wipe off the love

I looked at the wall clock to see the time. It was a small round clock with wooden border and golden colour needles. Appa had got that clock specially for Amma.
This was the clock that caused one of their biggest fights.
Amma wanted a musical clock, Appa got the one that had a choice of four melodies.
They fought the most because it stopped working after few weeks and Amma had to spend money to get it repaired. According to Amma, Appa bought the cheapest clock and that was why it got spoiled fast. Appa was mad because when Amma asked for a musical clock, he didn’t get a single melody clock, but one with 4 different types of melodies.
I wondered what would Amma be thinking each time she looked at the clock to see the time? Would she remember how much she fought with Appa? Does she regret accusing Appa like that?
“Nina” Sally came and sat next to me on the bed
“hmm?” I looked at her. She has grown so much in the last one year. She was turning out to be a very pretty girl. I felt I have to take care of her. I must protect her.
Although I knew George won’t leave me alone for the way I treated him in the morning, I was relieved knowing that he won’t come and visit my sisters at home. If he had something called ego, he won’t come and face me at my house. That was for sure. And I knew he was filled to the brim with ego.
What George is going to do next was a puzzle.
I will cross that bridge when I have to, I told myself.
“I am hungry” Sally spoke.
“What is Amma doing?” I asked her
“She is stitching something”
I wasn’t in a mood to cook lunch and it didn’t look like Amma was planning to cook anything either.
“Go and get ready. We will go out and eat”
Liza was still in the room. I got up and knocked her room door.
“Liza, it is me. I am going out with Sally. Do you want to come along?”
I turned my head to see what Amma was doing. Earlier she had threatened to kill Liza if she opened the door. I was relieved to see that Amma was still stitching a fall on her saree.
There was no sound from Liza’s room.
“Liza” I called again
“Liza. Liza” I started to panic. I kept on pounding the door.
Sally too joined. “Chechy open the door”
“Liza open the damn door”
I tried to push the door to open it. It didn’t budge. I heard footsteps behind me and I looked
“Liza, this is Amma, please open the door”
“please money, this is Amma, please open the door”
I tried to kick the door to open it. Sally and I tried to push the door together. It didn’t open.
There are some moments in life when you desperately wish that you had a brother. Physically it was impossible for me to break the door to open it. If I had a brother he could have helped me. Boys are stronger.

My sister must have killed herself. She might have ended her life by hanging on the ceiling fan while I was busy thinking about the bloody clock. Why didn’t I check on her? I hated myself. I was such a stupid person.
I looked at Amma. She was crying. I thought of asking her, why is she wasting her tears now? It is all Crocodile tears! I didn’t feel sorry for Amma. She did this. She created all this. She just had to shut her mouth. None of this would have happened.
“Please Liza, money please open the door. I am begging you” Amma knocked the door gently.
“Please open the door” Amma was gasping for breath.
I had to find someone to help me. The only someone I knew was Arjun. I took my wallet and was just about to run down the steps and go o the phone booth to call Arjun when I heard the sweetest sound on planet earth. The sound of the door latch being moved. The sound that said I don’t have to bury my sister today. The sound that said that we are still 4.
It felt as though someone poured a bucket of cold water on me, I stood there motionless, I was afraid to move, lest I destroy that moment of serenity amongst the madness that surrounded me.
“What do you want?” I heard Liza asking Amma
“Nothing” Amma whispered
“Then leave me alone” She went back and slammed the door again. I heard the click sound and I knew she locked the door again.
The serenity too had gone along with it.
“Sally, come let us go” I had to get out. I couldn’t take anymore.
I grabbed my sister’s hand and walked out. As I was about to close the gate, I remembered Arjun. he might come today to pick me up for the party.
“Wait here” I told Sally and ran up the steps
“Amma, if Arjun comes, would you please let him know that I have gone to Brigade road?”
She didn’t respond
“Amma” I called again
“Hmm” She answered
I knew she heard the message, so I didn’t bother to repeat the message.
“Come, let us go” I held Sally’s hand and walked towards the temple. I could always get an auto there.
“What do you want to eat?” I asked her
“Will you buy me anything I ask?”
“That depends. If you ask me to buy you an elephant, then NO”
“I don’t eat Elephants”
“Do you eat like an Elephant?”
“I am not an Elephant”
“Did I say you are one?”
“You are mean” She replied
Aiyyah, I was just kidding”
“Will you buy me a burger?”
“I asked Maria when she came home last time. She scolded me saying burgers are expensive”
“They are”
“But you said you will buy for me”
“Sally, Maria earns her own money and she would feel differently when it comes to spending her own money, I am spending Appa’s money, so the feeling is different. Burgers are expensive, but what the heck, yeh baap ka maal hai nah!”
“Does Appa send you lot of money?”
“Oh no,no,no!. He doesn’t. He sends me 1000Rs every month. Out of that I have to pay 450Rs for the mess fee, 120Rs for the room rent, 30Rs for the electricity. Then there are so many other expenses. I have to buy supplies, snacks, birthday gifts, cards, etc etc. So at the end of the month I am usually broke.”
“then what do you do?”
“nothing much, I just wait for the postman!”

We took the auto to Brigade road. I looked around to see if Arjun was there as I walked up from Nilgiris to Mac Fast food. . I couldn’t hang around in Brigade road all day. There was nothing to do and I didn’t really want to go back home and face Amma. If Sharon was throwing a party, I wanted to attend.

Mac fast food was crowded. We found a table close to the window. From where I sat I could see the road in front.
There were few guys standing near the lamp post. One among them was so handsome. He had short hair and a sharp nose. he looked like Sting. and when he saw that I was looking at him, he smiled. I looked down immediately. I was too afraid to even look up
I ordered 2 burgers.
Even when I didn’t lift my head to look outside, I knew the guy who was standing there was looking at me. It felt funny and at the same time nice.
Nice? I asked myself.
Nah, that isn’t nice. I already love someone. I shook my head, Nah, Nah this isn’t correct. Two people are already in love with me. It was already way too complicated.
Shucks! I cursed myself for the way my heart felt.
I consoled myself by thinking ‘a thing of beauty is joy for ever’! Keats said that.
‘yeah, blame Keats” sensible one spoke
“Nina why are you smiling?” Sally asked
“I am not smiling”
“I saw you smiling”
“I said I am not smiling and I didn’t smile. You must be dreaming”
“I saw you” She pouted her lips
I ignored her, I didn’t think my 12 year old sister would understand how complicated my love life is!
I didn’t want to look at him again. I really didn’t want, but my eyes looked without my consent. May be he was waiting for a sign, because I saw him walking up the steps and coming inside the restaurant.
Oh no! Oh no! That is all I could think.
He came and sat at the table next to ours. Soon his friends too came inside and I heard one of them asking
“What are you doing here? We just ate”
I don’t know what he replied, soon I heard the sounds of chairs being moved and more food being ordered.
I ate my burger in silence. Too afraid even to move my neck. I didn’t want my eyes to get me in to trouble again. So I concentrated on the beautiful plain white plate in front of me. But my ears, they weren’t worried about my consent. They were trying hard to listen to every word that was spoken at the table next to mine. “There is no ketchup in this bottle” I heard him say. I didn’t look, but I heard someone moving the chair to get up. Then I heard the foot steps approaching my table. My heart started to pound so fast I thought Sally might hear it from across the table.
“Can I borrow the ketchup?” He asked
“Sure” I answered
“Thanks” He replied as he took the ketchup bottle
“You are welcome”
AS he left Sally leaned across the table and whispered
“Do you know him?”
“No” I replied
“He is so handsome No?”
“hey, you are too young to talk like that. Do you want me to tell Amma that you are looking at boys?” I scolded her
“But you were also looking at him”
“But I am 19, you are 12!”
“So nothing! Don’t look, that is the golden rule. do you understand?”
“ok” She nodded her head sadly.
I wasn’t sure why I was mad at my sister, was it because she looked at the guy I was eying or was it because I thought she was too young?

