.
“Not going to clinics?” Shylaja asked me while she was getting ready.
“nah. Not in a mood”
“She got a love note from Arjun first thing in the morning” Aparna spoke
“Aw, that is so sweet” Shylaja spoke. She sounded so fake! I knew she isn’t happy, but what the hell!
I wanted to speak to Beautiful Eyes. I wanted to elope with him some where far away. But I just couldn’t. He was so close, yet so so so far away.
Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam


“hmm” I mumbled
“I am so sorry”
“For what?” I looked at his eyes trying to see why he said he was sorry? Was he saying sorry, because he felt sorry that I have the weirdest family on planet earth?
“When I came back after the holidays everyone at the men’s hostel was speaking bad about you. I didn’t want to believe it, but when Jomon told everyone that he went to Dr. DG’s clinic to verify the facts and everything in the letter was true and”
“And you believed it? Oh my goodness! How could you?” I was so mad
“I didn’t say I believed it”
“Right, you didn’t. Do you think it is possible for someone to walk in to a clinic and find an information about a patient just like that? Do you think it is possible for a Doctor to divulge patient’s details just like that?” I was screaming
“Wait Nina,I haven’t finished explaining”
“There is nothing to explain” I got up.
“Sit down Nina, I need to tell you” He grabbed my hand and pulled me down to sit
“It is getting late. I need to go back to the hostel” I pulled my hands out of his grasp.
“You are not going any where till you hear my side of the story”
“There is nothing to hear. I know where I stand”
“Oh no you don’t. You don’t know that each time I see you talking to Arjun, I want to kill Arjun”
“You heard me”
I looked at him again. What exactly is he trying to say?
“From the first day I met Caroline, I have been trying to date her. She never showed any interest and when I came back home, she send word through the canteen guy that she wants to see me. The canteen guy told me, apparently she was asking for me every day since the college reopened after the holidays.”
“hmmm, you came 15 days late!”
“My God, you counted the days?”
“Nah, I counted the seconds”
“Oh Nina”
“Don’t Oh Nina me”
“Why not?”
“Every time I did something wrong or I didn’t know how to do something the right way, my grandmother would shake her head like this” I showed him how Ammachi shakes her head
“Then she would say Oh Nina”
“I don’t know why, when anyone says Oh Nina, it makes me feel very inadequate”
“Oh Nina” He shook his head just like Ammachi does
“I said don’t do that”
“Oh Nina” He did it again
“Go, I am not talking to you anymore”
He was quiet too. I looked at the river in front of me. I hoped I would find a kingfisher. I haven’t seen one for such a long time. May be if I see a kingfisher, I might get some Halcyon days! Nah, I told myself, Halcyon days are in December, a week before and a week after winter solstice.
Kingfishers, river, green grass, they all reminded me of only one thing. My home. My Tharavadu(ancestral home) and the lady who lives there, waiting each day for me to come back.
Suddenly I felt something is stuck in my throat. The guilt of abandoning my own grandmother over a matter of principle. Oh God, when am I ever going to pay back all the bad karma?
I remembered my favourite malayalam poem
ottum cheythilla sukrutham
otterey cheythu dushkrutham
Rama kalan varumbol
nam enthothendutharam*
( I spend my days doing everything bad and Lord Rama, when the God of death comes to get my soul, what am I going to tell him, so he would spare my soul)
“What about you and Arjun?”
“What?” I was startled
“What about you and Arjun?” He asked again
“What about me and Arjun?”
“Are you in love with him?”
I didn’t know the answer for that question. I looked at his eyes again. He was staring at me.
“Are you?”
I tried to think. The man who was sitting by my side was the only one I ever loved. But do I love Arjun?
“Arjun was there when I needed someone. We have nothing in common, but he was there every time I needed someone”
“Do you love him Nina?” His voice sounded pretty annoyed
“No. Don’t you get it? You are the only person I ever loved” I was equally annoyed.
“ok What?”
“it solves all our problems. I will break up with Caroline and you break up with Arjun and we can be together”
“No” I screamed
“Why not? You are in love with Arjun, aren’t you? You don’t want to break up with him!” He sounded mad
“No, it is not like that. I don’t want to be the reason you beak up with Caroline. My life is already so wretched. I am already carrying so much burden,I don’t want another woman’s tears on my conscience. I will not let another woman cry because of me and I can’t break Arjun’s heart. I can’t hurt him. He didn’t do anything wrong” I started to cry again
“God” He screamed. I watched in horror as he got up, clenched his fist and started to punch the rocks at the back of us.
“No! don’t, Please don’t” I got up and grabbed his hand. I checked his knuckles, most of the skin covering the bony prominences had gone and it was bleeding.
I wished I had worn the duppatta with my salwar. At least I could have used it to clean the wound. I gently wiped his knuckles with my hand. I knew it must have hurt him a lot. I hoped he wouldn’t have broken any of his bones.
“Is it hurting?” I asked him
I knew that was a lie.
“May be we should go to the hospital and get an X-ray done”
“No. I am fine. Come let us go. You will be late”
“Ok. Can you drop me at the bus station?”
“I don’t want Caroline to know that you were with me. You will get in to trouble unnecessarily”
“ok” He mumbled
Silently we walked up to where he parked his bike. I watched him starting the bike and he looked at me
“Do you love me Nina?”
“Yes, I do. I will always love you”
“And you won’t break up with Arjun, even when you don’t love him?”
I shook my head. I knew I was the dumbest person on earth, but I wouldn’t let Caroline cry because of me and I couldn’t break Arjun’s heart.
I climbed on his bike. The road was full of potholes and I tried not to hold him. All of a sudden I was afraid to hold him, I was afraid to feel anything for him. I was afraid to cheat on Arjun.
He dropped me at the bus station and I took an auto from there. As soon as I got out of the auto, I saw Arjun standing near the guard house
“Where were you until now? I was getting worried”
“I am sorry Arjun, I got held up” I felt so guilty for lying
“Here” He passed me few pages of photostats
“What is it?”
“Pharmacology notes, I xeroxed my lecture notes for you”
“What lecture notes?” I checked the paper to read. It was dated today’s date.
“These are today’s notes” I looked at him tying to see what is going on.
“Yeah, I took the lecture notes and xeroxed a copy for you”
“Because I didn’t want you to miss out the notes. Otherwise you will have to ask someone for the notes and write it again! This would save you all the trouble”
I felt so incredibly guilty. I knew how much Arjun hates writing lecture notes. All the while he borrowed my lecture notes, because he never took any notes during lectures and he would have written the notes only for me
“Thank you Arjun. You are so sweet” I couldn’t stand there and take the guilty feelings any more “Arjun, I have to go now. I am already late. Thanks again for the notes”
“Ok. You are welcome. See you tomorrow. Good night Nina”
“Good night Arjun” I started to walk
“Nina”He called me
“Yes Arjun?” I turned to look at him
“Sweet dreams” He was grinning
“You too, sweet dreams” I started to walk fast.
snehicha hippiye kittiyillenkil, kittiye kashandiye snehikkuka(if you haven’t got the hippy you loved, love the baldy you got) I remembered the words of wisdom in my 10th standard autograph book. But the writer didn’t say how hard it would be to love a man who has nothing in common with you.