As I walked out after paying the bill, I walked past his table and he was looking at me. He sure was handsome and I sure had two boy friends. So I walked away. Singing the song my mother apparently sang when she was 19 years old. My uncle Dr. Jacob taught me the song
entey hrudayam
orayiram kashanagal akki!
Korachavidey koduthu
Korachividey koduthu” *

Monday morning I got up early and packed my bags to go back to the hostel. I planned to go straight to the hospital. So I only had to leave around 8am. I checked the clock. It was only 7.15.
I quickly went to the kitchen and made wheat flour dosai and onion chutney for my sisters. I counted the dosais. There were 8 dosais. I could eat 2 and leave 6 dosais for Amma and my sisters. But Liza always like to eat more and Amma might give her hers. I can always eat something from the canteen. Besides I normally don’t eat breakfast. I covered dosai with a plate and kept it on the kitchen counter. I also made 2 cups of tea. I left Amma’s tea on the kitchen counter. She wasn’t talking to me and I wasn’t going to talk to her. She would see the tea when she comes to the kitchen. As I drank the tea while sitting on top of the gas cylinder, I heard a bike stopping in front of our house. I quickly ran to the balcony.
Arjun was just about to open the gate. I didn’t want him to come up the house.
“Arjun, Wait, I will come down in a minute” I shouted
“Ok” He looked at me and nodded his head
I wasn’t expecting him to come in the morning to fetch me. In fact I did wonder what happened to him? We were supposed to go and attend Sharon’s party. Then I thought may be her parents didn’ t go as planned.
I took my bag and went to Amma’s room. Sally and Amma were sleeping
“Amma, I am going” I shook Amma’s legs and tried to wake her up. She looked so frail and old. She had so many wrinkles on her forehead. She called them worry lines! I knew she was carrying a tremendous burden on her shoulders. I wished I could help her carry a bit of the burdens she has been carrying. I bend down and kissed her on her forehead. She opened her eyes and looked at me. I was afraid she might scold me for kissing her.
“I am leaving now” I quickly walked out without even looking at her.
Liza’s door was closed. She was trying to create her own private fort in her room and I had no choice but to let her. I closed the main door as I walked out.
“Why didn’t you come for the party?” Arjun asked as he started the bike
“What party?”
“Didn’t your mother tell you?”
“Tell what?”
“That I came? I came day before yesterday around 3 pm. Your mother said she doesn’t know where you went, so I told her to let you know that we are having a party at my house. Sharon’s parents didn’t go, so we had a party at my place. My sisters were waiting for you. My mom made your favourite pav bhaji for you. Anyway don’t worry. She has packed some for you. I will give it to you when we reach the hostel. Didn’t your mother tell you that I came?”
“Sorry Arjun, She did, I had periods, my stomach was hurting a lot. That is why I didn’t come”
I wanted to go back and take the kiss I gave Amma in the morning. I wanted to rub it off from her forehead. I couldn’t, instead I rubbed and rubbed my lips, hoping to erase every tiny bit of love I felt for my mother.

*This was a parody of some Anglican hymn, I don’t remember the hymn.


I lay down on the living room bed.
I wanted to leave home. I wanted to get away as far away as I can from my mother. But what about Liza and Sally? What will they do? How can I not think about them? I wasn’t going to let Amma hurt them too. I can survive all her abuses, but my baby sisters won’t be able to. I knew that.
I thought of my oldest sister. How could such an intelligent person fall in to George’s trap? How could she not see what she was getting in to? I was so mad at her.
But how can I blame her when I know that all my sister ever wanted was to be loved. Some one to love you for what you are,someone to share your happiness, someone to share your sadness, someone to stand by you and help you cope living with a family like ours.
What exactly was Maria’s choice? Neither Appa nor Amma could find a suitable boy for her. Maria always lived thinking that she wasn’t pretty and no one would marry her.
It was all Amma’s doing. Amma used to tell her not to go out in the afternoon or she would get more darker than she is already now and no one would want to marry a blackie!.
All her friends from college were married and here she was 27 years old and no one to love her and stuck in a family that was on a self destruction mode.
George knew that. He knew what Maria wanted.
He gave Maria what she wanted. He took Maria away from Amma’s clutches. Maria would have paid whatever price he asked for his help.
I couldn’t blame my sister. I wanted to blame her, I wanted to hate her, but I couldn’t. Because I knew all my sister she ever wanted was an escape route, even if it meant an entry to hell. Any hell is better than the hell that we knew as home.
Should I go and see Maria and tell her that I will take care of her?
But the sensible one asked, ‘how Nina? How are you going to take care of her? What are you going to do? You don’t even have a roof over your head, what exactly are you going to do?’
‘Three and half more years, just three and a half years more, I would finish medicine by then, get a job, get a house and get my sisters and kill my mother’. I thought.
‘Kill your mother’? the sensible one asked
‘Yes, kill her. That would be the only way I can save my family. If Amma is out of the picture then Appa might come back home with his new wife. Who knows? May be she might love us. Even if she didn’t, it isn’t a big deal, we are not babies any more, the Cinderella step mother tactics shouldn’t and wouldn’t harm us, would it?’ I asked myself.
“I made puttu. Come and eat” I heard Amma’s voice. She was shaking my leg.
I thought I was dreaming. I opened my eyes to look.
No, It wasn’t a dream, Amma was standing by the foot of my bed and looking at me. When our eyes met, she smiled
“I made your favourite puttu”
My favourite puttu? Since when did she start making my favourite food? How did she even know I like puttu?
“Come, get up, puttu taste better when it is hot.”
I didn’t want to eat Puttu, I didn’t want to eat anything she made, I hated my mother that much.
Then I thought, May be, just may be Amma finally understood what George was doing? She would have heard what I told her. She might have understood finally what was going on.
This was my only chance to save Maria. If Amma stood with me, I could easily fight George. George could get away with whatever he was doing because Amma agreed to it. There was no way he could keep my sister, if my mother said ‘No’ to George and asked Maria to stay with us.
I got up from the bed and walked to the kitchen. Amma showed me the steel bowl. There were 4 kutti of puttu.
“This is yours, I put extra coconut for you” Amma pointed to one and spoke
I looked at her. May be she understood what I was thinking
“I have seen you scraping the coconut from your sisters puttu, I know you like to eat the coconut”
It felt so good to hear that your mother actually knew what you like. I looked around to see where she kept sugar to eat the puttu with.
“Where did you keep the sugar?” I asked Amma
“Oh I forgot. I made payaru thoran(green gram curry) for you. I know you are like your father. Both of you liked to eat puttu with green gram”

I looked down and slowly wriggled my toes. They moved, so I couldn’t be dead.
This can’t be a dream. There really was a bowl on the kitchen counter with steaming hot green gram thoran. I took a huge helping of payaru thoran from the bowl. I haven’t eaten green gram for such a long time. I felt so good!
“Thanks Amma”
I was genuinely happy and I felt so stupid for thinking that I wanted to kill my own mother. I was afraid that Amma might figure out that I actually wanted to kill her, so I quickly took the plate and walked out. Liza and Sally alos took their food and came and sat next to me. Amma sat on the chair.
“Nina,I am joining Jyoti Nivas college” Liza spoke
“Oh, that is nice, What group are you taking?”
I knew my sister wanted to be an engineer. I knew she would take first group, but I just wanted confirmation. I didn’t want her to take 2 nd group like I did and rot in the medical college.
“Arts? Why? Why are you doing Arts?” I asked her
“That is because Acha said that it is better that she takes arts group” Amma replied quickly even before Liza had a chance to answer
I wanted to ask Amma who was that bastard to decide what group my sister should take. But I couldn’t.
“Your sister wanted to do first group, but when Acha gave her a sample problem to solve, she couldn’t do it.” Amma spoke
“Oh Nina, if she can’t do a simple maths problem Acha gave, then how will she be able to study her pre-degree maths? You know Pre-degee maths is tough!”
“Are we talking about the same girl? The one who never studied Kannada before and wrote 10 std Kannada public exam after studying kannada for just 2 years?”
“No Nina, Acha was right, I am not good in Maths” Liza spoke.
I had the urge to use a metal bar and smash Amma’s and Liza’s head. May be then they would see how stupid they are! If I can do medicine, what prevents my sister from taking maths? she is 1000 times more intelligent than me.
“besides, it is too late to change now. The admission is closed”
“may be I can go and ask” I replied
“nah Nina, I won’t be able to handle pre-degree maths. Acha was right”
I took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure how long I will have to battle this George before I can save my family.
“Amma, I need new dresses” Liza spoke
“New dresses? What for?”
“What am I going to wear to college?”
“You have enough clothes!”
“But they are old”
“So, I need new clothes. My friends would laugh at me if I still wear what I wore in school”
pinney! Why should your friends laugh at you because you wore old clothes?”
“Because JNC is a posh college”
“Posh!! it can’t be more posh than BCM college. Even Nina didn’t have any new clothes BCM college”
“Clothes are just to cover your body, You shouldn’t go with friends who judge you for what you wear. If they laugh at you because your dresses are old, then they shouldn’t be your friends. Besides where am I going to get the money to buy new dresses? You should know Liza I can’t afford it”
“Can’t afford, can’t afford, can’t afford. That is all you can say. You have been saving money all your life, where is it now? Where is the money you have been saving Amma? You walked carrying heavy bags because you didn’t want to waste money by taking an auto? Where is the money Amma?” Liza was screaming
“Why are you screaming at me? How dare you scream at me? After all that I have done for you, you are screaming at me?” It was Amma’s turn to scream
“What have you done for me? Packing me to Chikamagalore when you couldn’t take care of me? You call that sacrifice?”
“You dare to speak to me like that?” Amma started to pound her chest with her fist.”I took care of you even when your father didn’t want you. This is how you treat me ah? after all that I have done for you? I swear to God Liza, if there is a God then mark my words, You will never do well in your life” Amma started to curse
“Excellent. I was waiting for you to start. First you cursed Maria and she is gone, then you started cursing Nina and she will soon go, now it is your turn o curse me” Liza yelled.
She turned and looked at Sally and spoke” Sally, Wait for your turn, this stupid woman will start cursing you too. All she knows is to curse her daughters when she doesn’t get her way. Stupid mother.”
She threw the plate down and went to wash her hands.
“You threw the food I cooked for you? I woke up early in the morning, fried the flour and made the dough and made puttu for you and you threw it down?” Amma ran after Liza and before I could even get up, she was trying to pull Liza’s hair.
“Hold this” I gave my plate to Sally and ran to the kitchen. Amma was hitting Liza and I pulled Amma away from Liza.
“Stop it Amma. Stop it”
“Let her Nina, she is mad. She always keep harping about the sacrifices she made. It would have better it she mixed some pashanam (poison) in the porridge and gave it to us.”
“I should have, it was my mistake” Amma hissed
“See, see her true colours” Liza was crying. She went to her room and slammed the door.
“Don’t slam the door” Amma yelled
I heard Liza opening the door and slamming it more louder than the last time
“How dare you” Amma screamed and pushed me to go and attack Liza.
“Amma, Leave her alone” I grabbed Amma’s hand
“Who are you to tell me what I should do” She pushed me and went to knock at Liza’s door.
“Liza Thomas. open the door. I am telling you to open the door” She started to yell and pound the door.
I looked at Sally and I knew she was thinking the same. ‘How do we ever get out of this hell?’
Tears were rolling down her cheeks
“It is ok Sally, it is ok. Everything will be ok” I whispered.
Amma heard me and she turned to look at both of us
“Why are you crying?” She started screaming at Sally.”Did anyone hit you for you to cry? Don’t cry without a reason. Only mad people do that”
Sally quickly wiped her tears. She was looking at me.
Amma started to knock the door again. I looked at my mother’s neck. The skin at the back of her neck was wrinkled and it was pigmented. There were few wisps of short curly hairs that weren’t long enough to be part of the bun she tied at the back of her head. If I could take three short steps, I would be able to strangle her from the back. Just three steps. I can get this over with.
I looked at Sally. Who would marry her if they knew that her older sister killed their mother? They would think the whole family is mad.

Amma continued to knock at the door and eventually she gave up. Before she walked to her room she yelled
“You stay in your room. If you as much as open the door and come out, I will kill you. Sally, you tell me if your sister opens the door, ok?”
“Ok. Amma” Sally whispered.
Amma went back to her room and lay down on her bed.
I looked at the plate of puttu and payaru thoran in Sally’s hand. I couldn’t eat anymore. My stomach was already full of worries. There was no space for food. Even if it was the payaru thoran!
I took a rag from the kitchen and cleaned the food Liza threw on the floor.
“Leave it there. I want Liza to clean it” Amma screamed from her room. I ignored her.
If only my sisters knew how to ignore my mother. If only they knew there is still light at the end of the tunnel. If only they could have that hope. But until they see the light at the end of the tunnel, I had no choice but to stay with them and take care of them.
I had once been a pre-degree student with no new clothes. Only I knew how much it hurts, when everyone wore latest fashion dresses to college, you get to wear the Girl Guide uniform (blue skirt) that you wore when you were in the 8th std. Only I knew how humiliating that was especially when you were studying in a posh college!.
I promised myself that I won’t let my sister go through it. I won’t. I had to get her new clothes. How? I didn’t know.


“hmm” I responded
“You are the best that ever happened to me”
“Really? Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain that. Every time I see you, I know everything will be alright”
“Everything is alright with you, isn’t it?”
“Well not really”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, my dad is selling our family business. Only one of my sisters is married. What will happen to the other sisters if we don’t have money? Who will marry them? It takes another 3.5 years for me to graduate. Even then would I make enough money to support my family?”
“You should be able to. I am sure you will be paid well. Besides your father can always start another business”
“Nina you have seen him, haven’t you? He is getting old. He doesn’t tell anyone how worried he is. But I can see it Nina. I can see the fear in his eyes. I am the only hope they have”
“I know”
“Nina,Will I be able to support my family?”
“I am sure you will be able to”
“Do you know something Nina?”
“tell me”
“I won’t be able to live without you. You are the silver lining in the grey cloud. You give me hope. I won’t live without you Nina. I won’t”
There were too many thoughts in my mind. What was I going to do? How can I not think of four girls and two aging parents?
How can I just walk off saying that ‘it is your problem not mine’.
What if he does anything stupid? Won’t I have to carry all the curses for the rest of my life?
“How does the egg taste?” He was looking at me and at the egg bhaji in the plate
“Pardon me” I stared at him trying to see, what exactly he asked
“How does the egg bhaji taste?”
“Oh Nina”
I was just about to shout and tell him, please don’t say Oh Nina, I absolutely hate it’
But I knew it is better that I don’t tell him that. If I told him that I hate someone saying Oh Nina, chances are he would say it over and over to annoy me.
“I wanted to know how the egg taste” He replied
“Oh Nina, I know how much you love egg Bhaji and when we are married, I want us to enjoy things together. I don’t want you to give up on everything you like because I am a vegetarian. I don’t think I can eat meat. At least I can try the eggs, there is blood in it”
“No. Don’t”
“Don’t what?”
“You don’t have to eat eggs. You don’t have to change”
“But I want to”
Before I could react, he took a bhaji from my plate.
“Arjun don’t” I pleaded.
I tried to snatch the bhaji from his hand and he quickly started to eat..
“Arjun, please don’t” I begged him not to eat.
He took the first bite. He looked surprised biting in to the crispy outer coating of the egg bhaji followed by the boiled egg white.
“This is ok. I thought it would be worst”
“Arjun, don’t. Please stop eating”
He wasn’t listening to me
I saw the shock in his eyes as he started to bite in to the boiled egg yolk. The yolk started to coat his tongue
That is all I heard before he rushed to the wash basin to wash and rinse his mouth.
bhaiyya one masala tea please” I waved my hand and placed the order with the canteen operator.
“How do you eat that?” Arjun pointed to the egg bhaji as he sat down.
“I guess it is an acquired taste”
“It is terrible” He was using the serviette to wipe his tongue
“I told you not to eat it”
“You are terrible”
“Pardon me”
“You kill all the animals and eat. You are a murderer”
I watched the operator bringing the hot masala tea. I had the urge to pick it up and throw it on Arjun’s head. Instead I pointed to Arjun, so the operator could serve the tea to Arjun.
“What tea is it?” Arjun asked the operator
“Masala tea”
“Masala tea? I hate masala tea”
“But madam ordered masala tea”
Before the whole thing erupted in to a big fight, I took the cup from the operator’s hand.
“I ordered for me”
“Get me a torino” Arjun ordered.
I wanted to tell Arjun that he had no right to look down on me because I eat meat. I wanted to tell him that I ordered the masala tea for him because I hoped the spices in the tea would take away the egg taste in his mouth. But I just couldn’t. I hated myself for my inability to talk and let the other person know what exactly I am thinking.
I drank the tea in silence.
There were few more egg bhajis in my plate. I suddenly didn’t have any mood to eat it.
I checked my watch. It was almost 7pm.
“Bye Arjun. I have to do microbiology assignment” I got up
“ok. Are you not going to finish the bhaji?” he pointed to the egg bhaji in the plate
“No” I replied
“You are wasting money”
My blood was boiling. I checked my pocket and realized I didn’t bring any money with me. I walked to the counter
Bhaiyya, can I pay you the money later? I forgot to bring money with me”
“It is ok Nina, I will pay the bills” Arjun shouted
“It is ok” I replied
bhaiyya. Give me 5 minutes. I will bring the money. I will pay, you got it?” I asked the operator. He nodded his head.
I ran all the way back to my room to get the money. I was just so mad at Arjun.
I was gasping by the time I came back.
“How much was it?” I asked the operator
“Madam, he already paid”
“Arjun sir”
“I told you I will pay, didn’t I?”
I was mad at the operator. Why can’t people understand simple instructions? He nodded his stupid head when I asked him if he understood that I will pay and now he says he took the money from Arjun. Stupid fellow!