* Can’t remember for sure who wrote the poem, But if memory is right, this was written by Nalappattu Narayana Menon( Madhavikkutti’s uncle)

Happy mother’s day Amma

I wish I could tell you Amma how much you mean to me
I wish I could tell you how much I appreciate you
I wish I could tell you how grateful I am for all that did for me
I wish I could…………..
I wish I could…………..
However,I know, you know that I love you in my own special way and it is true.

Happy Mother’s Day Amma


I would like to clear the confusion regarding the word Acha.

I know exactly how it all began when we started calling him Acha for the father ??.

When we started to address him as ??, George was worried/concerned that he might get in to trouble if someone overheard us calling him ?? as father and might get suspicious, especially because most of the malayalees in Bangalore knew he has a wife and two kids in Bangalore( not four girls!!) .

In my community, maternal uncle is Ammachan and often is called as chachan, chacha or acha where the cha is pronounced as ???.
So George and us compromised and we decided to stick to Acha ??? as in uncle.
The reason I blogged( Guns and Roses post) about wanting to call a man who destroyed my family ?? as father was
1. for me to remember that I betrayed my own father,
2.for me to remember that I could get so jaded with power and money that I betrayed my own father and had the audacity to call someone else ?? father.
3.for me to remember that, whatever happens I can only have one father and that is the man who is my own father
4.for me to remember that sometimes things that I do foolishly can stay with me for the rest of my life
I blogged it for me to find peace, for me to hold myself accountable for my own actions and may be a part of me is begging my father to forgive me.
I don’t have the courage to go and meet my father face to face and tell him that I betrayed him and I don’t think he will ever forgive me.
I would like to reiterate that since ‘then’ In my head and in my mind George has always been acha as in uncle not as in father, but the never goes away..

Shrewed one

“Do you know what George did once?” I asked
“No, tell me”
“We were staying at the Mysore house. All of us were sitting in the living room and George announced that he was good in palm reading. All of us wanted him to read our palm. He read my youngest sister’s first and told her, she would do well in studies, then he read Liza’s palm. Liza was then waiting for only one news. She wanted to know if she was selected to play basket ball for the junior team. So she asked him
“Did I get selected?”
He concentrated on her hand and then said
“you will receive a good news in 5 days time”
“Does that mean that I got selected?” She was jumping up and down
He just grinned and said” I didn’t say that, I said you will get a good news”
I pushed Liza away so George could read my palm. I wanted to know if I would get admission for medicine, so I asked him
“Will I pass the entrance exam?”
He didn’t answer for a few minutes. I got so worked up
“What Acha? What is wrong?” I asked him
“Acha? What does Acha means?” Beautiful eyes asked me
“In Malayalam, It means uncle”*
“Oh ok, then what happened?”
“He pushed my palm away saying I can’t read your hand”
“Why not?” I asked him
Amma and Chechy too asked the same question
“It is difficult to read her hand”He replied
“Please Acha” I begged
“Acha read her palm” Amma asked him
“He took my palm and looked at it again, this is the most difficult palm I have ever seen”
“What do you mean?” I asked him
“Well, if she killed someone with a knife and a cop was watching it, and when he goes to arrest her, she would tell him, No, I didn’t kill, I was just taking the knife out to save his life” Acha looked at Amma and spoke.
“Your daughter is very shrewed” He spoke again
“I am not” I felt so upset. “I don’t want you to read my hand anymore” I took my hand away.
“My turn” Maria gave uncle her palm
“He took her palm and concentrated for some time”
“What is it Acha?” She too asked
“I am sorry Maria, I can’t read your palm” He replied
“Why not?” Amma and Maria asked.
When I heard him saying the same thing he told me, I felt so happy. There was nothing in life that gave me that much hope. For once I knew my uncle would tell the same thing about my sister, that she too is cunning and shrewed like me.”
“Then what happened?”
“I pestered and begged Acha to read my sister’s palm, because I wanted him to say that she too was like me. He looked at me and at my sister and then spoke
“I am sorry Maria, your fate is like Esau
“Esau?” Beautiful eyes looked at me
“Yeah the guy in the bible who lost his first born inheritance to his younger brother”
“Oh ok” He nodded his head
“That bastard told my sister that I will take her inheritance because I am shrewed and cunning. How would I do that? She is my sister! My blood? Why would I take anything that is hers?” I started to weep again.” He told her to be careful, I might even take her husband!” I creid so much that I was struggling to breath.
“Come here” Beautiful eyes extended his arms and asked me to move closer to him. he held me close.
“It wasn’t over yet. The day after we reached back home, Amma came home with a letter. The letter from the sports council of India congratulating Liza for getting selected to play basket ball in the Junior team. So Maria and my sisters believed George’s palm readings”
I was crying so much. He wiped my tears
“You know something?” I asked beautiful eyes
“Tell me”
“That evening when everyone went to bed, I took the letter out from Amma’s hand bag. I checked the date. It came two weeks ago. My mother didn’t tell Liza at that time because she wanted to talk to George and ask his opinion before telling Liza. If George said No, Liza shouldn’t play basket ball, then Amma would have thrown that letter away and Liza would have never known. That is why she made us use her office address for all official correspondence.”
“What did you do?”
I waited for everyone to wake up in the morning and I showed the envelope to Amma and asked her
“When did you receive this letter Amma?”
“Yesterday! What is wrong with you?” She started to yell” Nina, Give me the letter back. It is a very important document” She tried to snatch it from me.
“Give the letter back to Amma” Liza was shouting and pushing me
“Then why is it post masked two weeks ago’s date?” I asked Amma, while tying to protect my body ffrom Liza’s blows
“What? Where? Show me the letter” She snatched the letter from my hand
“Check the date” I yelled at her
I watched her looking at the date and then she spoke to Maria
“Our cunning in house detective is looking for faults. I got the letter only yesterday. Yeah it is right, the post mark shows a different date, so what? When did letters in India being delivered on time. Who knows what the post man was doing all these days? You know something Nina, you are really cunning. You are trying to tell me that I lied to my children? How dare you? You are serpent full of venom! You are so jealous that your sister got selected. You don’t even know how to play basket ball and you are still jealous of your sisters. In the morning itself you want us to fight eh? Why would I hide a good news from my own daughters? You don’t like the fact that Acha spoke the truth about you? You will never do well Nina, I swear to God that you will never do well”
“She cursed me” I howled” My own mother cursed me”
“Shhh, Nina, stop crying” He wiped the tears.
“I want to thrash the life out of that bastard who did this to my family”
“Why not?”
“I said why don’t you go and thrash him?”
“Are you mad? Do you know who he is?”
“He is not God, is he?”
“No he isn’t. But he can get you killed with one phone call”
“Come on Nina, you can still beat this guy”
“Beat as in whacking or defeating?”
I thought hard. Was there a way I could do both? Vengeance is mine says the lord, I remembered the biblical verse. Nah I will change that, Vengeance is mine, says Nina Thomas. I smiled because for once I knew Mr. George is good as a palmist. Because I was going to be the cunning and shrewed person he portrayed me to be!

*months ago Dhanush asked me how I could call my uncle Acha and I was wondering why he said that. Only today I realised that he must have thought I called him Acha where the Cha is pronounced as the cha in Mugachaya, where as I was calling him Acha where the cha is pronounced as the chaya. The word Acha was used the similar way we called the achan in the church and I thought Dhanush was mad at me for respecting my uncle.. Sorry Dhanush for the misunderstanding


As I sat in the auto, I was angry with my sister. How could she let herself be manipulated by someone like that? How could she not see what is going on?
How could she tell me that she is not my sister any more? How dare she? A part of me wanted to understand her and be there for her, but that was only a small part of me, most of me hated my sister. Nobody can control you, unless you let them. I knew that.
Some where at the back of my head, I heard a very strange question.
“What kind of a relationship are they having? Is it a father and daughter relationship or is it something else?”
No it can’t be anything else. Maria knows more than anyone that George means the world to Amma, She would never do anything to hurt Amma. But the voice kept asking me “Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?”
“Stop” I yelled
The auto driver braked suddenly and looked at me
“Yes madam?”
I wasn’t sure what to tell him. I looked around. I was about 2 km away from the campus.
“I will get off here” I spoke. I looked at the meter, it was showing 12 Rs, I opened my wallet to get money.
“But you said the medical college, I won’t get any return trip from here” He sounded angry
I took 2 ten Rs note and gave it to the driver and told him to keep the change.
I watched the Auto driver starting the auto and taking a turn. I looked around, there were lots of houses on either side of the road, there were children playing outside, there was a vendor pushing a cart and selling barbecued corn. Everything around me was alive, but I was dying. I was dying of shame. My chest felt like it was exploding. Few young guys from across the street were looking at me and I knew I shouldn’t stand there like a telephone poll, but my legs felt so very heavy.
I wanted to cry, but tears refused to come out of my eyes. May be even my eyes died! I knew I was going crazy. But I didn’t know how to bring sanity back to my head. I started to walk. I blocked everything and everyone out. I was dead anyway, wasn’t I?
I heard a bike sound coming close to me, but dead people don’t have to worry about bikes. The rider called my name, but I hated my name, I hated the fact that I belonged to the Thomas family and I wasn’t going to answer to a name I no longer wanted to be associated with. The rider stopped the bike right in front of me and I tried to bypass the bike
“Nina, are you ok?” He held my hand. May be it was the human touch, may be it was the human voice, I started to cry.
“Did Arjun do something to you?”
“Get on the bike”
“I said get on the bike”
I looked at his eyes, the tiny eyes looked pretty serious, “Nina get on the bike”
I sat on his bike and he started to make a U turn. Campus was straight ahead, so there was no need to take a U turn
“Where are you going?”
He didn’t say anything. I was just so tired, so I leaned my face on his back. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel that I was supposed to be going steady with Arjun and I shouldn’t be travelling with him, I didn’t think what Caroline would think/do if she knew that I was with her boy friend. I refused to think. All I wanted was a moment of sanity.
After a while he stopped at the petrol station to fill petrol. I had no idea where we were going and I was too tired to ask.
“Are you ok?” He was looking at me
“I am tired”
“Nina, from here the road is rough, would you hold my body for support?”
He started the bike and I held his body for support. I didn’t feel anything. This was the guy I loved the most in my life and even when I held my arm around his body, I felt nothing.
He must have ridden for at least an hour, soon we were travelling parallel to a river. I didn’t know where we were and I wasn’t interested to know. He stopped the bike in an open area.
“Come” He held my hand. “I will show you my favourite spot” We walked together and he pointed a small rock to me. He climbed on top and gave me his hands and pulled me up.
The view was spectacular. You could see the hills in the far distant, the river in the middle and the green grassy area near to us.
“I come here often”
I thought of asking with Caroline? Then I thought it is none of my business. May be he understood what I was thinking and replied
“I come here alone, Caroline hates this place. She prefers MG road any day”
“What is going on?” He was looking at me
“I don’t know” I replied
we were silent for a while and I started to think about my family. My heart felt so heavy.
“Nina, talk to me” He spoke again
“My uncle is destroying my family”
“My uncle is destroying my family” I repeated again
“He and my mother are first cousins. My grandmother is a very pretty woman and everyone used to talk about how pretty she is, while my mother was not pretty. My uncle successfully manipulated my mother by telling her that she looks like Saira bhanu. Now he tells her that she looks like Padmini Kolhapuri!
I guess my mother was craving for attention. My grandparents concentrated all their attention to their son and when George started showering her with attention, she fell for it. He controlled everything she did, he decided what she wore, he decided where she worked and everything. When family members became suspicious of their relationship and started to get marriage proposals for my mother, so they can get her married off, he did everything to break up each marriage proposal my mother got. First proposal was from someone who worked in the British railways and my uncle convinced Amma that, her prospective groom is exposed to (coal) fumes, so he would have 100 % chance of getting lung cancer and she would become a widow. Second proposal was from an accountant and he convinced Amma that she won’t have a good life because accountants always sit with their ledgers! Then came my father’s proposal, Unfortunately he was out of town at that time and my grand parents forced my mother to marry my father. From then on, it has been a journey of hell.”
I looked at beautiful eyes to see his reaction. If I was listening to this story, I would have felt disgusted. But he didn’t show any disgust.
“Then what happened?”
“I don’t know, I guess Amma could never love my father and George ensured that she would never give my father a chance. My father never got what he wanted. He was expecting a hindi movie style life where the wife is forever loving, kind and forgiving and he got just the opposite and it became a marriage made in hell. My father started working overseas, so he could get away from Amma and Amma was happy because she could do what she wants. Soon the marriage made in hell became a marriage of convenience and the four of us were just the proof to show the world that their marriage was fine.”
“What about your uncle? What does he do?Did he get married?”
“He is in the civil service. He married a wonderful and beautiful lady from a very aristocratic family. Poor lady, she would have thought she was marrying the most eligible bachelor in Bangalore.”
“Does she know all these?”
“I don’t know. I have never met her. I have only seen her photographs”
“hmm” He mumbled
“When I was 15 years old, my mother took us to meet him. It was fun initially. Living with a very famous uncle, with a driver on call at any time of the day, servants to cook any food you want, opportunity to visit so many tourist places as a VIP. A part of me felt guilty of betraying my father, but glamour and the glitter kind of blinded me.
My oldest sister looks exactly like my mother and soon he started to tell my sister that she looks like Meher Jasia. My sister always hated the fact that she is dark skinned like my mother while I got my dad’s skin colour. It didn’t take too long for him to manipulate her and control her. I went to see her today and she told me not to come and see her again”
I started to cry because it hurts knowing that my oldest sister could just walk away from all of us.