I hated Arjun and I hated myself because I couldn’t tell him that.

Late in the evening I heard someone shouting
“Nina phone for you”
I looked at the clock. 10pm.
I knew who it would be. I ran all the way up to the phone room and picked up the phone
“Hello” I spoke. I was gasping
“Hi baby. How are you?”
“I am good”
“Can you skip the class tomorrow morning?”
I quickly tried to remember whose rounds would it be tomorrow. It is Dr. Narayan’s rounds
“I can’t. tomorrow is Dr. Narayan’s rounds”
“That is bad!”
“Nina, I will be away for a few days. I should be back by week end”
“Where are you going?”
“I told you. remember? Sometimes I have to be away”
“Baby are you ok?”
“mom got a house in Bangalore and she didn’t even let me know”
“I don’t know”
“That is bad”
“I love you Nina. I want you to know that everything will be fine”
“No it won’t” I whispered
“Oh it will be. trust me baby. Everything will be fine. You have me baby. You just have to know that”
I wished life was just that easy. But I knew it wasn’t. It wouldn’t it.
“I love you. You know you have me. That is all that matters”
No it isn’t. I wanted my mother, father and my sisters too. They are my family.
“baby, will you be alright for a few days?”
“hmm” I mumbled
“Promise me”
“Nina, my friends are waiting for me. Today is Jithen’s birthday. We are about to go out and eat”
“I will see you soon. I love you so much. Everything will be fine. ok?”
“Bye baby

I looked forward to Friday. I wanted to go home. In the morning I went to Princy’s office to get permission that allows all Bangaloreans to go home during the week end. I was expecting Prnicy to interrogate me before granting me the permission. He didn’t even ask me anything. He read my letter and signed. I wondered if he too knew that my mother had moved to Bangalore. Nah it isn’t possible I told myself. He would have signed because he saw my term report. I scored the highest marks for Pathology and Microbiology.

It felt so good to be allowed to go home during the week end. I used to envy Shailaja every time she went home. Now it was my turn to go home and eat something good or go to MG road and hang out with friends or go to the library or even go to the theatre and watch a movie. There were so much I could do, instead of rotting in the hostel and fighting with 300 odd students to watch a program on Doordarshan.
I packed my bag on Friday morning itself. As soon the lectures were over, I ran all the way back to the hostel, took my bags and walked towards the main gate.
“Where to?” Chief security looked at the bag and at me
“But it is not a holiday”
“It is a week end”
“Only Bangaloreans are allowed to go home”
“I know. I am a Bangalorean now!” I looked at him and smiled. Somehow it felt so good to say that. It also felt so good to annoy him. Before he could ask anything, I opened my bag and took the letter out.
“Here” I showed Princy’s signature to him.” I got permission to go home every week end”
He looked pretty surprised. He took the letter from my hand and started to read.
“I want to verify”
“Sure you can go and verify. But I am going home” I walked off.
I was contemplating if I should take a bus or auto. Bus ride is cheaper, but takes a longer time where as the Auto costs more money, but reaches faster. Anyway I will be going home every week end. So there is no point wasting money. I decided to wait for the bus. There were lots of Bangalorean students waiting for the bus.
“Hey Nina, you are going home?” They asked
“Yeah.My mom is staying in Bangalore now”
“Austin town”
“Wow, you are lucky”
“You can do your internship at St.Philominas hospital”
While I was talking I saw Arjun coming out on his bike. He too saw me standing near the bus station. He approached me.
“Come I will drop you home”
“No it is ok, I will take the bus”
“Come on Nina, stop fighting”
“I am not fighting”
Everyone was looking at us now
“Then get on the bike. I will drop you home”
“Fine” I hissed. I didn’t want to create a scene.
I wanted to strangle him. Instead I sat behind him on the bike.
“Where exactly is your house?” He asked
“Austin town, First right after the temple and then the first left”
“Do you want to eat something before you go?”