I was in the shower shampooing my hair when I heard someone shouting my name.
“Nina madam, Arjun sir wants to see you at the canteen.”
“Nina madam, Nina Madam where are you? Arjun Sir is waiting for you at the canteen…”
“Shut up, I heard you the first time” I shouted back. Unfortunately the bath rooms are on the extreme right side of the hostel and the announcer was standing the opposite side.
Soon there was a chorus of students who had nothing else to do on a sunday and the announcement progressed from Nina madam where are you to
“Nina, Nina. Arjun, Arjun, Nina and Arjun, Nina and Arjun”
I had almost finished my shower and was drying my hair. I quickly wore my clothes, I wanted to go and scream at the girl who started all this trouble for me. She didn’t have to shout and let everyone know. She could have just looked for me, instead of screaming like that.
“Nina, When is the wedding?” I heard a very familiar voice screaming at the top of the voice and I knew it was Anitha.
Wedding? What wedding? I started to feel scared, vulnerable and miserable. All of a sudden the woman who had the courage to write the university exam even after the anonymous letter fiasco started to feel afraid. I couldn’t face my friends and more than anything else I couldn’t face my own feelings. I didn’t know exactly what I felt. Do I love Arjun? No, I was sure, then I thought may be Yes, No it can’t be, I love Beautiful Eyes, But he wasn’t there when I needed him the most.
I was getting angry with myself. Make up your mind Nina, I told myself. I couldn’t make up my mind. I was angry, very angry with myself because I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to sit down. I threw away the rest of the water from my bucket and turned it upside down. The bottom of the bucket was wet and dirty. There was no way I could sit on that.
How long are you going to hide from everyone? I asked myself.
I wrapped my hair with my towel and walked out. Someone saw me and the songs started to become more louder
yeh raste hain pyar ke, Yeh raste hain pyar ke…”
Then another one started
chalate chalate,
mere ye giit yaad rakhanaa
kabhii alavidaa naa kahanaa
kabhii alavidaa naa kahana
arote ha.Nsate, bas yuu.Nhii tum
gunagunaate rahanaa
kabhii alavidaa naa kahanaa…”

Soon someone else started to sing

“kabhii kabhii mere dil me.n, Kayaal aataa hai
ke jaise tujhako banaayaa gayaa hai mere liye
tuu abase pahale sitaaro.n me.n bas rahii thii kahii.
tujhe zamii pe bulaayaa gayaa hai mere liye
kabhii kabhii mere dil me Kayaal aataa hai”

I started to walk fast, almost running towards my room and I knew I was blushing. I didn’t want anyone to see my face, so I looked down and ran as fast as my legs would allow. The faster I ran, the higher the song tempo went and everyone was laughing at me. I opened my door and quickly shut the door. I could hear footsteps outside the room and soon some one was knocking my door. I ignored it
“Nina, it is me Aparna, open the door”
I had no choice but to open. It was indeed Aparna, the only thing was right behind her there was a battalion of students. I saw Caroline’s face in the crowd.
“How could you not tell any of us that you are Arjun are going steady? Aparna asked
I didn’t want Beautiful eyes to know this. I didn’t want him to doubt me. I wasn’t going steady with Arjun, but what was I going to tell everyone?
Everyone knew from the beginning Arjun has been getting me books from the library and sometimes even food from his home for me. Everyone knew I stayed in Arjun’s house. But until now, I never thought of Arjun as anything other than a friend.
“I will talk to you later” I pushed Aparna and walked away from the gang
I heard Aparna singing
Akeyley Akeley kaha ja rahi ho”
Everyone started to laugh and I ignored everyone.
Arjun was sitting outside in the veranda and I could see the relief on his face when he saw me walking towards him
“You know how long I have been waiting for you? I thought you wouldn’t come” He mumbled
“I was taking my shower”
“You want to have some tea?”
He went inside to order and I sat down on the same spot where he was sitting.( the floor was dirty! and he had already collected the dirt on his pants while he was sitting down and waiting for me!)
He came out and saw me sitting down
“You took my place”
“Your name wasn’t written down here”
“Oh like that ah?” I knew he wouldn’t know how to argue and I was expecting him to sit by the side of me, but he walked towards me, stood right behind, lifted me up and moved my upper half of the body, so he could sit down. I used my legs to push him away soon one of his legs were on top of my legs.
‘Get lost, take your legs off my body”
“Then move your butt off my place”
“Your name wasn’t on the floor”
“Your name isn’t on your leg!”
“What? Can’t you see that these are my legs?” I pointed my legs to him.
“Oh is it your leg? Where is the name written? I can’t see any name”
“Get lost” I smacked him on his shoulder and moved away
“Sore loser” He was grinning
I ignored him.
I drank my tea in silence. I could see Arjun looking at me every few seconds
“What are you looking at me for?” I snapped
“My eyes! public space!” He pointed to his eyes and the area around us” I will look where ever my eyes wants to look”
I stuck my tongue at him. I haven’t done it for such a long time.
He started to laugh and like they say laughter is contagious. Soon we were both laughing.
“Want to go for a walk?”
He held my hands and we walked around the campus, talking about everything and nothing.