“Is that the temple?” Arjun pointed to the temple on the right
He took the first right and then the first left.
“Where is the house?”
“That one” I pointed to the yellow house.
“My God this place stinks”
I thought of telling him that I didn’t create the place and I don’t have any power to control the air quality.
He stopped the bike in front of the house and I got off.
I had been to his house so many times and have even stayed there. It would be too rude if I don’t invite him in. But I wasn’t sure how my mother would react
“Want to come in?” I asked
He parked the bike by the side of the gate. I walked up the steps quickly hoping I can warn Amma not to embarrass me in front of my classmate.The door was left open
“Amma” I called
“hmm” She came out of her room. She was wearing an old faded blue colour night gown that was full of stain in the front. Why can’t she wear a decent dress at home. Not that we are that poor that she doesn’t have any clothes to wear
“Arjun is with me”
“athinu njan enna vanam?”
“Hello Aunty” Arjun came up the steps and was standing right behind me.
“Hello” She was so gruff.
I watched in horror as my well educated mother just shrugged her shoulder and went back to her room. I turned and looked at Arjun. He was looking at me. I smiled
“Come on in Arjun. Come sit down” I pointed the chair to him.
“Give me a few minutes. I will get you something to drink” I quickly walked in to the kitchen. I needed time to figure out how to respond to my mother’s obvious rudeness. I had no idea what to do. I looked around the kitchen.
I had no idea where anything was in the kitchen
“Amma Chaya evideya vechekkunney?” (amma where do you keep the tea?) I called out.
She didn’t respond. I took a steel pot from the floor and measured a cup of water and kept it on the gas fire to boil. I walked out of the kitchen. Arjun was looking at me.
“Arjun Give me a second”
I quickly walked in to Amma’s room.She was sewing something
amma chaya evideya vechekkunney”(where do you keep the tea?)
Kandavanu okkey chaya edukkan ethenna sathram ano?” ( is this an inn to give every stranger something to drink)
Amma athentey class mate ah. njan avantey vettil ethra pravashyam poyittundennu ammakku ariyavo. Inginey onnum alla manusyaru behave chennunney” (he is my classmate. I have been to his house so many times. This isn’t how you treat visitors)
Nee aradi enney padippikkan varunnathu”( who are you to teach me how to behave?)
I walked off. It wouldn’t look good in front of my classmate if I argued with my mother.
“Arjun, give me a second” I smiled at him and walked to the kitchen
“Nina, don’t worry. I will have tea at home. I should be going now.”
“No Arjun, you aren’t going anywhere without having tea. Give me a second”
I opened each and every tin/packet/cover on the floor till I found the tea powder and sugar. There was a little bit of milk in the pot by the side of the gas stove. I used the whole lot of milk and made tea. I used the cup from the dinner set Amma has been saving for Maria to serve Arjun.
“Nice cup” He spoke
“My dad got it”
“Nice tea”
“I made that”
We both laughed.
“What is your plan tomorrow?” he asked
“Don’t know. haven’t thought about it”
“I think Sharon is having a party at home. It depends on her parents. They are supposed to go to Goa. If they are leaving tonight then she will have a party tomorrow. Do you want to join?”
I wanted to come home. I so very badly wanted to be out of the hostel. But I kept forgetting what a terrible place is my home. My hostel was any day better than my home. But now that I am home, I had to find things to do. So I can be away from Amma.
“Sure” I spoke
Arjun finished the tea and passed the cup back to me
“Bye Nina, I will see you tomorrow”
“Bye Aunty” he looked towards Amma’s room door and wished her
“Bye” Amma spoke from the room.
She didn’t even come out to say bye to him.
As soon as Arjun left, Amma came out of the room
“I don’t want people to walk in and out of my home. You have sisters don’t forget that. What will people think when men keep walking in and out” She was shouting.
I ignored her. I lay down on the bed.
She went in to the kitchen
“Who opened all these covers?” She was screaming
She must have seen all the packets opened on the floor. You don’t need to be an Einstein to figure that out.
“Nina, put everything back in the right place”
I ignored her.
“I said put everything back”
I didn’t want to fight with her, so I got up. Then I heard her saying
” My god you finished the milk? How dare you? You think I buy milk to feed your boy friend?”
“Well, when I went to his house his parents gave me food and drink. They didn’t treat me differently. Infact, They took me in as part of their family”
pinney, family! What family? You? part of their family? Do you think they are blind?”
“What exactly do you mean mother?”
“Do you think they can’t see that you are sleeping with their son? You think they want a girl like you to marry their son?”
When your own mother talks bad about you, you feel numb first, then the anger starts rising from the tip of your fingers to the rest of your body.
maryadekku sadanagal ellam thirichu vecho”(you better put everything back properly)
“You can do it” I told her
“You can put everything back. You can do it your self”
“I will teach you a lesson”
“Sure, you have been saying that since I was born. You are a bad teacher. 19 years already, you still haven’t taught me a thing”
“You will never do well Nina”
“Oh that, don’t worry Amma, Even if I take 20 years to pass medicine, I will still be more qualified than you. So stop cursing me. It won’t do any good”
“You think medicine is everything?”
“Currently yes”
There were few magazines on Liza’s table, I took them and went back to lay down on the living room bed to read.
A little while later I heard my sisters coming up
“Hey where did you guys go?” I asked them
“We went out with Liza’s classmates from Chikamagalore” Sally spoke
“Oh, had fun?”
We talked about our lifem things to do in Bangalore, places to eat etc etc.

I could hear Amma cooking food in the kitchen. I didn’t want to even offer her my help. How could she even say that I was sleeping with Arjun? How low can she sink?

“Children come and eat” Amma called out.
I got up from the bed. I saw Amma sitting on the chair with a bowl in her hand.
Liza and Sally came and sat on the floor in front of Amma. Amma started to mix the rice and feed them. I walked in to the kitchen. The rice pot was empty. Amma took everything in one bowl, so I won’t get anything to eat.
“Liza is there any grocery shop near by?” I asked
“yes. there is a shop on the other side. From the main road you walk straight and the 2 nd right there is a shop”
“Ok” I took money and walked out
“Where are you going Nina?” Sally asked
“I will be back soon”
The streets were dark and there were lots of people on the road. I took the 2nd right and found the grocery shop. I bought 6 eggs and a lof of bread.
Amma looked at me when I came back. I ignored her and went to the kitchen and made an omelette and ate it with bread. I wanted to wash the pan and the plate. But I wanted to teach Amma a lesson. So I left it in the sink.
“Who is going to wash your dirty dishes?” Amma was standing near the kitchen door and staring at me
“You” I looked straight in to her eyes and told her. She blocked the door using her body
“Move” I asked her
“Wash the dishes”
“You can do it yourself. Amma move. Don’t make me push you away from the door”
She extended her hand and held the door frame. I pushed her right hand with all my strength
“Nina, what are you doing?”
Amma started to cry loud.
Liza and Sally heard Amma crying and came towards me
“I asked her nicely to move. She didn’t.” I told them as I walked out of the kitchen.
“I told her to wash the dishes, She didn’t. See, she pushed me here” Amma started to cry while showing Liza her arm.
“Nina, why don’t you stay in your hostel? Why do you want to come home and fight with us? We live here peacefully and you come and destroy everything.”

I ignored her. Even I was wondering the same. Why did I forget what a night mare my home is?

In the early morning I heard Amma getting up. She switched off the fan in the living room. Then she went downstairs to get the milk. As soon as she went out of the house, I got up and switched on the fan again.
I got up around 8 am. There was nothing to do. Liza and Sally were still asleep. I wanted to read the news paper. I changed my clothes and walked to the grocery shop to buy the paper. It wasn’t open. So I came back home.
I was just about to go and have my shower when I heard a car stopping right in front of the house. I watched Amma running to the bathroom to comb her hair. Then I saw her running to her room to change her clothes. I could hear foot steps coming up the stairs and I saw George walking in. Suddenly I understood why no one wanted me to know that Amma was staying in Bangalore. Right behind George was my older sister.
George looked surprised to see me.
“I am sorry. This isn’t an inn for people to walk in and out” I walked towards the door.
“How dare you talk to Acha like that Nina?” Maria was about to come inside the house to hit me. Amma was still inside changing her clothes. This was my moment. My one and only moment
“Do you think this is an inn?” I asked her
“How dare you talk like that Nina?” Maria was yelling and Amma too came out
“Acha come inside” Amma was telling him to come inside
“No he can’t. You are the one who said this isn’t an inn Amma. What will the neighbours think when my oldest sister walks in here holding to her uncle’s hand as though he is her husband?”
Amma hit me too hard. But I saw George leaving. Maria followed him.
Amma ran after them saying”Don’t go. Acha don’t go. Let her say whatever she wants. Don’t listen to her”
I saw George starting the car and my sister sitting in the front seat.
Wow, now the driver is gone and the passenger got promotion. I thought
Amma came back and started to shout while hitting me
“Are you happy Nina? Are you happy? You made him hate me”
“No I didn’t. You did it. He started hating you the day you gifted your daughter to him”
Amma must have hit me a hundred times that day, I let her. Because I finally said the truth that she was pretending not to notice.