Monday morning, before I went for the rounds, I checked the hospital telephone directory to find KSF group’s number and called the number
“Hi, Can I speak to Maria Thomas?” I asked the operator
“Just a second” She replied
I quickly put the phone down. I finally knew where my sister was working. I felt like shouting “Yeah I did it, I found her”
I wondered why I never thought of going to St. Marks church to find her, instead of walking all over Ulsoor looking for her house?
I was with Dr, Nandita, when I saw Arjun walking in
“What?” I mimed and asked him. I didn’t want to get in to trouble. Most of the professors suffer from an extreme allergic reaction everytime a medical student falls in love. In order to prevent any such tragedies, affairs were always hidden within the four walls of the canteen, until the final year results are announced.
“Hello Dr. Nandita” Arjun greeted her
Get out Arjun, Don’t get me in to trouble. I hoped he could read that message in my eyes.
“yes” She looked at him from top to bottom
“I finished my medicine rounds and my friends tells me that you are one of the best Gynae prof, May I attend your rounds after I finish mine” His face looked so innocent and I knew Dr. Nandita will fall for it.
“Of course you can, come along” She sounded so thrilled
As soon as she started to walk, Arjun looked at me and grinned.
At one time while everyone was crowding near a patients bed, while Dr Nandita started to explain the diagnosis, he was standing right behind me and I could almost feel his breath at the back of my neck. I felt so funny, but at the same time it was exciting to know that there was someone who loves me and he was standing right behind me and that he took the pain to attend the rounds with me, instead of going for coffee with his batchmates.
After the rounds was over, he handed me a paper cutting
“For you”
“What is it?”
“Open and see”
I opened the neatly folded paper cutting. It was a Cartoon with the title, Love is….. making her smile*”
“Oh Arjun” I felt so happy.
“You want to follow me on my bike back to the hostel?”
“Not today. I need to go somewhere”
“I need to see someone”
“My sister”
“Your sister lives in Koramangala?”
“You never told me that”
How do I tell him that I never knew where my sister was until yesterday?
“I have to go now” I saw an auto coming down the road and I showed my hands.
“Nina, I can drop you there” He spoke
“No Arjun, you can’t do it” I didn’t want Maria to give his bike number to George.I no longer trusted my sister
“Why not?”
“My sister is very orthodox, if she saw that I followed you on your bike, she will let my dad know and I will get in to trouble”
“Oh ok”
I got in to the auto and gave the address to the driver. I wasn’t sure how Maria was going to react. But I couldn’ be bothered about her reaction. I wanted to see her and let her know that, how ever George tried to erase the link between me and her, it will not work. She will always be my sister.
The sun was shining so bright and it was so very hot.I was sweaty and thirsty. I regretted not bringing some water with me.
The auto stopped in front of a beautiful 2 storey building. I paid the driver and got out. My heart started to pound. What if she yells at me? I thought of going back to my hostel. Then I said to myself enthayalum nananju eni angu kulichekkam (Anyway I came till here, I might as well see her). I walked in to the office. It felt so good to be in the air conditioned room, after enduring the hot Bangalore summer the whole trip from my hospital to Maria’s office.
“Yes” the receptionist looked at me and asked
“I am here to meet Maria Thomas”
“Is she expecting you?”
“Please wait here” She pointed the blue chairs by the side of the room.
Soon people started to come down the steps, talking and laughing. Must be going for lunch, I thought. They were all wearing neat office clothes and I watched a lady walking down the steps, She was so thin that a small air current could have knocked her down, she wore an over sized spectacle on her thin bony face, she had a (wool)shawl wrapped around her shoulder. Who would wear a shawl during this heat wave? My God, she looks like a ghost and I was stunned to see the ghost walking towards me
“Hi Maria” I got up, still suffering from the shock of seeing once a beautiful girl turned in to something even her own sister couldn’t recognize.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped
“I came to see you” I spoke. We both could see the receptionist looking at us and I knew Maria felt uncomfortable.
“Have you eaten lunch?” She asked
“No” I replied
“Come” She started to walk towards the steps
“Where are you going?” I didn’t trust my own sister. The receoption was an open public area and I knew I wouldn’t get killed, but the steps that leads to unknown places aren’t!
“To the canteen” She sounded mad
There were lots of people in the canteen and not one person spoke to my sister or acknowledged her. She didn’t ask me what I wanted to eat and I didn’t want to fight with her. She ordered 2 veg pulao for both of us.
“Find a place to sit” Maria ordered
I found a place right in the middle, so Maria won’t dare to yell/scream/shout at me and sat. I watched her signing her name on the register and looking around to see where I was sitting.
“Chechy, here” I waved my hand. She looked a bit stunned when she heard me calling her chechy and I knew few of her colleagues recongnised the word Chechy and they looked at Maria and at me.
“Why did you call me Chechy?” She hissed as soon as she sat down
“because you happen to be my sister! Whatelse should I call you? chakka manga thenga(jackfruit, mango, coconut)?” I was mad at her
“I am not your sister any more”
“Oh Maria, I am so sorry to disappoint you, Unfortunately unlike a marriage, you can’t divorce sisters. ” I hissed
The operator brought the food and I started to eat. I noticed the tremors in my sister’s hands when she was holding the spoon. She was picking on the food instead of eating it. No wonder she is so thin. After a few spoonful of rice, she pushed the plate away and took a box from her bag. She started to take different colours and types of pills and started to eat them
“For what are you taking all those medicines Maria?”
“I am not feeling well”
“I can see that, I asked you why are you taking those pilles? who gave you those pills ?and what is the diagnosis?”
“Acha said I have Anaemia”
“And how did he know that?”
“He asked me if my kakka(shit) is brown, and I checked,it is brown!”
“Oh really? What would be the colour of non anaemic shit? Green? White?” I was just so mad at her for being so stupid and naive.
She kept quiet
“So how many pills must you take for Anaemia? You only need iron tablets for heaven’s sake. Maria, Why are you taking so many pills?”
“Acha got the specialist to prescribe all this for me, if you take iron pills, you can get constipation, so this one is to prevent that, if you take the medicine for constipation, then you will not have vitamin K, so this is vitamin K and if you take vitamin K, then you can bleed to death, so this medicine is to prevent that” My sister continued to talk like a robbot pointing each medicine and I wanted to take something heavy and smash her head, may be with a head injury, she would get some common sense.
“Maria, there are good doctors in my hospital, I want you to come there and do a full check up”
“Acha already got everything done for me”
“I can see that. we could always have a second opinion, can’t we?”
“Acha says, the doctors always lie, because they want to make more money from you. That is why he got his physician to prescribe this medicine for me”
“I promise you Maria, my profs won’t lie, please,let me take you to my hospital”
“I can’t. Acha says there are too much pollens in the air and I will get wheezing, so he sends his car in the evening to pick me up”
I wanted to scream, I wanted to scream so loud, each door that I tried to open to save my sister, George has already blocked it. That bastard is destroying my sister’s life and there was nothing I could do.
“Nina, don’t come here again. Acha says you are a bad influence for me. He doesn’t want me to talk to you” She spoke as she got up and I didn’t reply.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s Times of India used to have a comic strip( a single sqaure) with a girl and boy in it and often it used to have witty dialogues like love is… Does anyone know what cartoon was that?

update: someone send me this link

Those three magical words!