You needed me

More than anger I felt hatred, absolute hatred towards my mother. She has lived in a hostel most of her life and more than anyone she knew how difficult hostel life is. Yet when she moved to the same town where I live, she didn’t even let me know. Why? Why couldn’t she call me and tell me that she is staying in Bangalore? What have I done to her? What did I do so wrong for her to treat me this way? I had to know.
I checked the time.12.15pm. I had Forensic medicine class in the afternoon. I might get in to trouble if Mr. Filthy came to know that I skipped the class. But I wanted to know where Amma was staying. I wanted to go home. I wanted to get out of the hostel. I wanted to eat some good food.
I folded my lab coat and when no one was looking, I took an auto.
“Where to?” driver asked
“Koramangala” I replied
I thought about my oldest sister. I was angry with her. Even she could have just called me and let me know. How could she treat me so badly? What have I done to her. I wanted to ask her that. I wanted to yell at her at the top of my voice and tell her she is the lousiest sister on planet earth.
‘What if any of your sister’s colleagues hear you? Won’t it look bad on your sister?’ Sensible one asked
“Who cares? I don’t give a damn. If she couldn’t treat me well, I am not obligated to treat her well. I don’t have to. I really don’t have to!’ I thought.
‘What if your sister says she doesn’t want to stay in your mother’s house because you always fight with her?’ Sensible one asked
I realized there is some truth in it. If Amma moved to Bangalore, then that means Maria can stay with us. She doesn’t have to live separately. She can be out of George’s influence.
It is better that I don’t fight with Maria. I figured.
When the auto reached near her office, I paid the money and got off. As I walked in to her office reception, I started to feel excited. I knew everything is going to be alright. We will all be together. Amma, Maria, Liza, Sally and I together as a family. I knew I will have to work hard to get Appa back. But it can be done. I was sure of that.
One step at a time Nina. Step by step.
I knew in my heart and everything is going to be alright. I waited so long, so very long for this moment.
And for a brief moment, I thought, may be, just may be there was a God who cared!
“Yes” The receptionist was staring at me. This was not the same girl I spoke to the last time I was here.
“I would like to see Maria. Would you please call her and let her know that she has a visitor”
I watched her picking up the phone and telling Maria that she has a visitor.
” Are you her sister?”
“Yes I am. How did you know?”
“You look so alike”
She nodded her head.
Wow I thought. That was something nice. Maria’s biggest hatred towards me was because I was fairer than her. May be if I begin to look like her, she may not hate me as much!
I saw Maria walking down the steps. Gosh she looked more thinner than the last time I saw her. Why hasn’t Amma given her anything for her to eat? But then again I knew my mother. I knew Amma wouldn’t have made anything. She would have given her usual kanji and payaru thoran.(porridge with green gram). No wonder Maria looks so malnourished.
Never mind, I will cook the food. I can cook in the week ends and keep the food in the fridge. In that way there will always be food for my sisters. They don’t have to depend on Amma to cook the food.
“Oh, it is you” Maria sounded so disappointed
She held my elbow and guided me away from the reception.
“What do you want?” She asked as soon as we were out of the office entrance. She sounded so angry.
She couldn’t even say a hi? I wondered
“Hi Chechy” Even if she couldn’t, it doesn’t mean that I can’t greet her. Right?
“Why are you here? Do you want money?”
Why does my family think that the only reason I contact them would be to ask for money? First it was Appa, now it is Maria. I got so mad.
“Where does Amma live?”
“How did you know?”
I wanted to tell her that is none of her business. But I didn’t want to jinx anything.
“One of my classmates met Liza at Koshy’s and she told him”
“Which classmate. How does he know Liza?”
What is this? Police Interrogation? When did Maria learn to talk like this? I wasn’t going to use Arjun’s name.I didn’t want him killed
“David? Where is he from?”
“Mangalore I think. He knows Liza because she stayed with me when she broke her arm”
“What was Liza doing at Koshy’s?”
“I have no idea, you have to ask her that”
My blood was boiling. Who is Maria to ask questions like this?
“Where does Amma stay?” I asked again.
“She lives in Austin town, you need to tell the auto driver it is the first right immediately after the temple and then the first left and it is the 4th house on the right. Amma stays on the first floor”
“Where is Austin town?”
“You tell the Auto driver, He will know”
Why can’t my stupid sister tell me where exactly is Austin town? How was I supposed to just trust the auto driver and find a new place. I thought of telling her that I am afraid to go to a new place.
“Can you tell me some land marks near to it?”
“There are some shops”
“What kind of shops”
“Nina, I don’t have time to spoon feed you. You got to find your own way.”
I had the irresistible urge to push her down the steps. I clenched my fist to control my temper.
“What is the exact address?” I asked
“I just told you didn’t I”
“No you didn’t. You told me the first right after the temple, then the first left and the fourth house on the right”
“That is more than enough”
“Maria what is the house number?”
I saw an Auto approaching and I showed my hand. I didn’t even bother to say good bye to my sister.
“Where to?” Driver asked
“Austin town” I replied
“Wait” I heard Maria calling
“What is it Maria?” I asked her
She was walking towards the auto.
“What is your name?” Maria asked the driver
“Srinivas” He was looking at Maria and at me.
“Nina, do you have a pen?” She asked me
I took my pen from my lab coat and gave it to Maria.
I watched Maria walking to the front of the Auto and writing down the vehicle registration number on her palm
I was so sick of my sicko sister.
“Go” I yelled to the driver and he started the auto.
“Nina, your pen” I heard Maria shouting
“Keep it” I knew I won’t die it I lost my pen, but I might go to jail for murder if I spend another minute with my sister. I was absolutely sure of that.
“Who was that? Your akka(sister)?”
“Nah.She isn’t my sister. She works there!”
Auto driver circled his head with his index finger and asked “mad ah?”
“Hmm” I nodded my head.
“Where do you want to go in Austin town?”
“There is a temple there right? You need to take a right after the temple”
“Madam, there are two temples there, which one?”
Panic is knowing that, you have no idea where you are going and your stupid sister only gives information in controlled doses. I hated Maria for treating me like this.
“I have no idea. I only know the house number”
“What about the street number?”
“I don’t know”
I knew it is dangerous to tell a stranger that you don’t know the place. The driver can take me to some God forsaken place and rape me and kill me.
But what was I going to do? I really wanted to see my mother. There was no point going back to Maria’s office and ask her. She won’t tell. She gets some sadistic satisfaction, seeing me suffer. I wasn’t going to give her that satisfaction. If this driver was going to kill me, so be it.
“Who stays there?” Driver asked
I was just about to say my mother. But I knew I would sound so dumb. How can anyone not know where her mother stays?
“My aunty”
“Oh ok. madam we will be reaching the first temple soon. Do you want to get down there and ask around?”
I couldn’t. If I get lost, I don’t know how to go back. I was beginning to feel scared. I trusted the auto driver more than my ability to find my way back.
“No, you take the first right turn and then the first left. We will see if there is house with number 72”
I saw the temple on the right side of the road. There was a huge peepal tree with roots hanging in the air right behind the temple. On the left side of the road there was a bank, bakery and a telephone booth.
Nice place, I thought.
I watched the auto driver taking a right turn. As soon as he took the turn, I could smell the stench of cow dung. I looked around. I couldn’t find any cows. Must be the smell from the thrash bin.
The driver took the first left turn and from there itself I could see Amma’s saree and night gown hanging on the balcony railing.
Relief is knowing that you are not lost!
“Stop” I almost screamed
“You found the house? Where is house number 72” Driver was looking around.
“That one” I pointed the house to him. I paid the money and got out.
It was an old house with, walls painted yellow. There was something written in Arabic underneath the house number on the front wall. Muslim house? I wondered.
I noticed a small gate by the side of the house and steps leading to the 1st floor. The steps were so narrow and steep. I walked up the steps, feeling so excited. The door was left opened and I could hear someone cooking something in the kitchen.
The living room had mosaic floor, there was my foam mattress bed* on the left side, few folding chairs on the right, a small metal table on the far end of the room.
“Amma” I called out. I heard thud sound of something falling down followed by a very serious
“Who is it?” I could hear footsteps and soon Amma came out from what I assumed must be the kitchen
“You scared me” She yelled
“Hello Amma” I wished her
“How did you find the house?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“That you moved to Bangalore?”
“have you come here to fight with me? If so you can leave now”
“I didn’t come to fight Amma, I just asked you why you didn’t tell me that you have moved to Bangalore?”
ninnodu paranjittu ippo enna nedan aa?” (what do I gain by telling you?)
“You don’t gain anything Amma, but there is nothing wrong in letting me know”
“Why are you here now? Don’t you have classes?”
I ignored her. I started to explore the house. There was a door on the left. I had to walk past the foam mattress bed and I entered the room. Appa’s bed was in the room.
“Whose room is this?” I asked
I checked the kitchen. It was very small with a platform to keep the gas stove an a small sink on the left side of the platform. I noticed that Amma was making egg curry.
I looked around. Across the kitchen on the other side of the living room was another door and I entered the room. There were two beds in that room.
“Whose sleeps here?”
“Sally and I”
There was one more door by the right side and I knew it had to be my room. I might have to share it with Maria. Never mind. Any way I only come home during the week end. I opened the door and walked in happily. There was a pink colour wash basin on the left and a potty on the right.
I walked out and closed the door quickly. Did I miss any rooms? Amma was looking at me.
“Where do I sleep?”
“Oh, you can sleep on that” Amma pointed the foam mattress bed.
“Why have you given a room for Liza and Sally and not me Amma?”
“You are staying in the hostel right? So why do you need your own room here?”
I didn’t reply. I felt so disappointed. Every child dreams of a room of her own and I wasn’t any different. Amma gave an entire room for Liza and gave me, Liza’s older sister a bed in the living room. I was worthy of only that.
“Where is Liza and Sally”
“They went to Nilgiris to buy grocery”
“They will be coming back shortly. I have to make lunch for them” She just turned back and went in to the kitchen. I followed her
“I only cooked two eggs, do you want something to eat?” She lifted the pot cover and showed me.
I knew why she said that. She was indirectly telling me that she cooked the eggs for my sisters and she doesn’t have the time or patience to boil another egg for me.
“It is ok. I have to go back”
I checked my watch. Too late to eat lunch at the hostel mess. Never mind. I will eat egg bhaji from the canteen.
I didn’t even bother to say good bye, I walked out. As I walked out, I noticed few of Appa’s tapes in the wall shelf near the living room table. I opened the glass door to check the tapes. Few Beatles tapes and then I saw Anne Murray. I haven’t listened to her tape for a long time
“Amma I am taking this” I showed the tape to Amma
“It is Liza’s, you need to ask her”
“It is Appa’s” I replied
“Well, Liza is using it now”
“Well, I can use it too”
“Why do you want to create unnecessary fights? Just because you are older to her doesn’t mean that you can take everything that is hers”
I took the tape and walked out. To hell with Amma and her stupid reasons. It is ok for Liza to listen to Appa’s tapes, but it isn’t ok for me.

As I sat in the auto, I realized I didn’t notice any of Maria’s stuff in the house. Why didn’t Amma ask Maria to move in and stay in her house? I didn’t know the answer.

As soon as I reached my room, I switched on my music system and played the tape.
First song was “you needed me
I tore a sheet of paper from my record book and wrote the lyrics down.

I cried a tear
You wiped it dry
I was confused
You cleared my mind
I sold my soul
You bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me.
You gave me strength
To stand alone again
To face the world
Out on my own again
You put me high
upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me
You needed me
And I can’t believe it’s you
I can’t believe it’s true
I needed you and you were there
And I’ll never leave, why should I leave I’d be a fool
‘Cause I’ve finally found someone who really cares
You held my hand
When it was cold
When I was lost
You took me home
You gave me hope
When I was at the end
And turned my lies
Back into truth again
You even called me friend
I didn’t even bother to place the letter in an envelope. If anyone saw it and told Arjun. so be it. If everyone in the college knew that I was in love with beautiful eyes, so be it.
He was my salvation, the only one who could get me out of my home. The only one who would help me stand on my own. The only one who understood me.

I was tired of games. Tired of all the games. I wanted the world to know the truth.
I walked in to the canteen. Arjun was standing near the entrance talking to Rupesh
“hey Nina, Where were you? Mr.Filthy was looking for you. I told him you were sick. You need to bring a medical certificate. Don’t worry, I have few Dr Jeevan’s letterheads in my room. I will get you one. You can fill in the details. It already has the chop from the hospital. You just have to tell me what diagnosis you wrote and I will let Dr. Jeevan know, you know just in case MR. Filthy cross check your med cert!”
I looked at Arjun. I couldn’t even think straight. Then I remembered the letter in my hand. I tried to hide the paper behind me
“What is that?” Arjun noticed the paper in my hand and before I could do anything, he snatched it from my hand and started to read it
“Oh Nina, it is so beautiful. Where did you get this? Did you write this? Don’t tell me You skipped the class to write this for me?”
No I didn’t. It isn’t for you. I wanted to tell him that. But my voice.. it never came out.

*Amma made one big bed using 5 foam mattress together, stacking them one on top of the other and wrapping the whole thing with gunny sack.

Another day.. another student..another life..

He dropped me off at the bus station. I wanted to ask so badly when we would be able to meet again. But I also knew the answer. it depended entirely on Caroline and Arjun’s schedule. And I knew if I brought that topic out, we would end up fighting. I didn’t want to fight with him. I didn’t have a valid reason to explain why I can’t break up with Arjun, even when I love someone else.
“Do you have money for the ticket?”
“I love you baby”
“I love you too”
“Bye Nina”
I walked off quickly because I hated saying goodbye. It hurts knowing that although we study in the same college, we just can’t see each other whenever we want to, all because of Caroline and Arjun.
I wished Arjun would understand this was all a big mistake and break up with me. I wished Caroline would do the same. That was the only way we can be together.
I took the bus back to my hostel.

As I walked towards my hostel, I noticed a huge crowd of girls standing outside the main entrance. The same thing happend when George send the letter. My head started to spin. Did George find out about me and Beautiful Eyes? Did he send something that incriminates me? What will I tell Caroline and Arjun?
I was very careful wasn’t I? Where could he have seen me? At the bus station? There were so many people there, how could he have found me? Did someone follow me all the way from the hostel? I should have checked. Why was I so stupid?
Anitha saw me first and she shouted
“Where were you the whole day?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. Should I say I went to visit my sister? What if my sister came to the hostel today to visit me? No that wouldn’t work. May be I should say I went to the library. But I didn’t have any books with me.
“I went to the hospital. There were couple of new cases”
I hoped she won’t ask me how I came to know about the cases or any other details of the cases. I missed the rounds on friday and I had no idea what new cases had been admitted.
“What is going on?” I asked her
“Didn’t you hear?”
“Hear what?”
“Sreeja committed suicide”
“What? Which Sreeja? Why?”
“You know the Kannadiga girl, Sreeja, she joined the college late. She was always on her own?”
“Sreeja? The one who was in my dissection group?”
“Yes, that one”
I knew her. She was such a quiet student. She was one of the few students that didn’t stay in the hostel. She and some of the other Kannadiga students rented a house near the college.
She hardly interacted with any of us because she couldn’t speak in English. But still, she was good in Anatomy, in fact much better than anyone in my group. Our group could answer all of Dr. Rajesh’s spot questions during dissection because of her. She used to whisper the answer and help us.
“Why?” I asked Anitha
“Don’t know. I guess she couldn’t cope. She must have been overwhelmed with studies” Anitha shrugged her shoulders.
She went off to talk with others who were discussing about possible reasons for Sreeja to commit suicide.
I leaned against the door grill, too shocked to even think.
“May be she was pregnant” One of the seniors suggested
“Could be. Why else would anyone commit suicide?” Others agreed.
“How do we find out? Did she date any guys? May be she was seeing someone! Anyway she and her Kannadiga gang were staying outside the hostel, No? Who knows what they would be doing?” Aparna asked
“We can always find out the autopsy result from Siddappa, the guy in charge of the mortuary.” Anitha suggested.
“Should we collect some money for her family?” Aparna asked
“Yeah I think we should. I heard she is from a very poor family. May be they can use the money for her funeral.” Anitha spoke
“What do you say Nina?” They asked me
“Sure” I opened my wallet. I had a 50 Rs note and few 5 Rs notes. 5 Rs is too little. 50 Rs? That is a lot of money. I could get at least 15 books from Eloor Library for that money. I took the 5 Rs and gave it to Anitha. I didn’t want to stick around there and listen to all the gossip so I went back to my room.