Sunday morning I set the alarm and woke up at 7.45 am. I really didn’t want to get up, but I had some important work to do. I was supposed to meet Arjun at 8 am.
I looked at Aparna, she was fast asleep. She looked so peaceful, like a little baby.
I felt so jealous thinking of why her life is so peaceful and mine is so miserable? Both of us are equally intelligent, yet she got a great family, nice boy friend, good friends and I got nothing. I felt so bitter thinking that Life is just not fair.

I adjusted my pillow and lay down. I can still lay down for few more minutes! Anyway it doesn’t take me too long to get dressed. I was afraid to close my eyes, lest I fall asleep and miss the appointment with Arjun. I was so very tired. I closed my eyes, telling myslef that it is only for 5 seconds. I was certain that I won’t sleep off. How could I sleep off, when I am this awake? I wriggled my toes and moved my fingers just to make sure that I was indeed awake.
I heard someone shouting outside and was startled. I got up quickly and checked the clock. 8.10! Damn it, damn it, I am late. Arjun will start cursing now. I ran to my cup board and got my clothes. I was planning to wear a skirt and top. Then I remembered, I couldn’t sit on Arjun’s bike wearing a skirt. I searched for my jeans. I couldn’t find it. After few minutes of frantic searching, I remembered it was dirty and was in the laundry bag. Why didn’t I wash it yesterday? It would have been dry by this morning. It must have been the third time I swore since I got up.
I took my salwar out. It was creased beyond imagination. I normally iron all the clothes on a Sunday evening. There was no way I could wear it without ironing. Why do people make materials that require ironing?
I switched on the iron and kept it on my bed. May be I will quickly go and brush my teeth, while the iron is getting hot. I took my brush and ran to the washroom. Fortunately no one was in the washroom because no one was awake!
I brushed quickly and washed my face and ran back to my room. Even before I opened the door, I could smell something burning. I remembered the iron. I pushed the door open. The stupid iron had fallen to the side and was burning my bed sheet. Which idiot would leave an iron on a unstable mattress? I couldn’t stop swearing.

I didn’t have time to waste, so I ignored the burned bed sheet. I switched off the iron, so it won’t get any more hot. I laid my baby pink cotton salwar neatly on the bed. I checked the iron temperature first to make sure it won’t burn my salwar. It was not too hot. I knew it wouldn’t burn my cotton salwar. I was already having a bad day and I didn’t want to suffer any more. I started to iron the sleeves and I noticed some black colour thing on my salwar. What is that? I tried to remove it. It didn’t go. Did I not wash my salwar properly? But I knew I washed it well. May be it was from the clothes line. I ironed again and this time more black thing was seen on the sleeves. I tried to remove it, it was something burned. But my salwar didn’t look burned. The iron! I checked the iron, it still had some burned remnants of my bed sheet. I was so mad, I crumpled the salwar and threw it to the corner. I checked the clock. 8.17 Am.
I didn’t have time to clean the iron, so I kept it under my bed. I took the jeans out of the laundry bag and wore it. I should have just worn it the first time instead of wasting time and trying to iron the clothes. Then I remembered the burned bed sheet. I didn’t want anyone to see it and laugh at me. I folded my blanket and kept it on top of the damaged area, so no one will see it. I walked out quickly. I was half way through when I remembered I didn’t take my jacket. Arjun rides his bike like a maniac high on cannabis! and sitting as a pillion rider without a jacket while he rides would be akin to self flagellation. I ran back to my room, grabbed my jacket and ran back to the canteen. Arjun was standing near the door.
“I am sorry Arjun, I slept off, I am so sorry to keep you waiting” I apologised sincerely
“Do you know why my parents bought me a bike? Because they know, there is no chance in hell that I would wake up to catch the college bus in the morning. They bought me a bike, So I can sleep till 8.45 and still be at the hospital by 9am. I have never seen 8 am in my life and today I made sure I woke up at 7.45am, because you wanted to go to church” He was yelling at me and I looked around. There were few seniors sitting inside the canteen and smoking and they were looking at us. To make matters worst, I saw Beautiful eyes leaning across the table and looking at me to see what is going on. Damn it, I didn’t want him to witness our quarrel.
“I am sorry Arjun.” I turned to walk off. To hell with Arjun, to hell with Maria, to hell with Amma, to hell with George, to hell with everyone. I had enough of everyone.
“Nina wait” I heard him calling after me. I didn’t bother to turn back and look at him. He can go to hell for all I care. I knew I was wrong, I made him wait, but I apologised. There was no need to yell at me. I could hear Arjun cussing and any way from the time I woke up till now everything was going wrong, so his cussing didn’t bother me much. But still a part of me hoped even wished people won’t call me a bitch when I am not one. But that is my destiny.
By the time I reached the hostel, I saw few tamilian students walking quickly to the mess.
Oh yes, today is Dosai day! the only time they make dosai at the mess. I have heard gossip that If you are early and butter the cook sufficiently in tamil, then he will make oothappam for you. I haven’t had oothappam for such a long time. I walked to the mess. The cook was busy making dosai. I watched the girls talking to him in tamil and flirting. He was smiling and laughing and ordered his side kick to cut the onions. Some of the girls kept glancing sideways and looking at me, as though I invaded their territory. They spoke to each other in tamil and I understood they were bitching about me.
I didn’t understand what their problem was? First of all they don’t spend any money to get the oothappam. The onion and the chillies used to make the oothappam is from the mess supply. Secondly what is the big deal? Why are people so jealous?
When it was my turn to get the dosai, I spoke in fluent tamil and asked for oothappam.
The cook was stunned, the girls were stunned and my day was getting better
“Madam, you Malayalee no?” Cook asked
“Me malayalee yes” I nodded my head
“But you speak very good tamil
“Yes me speak” I nodded
“Just like that” I smiled and shrugged my shoulders
“Oh” He nodded his head as though he understood
hmmm” I agreed.
There is nothing that can be equal to a hot oothappam.Fluffy base with crispy onion and green chilli mix on the top. The chilli was hot and I drank plenty of water. Still it was the best breakfast.
I ckecked my watch, it was almost 9am. It was a spontaneous decision. I checked my wallet. I had enough money. I walked out of the mess and started to walk towards the main gate. I hoped Arjun won’t be at the canteen. I didn’t want to see or talk to him.
I signed my name on the register
“Where to?” Asked the security guard.
“which one?” He asked me
Now why does he need to know that? I was pretty sure that was a very odd question.
“Any one” I answered back
“Huh?” He was taken aback.
“I haven’t decided which church I am attending today, Do you have any problem?” I raised my voice.”Is there a rule saying that I can only go to a particular church?”
“No, it is not like that” He was trying to act all innocent
“I will go to any church that I want to go, it is none of your business. Do you understand that? ” I screamed at him.
“Yes madam” He mumbled
I walked out, something made me turn around, I watched the guard writing something on a piece of paper and checking his watch and writing the time.
I knew how George was getting the information and that also meant I will have to tell Arjun to be careful. He was already friends with the evening security and it won’t take too long before George finds out more about Nina and the Dhaba food!
There were autos at the stand, but I wanted the guard to tell George where I went. I waited for the bus and got in to the one that was going to Shivaji nagar bus station. I saw the guard looking at me and I knew soon George will know where I was going.
I got off the first stop and took an auto to St. Mark’s church on MG Road. I knew George was a memeber of St. Marks church. He enjoyed the attention he was getting from all the Malayalees at the church. He thrived on being famous and popular. By the time I reached the church, the service was over.
There were only few people standing here and there. Couple of kids were playing hide and seek in the church compound. I walked inside. It was so peaceful. The interiors of the church brought a flood of nostalgic memories. Wooden benches, pulpit, red carpet on the altar floor, it all reminded me of the CSI church in Kottayam. Once again I wished I was a little girl, singing in the choir and playing the organ. I looked around the church. The walls had few brass plates with some inscription on it. Normally I would never waste a chance to read about the past and learn more about the history of the building. But today I had something that was more important to do. I noticed an elderly man walking in to the church.
“Hello uncle, can I ask you for a favour?”
“Sure” he smiled
“I am trying to look for my sister’s good friend. My sister lost all her contact and desperately wants to find her classmate. She gave birth to a baby girl and wants her friend to be the god mother”
“Oh that is wonderful. When did your sister give birth?”
“last month. She won’t let anyone else be the God mother. She is so fuzzy!!!!” I shook my head sadly.
“What is her friend’s name?”
“Maria. She is tall, a bit dark, did engineering at the IIT. She is originally from Kerala
“No one comes to my mind. Has she got curly hair?”
“No straight hair”
Then I remembered, I wouldn’t really know if my sister had permed her hair, I had not seen her for so long. I had no choice but to use my ace card
“Apparently she is related to one Mr. George, you know the one who is in the civil service?”
“Oh yes George, I know him. Wonderful man! He got 2 kids, a boy and girl. The girl is doing medicine, Right?”
“I don’t know anything about him” I replied. I knew this was all a mistake. What chance is that George would bring my sister to the same church he was attending. But my instinct told me, he wouldn’t want anyone to suspect anything and he would bring my sister to the same church. May be I was wrong.
“Come with me, We will talk to the priest. He will certainly know” I didn’t want to meet the priest, but the old man was already walking outside to where the priest was standing and talking to someone else.
The old man interrupted the priest and told him about me
“Hi, I am Father Stephens”
“Hello Father, I am Annie from Madras”
“You are looking for Mr. George?”
“No, his niece I think. Her name is Maria. She is my sister’s best friend. They studied at the IIT together. Maria came to Bangalore and they lost contact”
“Oh Maria, Oh yes I remember her. George did mention once about bringing his niece over to Bangalore. Apparently her father has abandoned them and George was taking care of Maria and her sisters. He is such a wonderful and caring man!”
I felt so mad when I heard all the lies George was spinning. he is taking care of us,? That is bull shit. This isn’t how you take care of your sister’s children. Is taking care of nieces involved in keeping them away from each other? Does it involve sending anonymous letters the day before University exams? But who would listen to me?
“I don’t know anything about them” I apologized. I felt miserable that I couldn’t fight for my father, that I couldn’t tell the priest the truth that my father hasn’t abandoned us and couldn’t tell him what exactly George was doing in the name of taking care.
“If I am not mistaken, I remember him telling me that he got a job for her at the KFS group”
KFS group?” I asked
“They have an office in Koramangala
“Oh Ok. I can find it. Thank you very much”
“If you want more information, I can ask George. He comes to the church regularly”
“No Thank you father I don’t want to bother Mr. Geroge with all this. I am sure I can find her myself. If I can’t, I will come back.”
“What did you say your name is?” The priest asked again.
“Oh ok
“Thank you uncle” I smiled at the old man and quickly walked off. I knew there was no point looking for the KFS group office on a sunday. I will have to find that on a weekday.
I had a whole day to do nothing. I needed some new shoes, may be some clothes. I hated shopping, but then again there was nothing much to do. From St. Mark’s I walked all the way to commercial street only to realize that most of the shops were closed. I was so mad. So mad at myself for not using my stupid brain! How could I forget that, no shops would open on Sunday? May be God was punishing me. I lied this morning. Not once…but so many times at the church. But I had no other choice. I needed to find my sister. I could hear and almost see Puthen vettil Methran Thamby’s wife pointing her index finger and speaking
” you lied, Do you know what is the punishment for lying?”
“What are you supposed to do after you lied?” I could hear her asking
“I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry Lord I lied. I won’t do it again.” I apologised to God.
I took an auto and went back to the hostel. As soon as I entered the room, Aparna asked
“Where did you go? Arjun was looking all over for you. He send this” She passed me an envelope
I opened the cover, Inside there was a beautiful pencil drawing of a smiling girl and at the bottom there were 3 words

Dhaba.. the beginning

I dreaded attending forensic medicine classes mostly because I was already tagged. Once you are thrown out of the class, chances of repeated episodes of similar nature is extremely high. May be I shouldn’t sit in the front row. Before the lecturer entered the class, I ran all the way to the back of the gallery and sat down next to Shivakumar and couple of Tamilian students
“Hey Nina, why are you sitting here?” Shivakumar asked me
“Shhh!” I kept my fingers on my lips and threatened him not to talk.
I watched Dr.Jagadish aka Mr.Filthy walking in to the class. He took the attendance first and I was just so relieved. Even if he throws me out now, I would at least have the attendance!
“So class, let me test your knowledge” He started to look around the gallery and I hoped he won’t see me. I was just so relieved when he started looking at Aparna.
“What is your name?” He asked her
She got up and answered” Aparna Sir”
“Let us see how smart you are, shall we” Aparna looked pretty confident and I knew she probably would have read the whole text book. That reminded me that I haven’t even bought a forensic text book yet. I had used the money to renew my eloor lending library membership!
“What is the other name of mammary glands?” There was absolute silence in the class. I tried to think of the answer and I couldn’t remember. Anatomy wasn’t my favourite anyway.
“What is the other name?” I whispered and asked Shivakumar. If anyone knew the name, it would be Shivakumar, He was our walking Grey’s anatomy.
“I don’t know Nina” He whispered back.
“Madam I asked you a question” He was staring at Aparna and she looked terrified. This was the first time she didn’t know the answer.
“Do you know the answer?” He asked again
“No sir” She murmured
“People like you should be ashamed to do medicine. You are a disgrace to the medical profession. Get out of my class” He started to yell.
Aparna stood there still, may be she was too afraid to leave, may be she was never thrown out of the class. I wanted to run down the steps and grab her hand and leave the class room before further damage.
“Shivakumar, tell her to leave before he gets more mad at her” I tried nudging him
Throwing Nina Thomas out of the class was something everyone was used to, but not Aparna. She never did anything wrong. She never skipped any classes, handed all her assignments on time.
I watched Shylaja telling Aparna to leave and her replying
“But I didn’t do anything wrong” She sounded defiant
I got so mad at her because the last time I was thrown out, I also didn’t do anything wrong! How could she even think that I did something wrong to be thrown out?
“How many of you want to pass the forensic internals? Put up your hand” He yelled
Entire class put up the hand.
“Good. If she doesn’t leave in the next 5 seconds, I will make sure none of you will pass” He sounded so calm
“Aparna, get out, don;t get us in to trouble” Everyone started to talk to her and for the first time there was total unanimity in the class. Aparna started to cry and she took her books and walked out.
It was true that Aparna was mean to me so many times, but I knew how much it hurts when everyone turns against you and you know you haven’t done anything wrong. I have been there feeling the same betrayal and I knew she would feel the same
“Who else knows the answer?” He started to walk across the lecture podium like a mad dog.
No one spoke.
“You all passed first MBBS?” He asked
“Yes sir” everyone spoke
“Have you not heard of the term called Breast?”
How could I not think of it? I wasn’t sure. I felt so stupid not to have known such a simple answer.

After the class was over, as I walked out Arjun called me
“hey Nina, wait up”
“What?” I asked him
“Want to join me? I am going to the canteen?”
I sat down at my usual table. Arjun ordered tea for both of us and came and sat down in front of me. He had a packet of cigarette with him
“You smoke?” I asked him
“Yeah, you didn’t know?”
“No, when did you start?”
“Few months ago”
I watched him lighting the cigarette and taking a puff. I thought of telling him the definition of cigarette, ie fool at one end and fire at the other end. But I knew Arjun wouldn’t like to think that he is fool!
“Tell me about your family” He asked
“Nothing much, my father works for her majesty, mom works for the telephones and my oldest sister completed her engineering and I have two younger sisters”
I tried to think what standard Liza is in and I realized she would have written her 10th standard exam this year.
Damn it I thought. I haven’t even send a good luck card to Liza. How could I forget? It is true that my life did turn upside down after the anonymous letter fiasco, buy what wrong did my sister do? How could I forget her? I hated myself for not thinking about my sisters.
“Arjun, Can I ask for a favour?”
“I need your help on this Sunday”
“I need to go to church”
“You want me to take you to church?”
“Which one?”
“There are a few”
“You go to so many churches?”
“Yes” I nodded my head
“Really” I nodded my head again, hoping he won’t ask me anymore questions.
“That reminds me, Few of us going to Tirupati for the may holidays, want to come?”
“By bus?”
“No, by bike, I was told that the highway (NH4) is one of the best highways in India. I want to check it out”
“You are coming?”
“You won’t have any problems because you are a Christian?”
“Good, Oh I forgot, you like Dhaba food?”
“What is Dhaba food?”
“You Don’t know Dhabas? the highway food shops?” He looked at me surprised
“No” I shook my head
“God, you have never been to a Dhaba?”
“No” I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Oh Nina” I thought of telling him, don’t Oh Nina me.
“Princy” We heard someone shouting. Arjun got up quickly and threw the cigarette out. He looked pretty hilarious trying to flap his hand and remove the smoke/smell from his mouth
“Pan, Bhaiyya pan” he screamed and ran towards the counter to get Supari from the canteen operator., while the operator was busy hiding the cigarettes under the counter.
“Arjun I will talk to you later, Thanks for the Tea” I ran out. I didn’t want the Princy to tell George about Arjun.

Aparna was laying down on the bed, when I entered. Her face looked swollen. She must have been crying
“Aparna, can I talk to you?” I asked
She looked at me.
“I know you didn’t do anything wrong. Some people are like that, they just want to make you suffer, but they win, if you let their actions affect you”
“Ok” She mumbled
I knew she didn’t appreciate my concerns, but I had to do what I had to do.

It must have been around 10.45pm, I was reading a very nice mills and boon novel I borrowed from Sumi when I heard someone knocking my door softly. I looked at Aparna, she was already asleep. Shylaja wasn’t in the room. I got up and opened the door to see Gangamma standing there
“What is it Gangamma?” I asked her
“Come” Gangamma kept her hand on her lips and told me to be quiet
“What?” I asked her again. She held my hands and walked towards the hostel main door. The grill was locked and no one was allowed to leave the hostel after 10 pm, so I wasn’t sure where Gangamma was taking me.
“What is it Gangamma? Where are you taking me?” I asked again
“Shh” She hushed me
“Wait here” She ordered and I watched her walking towards the table and taking some package and walking back.
“Arjun send this” She handed the parcel to me
“Huh? How? What?
“Arjun bought food for you and send it through the security and he passed it to me”
“He is a nice guy ma”
“Sit here and eat ma, so no one will know” she suggested and went to switch off the light in the hall way.
I opened the parcel, there were rotis, dhal and potato subji. I ate half and gave the other half to Gangamma( mostly because I already ate my dinner at the mess!)