Although I have heard stories from seniors about medical students committing suicide, Sreeja was the first student to commit suicide in my batch. She was my batch mate. She sat next to me for 18 months. She wrote the exams with me. She waited outside the exam hall with me during the viva.
Yet I knew nothing about her. I never bothered to talk to her. I knew like everyone in my dissection group, I used her. I used her Anatomy knowledge.
Why didn’t I ever talk to her? Why didn’t I ever try to be a friend? If I did, would she have killed herself? Was the language isolation the cause of her death?
I studied in Malayalam medium and why did I not try to understand how hard it would have been for Sreeja to speak English? Why did I join the rest of my classmates and looked down on her and ignored her?
I took the 50 Rs from my wallet and walked out. Anitha was still outside.
“here” I gave the money to her
“Why, You want change?”
“No, give it to Sreeja’s family”
“Didn’t you give some money before you went to your room?”
“Nina, this is a lot of money”
“It is ok” I walked off.
Can a 50 Rs note wash away the guilt? I certainly hoped so. At least I donated more money than everyone else, didn’t I?

Life and death were part of medical college life. There was no mourning, no lowering the flags, no nothing. It was always survival of the fittest. Those who couldn’t fit in were not fit to be remembered. I expected to see Arjun at the bus stop. He wasn’t there. Rupesh was there
“have you seen Arjun?” I asked him
“nah, he hasn’t come back”
“Missing him so much eh?”
“May be” I lied
“I will let him know as soon as I see him. Ok”

All the students in my group were crowding around the patient’s bed and listening to Dr. Narayan, head of the department explaining the case. Nobody ever skips Dr. Narayan’s rounds. He was famous for purposely failing any student who skips his classes. I felt someone tapping my shoulder. I turned to look
“Arjun. What are you doing here?”
“Can you come out now?”
“now, no. Can’t you see I am with Dr. Narayan?”
“What is going on there?” Dr. Narayan was looking at me
“Sir, he wants to know if he can attend the rounds with our batch” I spoke
“Which dept are you posted in young man?”
“Paediatrics sir”
“Then you should be in the Paediatric wards. Look at the patient.” Dr, Narayan pointed to the patient ” Does this pregnant lady looks like a paediatric patient to you?”
Everyone started to laugh.
“Sorry sir”
I saw Arjun quickly walking off.

After the rounds I looked for Arjun. He was waiting for me at the coffee shop.
“hey what was all that about? Why did you want me to skip the rounds?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tell him what? Did he know about me and Beautiful Eyes? Did he know that I was two timing him? Damn it!
I looked at his face. Trying to see what exactly he knew. He looked so serious.
“Nina why didn’t you tell me that your family moved to Bangalore?”
“Huh? What?”
“I met your sister”
“Which one?”
“Liza. I met her at Koshy’s . She told me that your mother moved to Bangalore.”
What? Amma moved to Bangalore already? She never even bothered to let me know. Amma did talk about moving to Bangalore, but she could have let me know. I am her daughter for heaven’s sake
“I am sorry Arjun, I completely forgot about it”
“So now we both can go home every Saturday eh?”
“Hmm, that would be fun isn’t it” I smiled. Inside I was raging. How long was Amma planning to not let me know that she had moved to Bangalore?

S: I am sorry I never tried to be your friend. I am sorry I ignored you.
May your soul rest in peace.

Abraham the link I posted in my last comment is not right.. See this

Nothing gonna change my love

“Do you know why I like to come here?” He asked
I shook my head. I couldn’t guess
“You see the fields over there?” He pointed to the far right.
I looked to where he was pointing. I must be suffering from narrow vision because from the time I sat down, I only saw up to the highway. I never bothered to look beyond that. I was only interested in knowing how far we are from civilization and how long it would take me to reach the civilization in case if I get in to any trouble.
“When I sit here, the view takes me back to my home, to my village, to my people. We have similar fields in our village. Rice fields. Do you know how beautiful it looks? It is like a long carpet, a green colour carpet”
“First it is like a spotted carpet, a mix of brown and green, then it is full green, then there two shades of green, the bottom half is darker and the top lighter, then it is almost golden yellow on the top and green at the bottom. Right?”
I watched the shock on his face. Before he could ask me, how I knew, I answered
“I am a Malayalee, what do you think we eat? Grass? We also grow rice!”
“Oh yeah, I forgot that. Sometimes our worlds are so similar No?”
“I guess”
“Tell me about your home”
I knew this was coming. I knew one day I will have to tell him about home. But what do you tell about home?
“Home is a dream” I replied. I didn’t want to talk about it. Actually there was nothing to talk about it. Some things are best hidden.
He was looking at me. ‘No I don’t want to talk about it’ I tried to tell him with my eyes.
“What is your dream?” He asked
“A lot of things”
“Like what?”
“A world without wars, a world without hunger, a world without racism”
“No Nina, I wasn’t asking you about delusions. I was asking you about your dream about home”
Delusions? Then what would he call my dream about my home? I needed to know what he was going to call that. I could feel the rage in my heart.

“I dream of a family, that lives together, peacefully. A father, a mother and the children living together happily. Visiting grand parents and cousins during holidays, attending functions, celebrations together as a family. That is what I dream” My voice was quivering.
He reached out to hold me
“Don’t” I yelled
“I am sorry. Nina I am really sorry. I didn’t want to make you upset”
“I am not upset”
I hate when my eyes betray me. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want the tears to come out. Not now. But my tears didn’t listen to me.
“Do you know that I have cousins that I have never seen? Do you know that I have never been to a wedding in my family? Do you know that once my dad’s aunt ( Ammachi’s sister in law)was travelling with me in the train and she was sitting right across me and I didn’t recognize her? She saw the mole on my right hand and mentioned that her nephew had similar moles and he was working for British Government? Do you know she was talking about my father? When she was talking so high about her nephew to all the other passengers, I wanted, I so very badly wanted to say that he is my father. I couldn’t. Do you know how it feels, when you are not even able to say that you are your father’s daughter? If I told the lady that she was speaking about my father, it would have embarrassed her in front of everyone. They would have wondered what is this? She didn’t even recognize her famous nephew’s daughter?
Do you know there has never been a day in my family that my parents haven’t fought? Do you know how it feels when you wake up and not hear your mother’s voice? Do you know how your heart pound with fear as you tip toe to your parents bedroom to make sure that your mother is alive?”
He tried to hold me
“Don’t touch me” I screamed
This time he didn’t let go. He held me tight and I tried to break free . But he was too strong. He pulled me close to his chest.
I was angry.
I was angry with him. I was angry with my family. I was angry with Ammachi for holding on to her Suriani faith and treating my Anglican mother badly.
I was angry with Appa for not treating my mother well, I was angry with Amma for not trying to make her marriage work.
I was angry with my parents for having children. They were incapable of being parents, yet they chose to have 4 children.
I was angry with Maria for walking out on us, leaving me with the responsibilities of the oldest sister.
But more than all that, I was angry with myself because I couldn’t break free from my family.
I was so angry. I felt like kicking the bag that was in front of me.
But there was something about leaning on a man. There was something about the way he was holding me, much as I didn’t want him to hold me, I was also soothed by his touch. There was a kind of comfort in his touch. I leaned back on to his body. I could feel my heart slowing down. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want the moment to end.
I heard him singing
If I had to live my life without you near me
The days would all be empty
The nights would seem so long
With you I see forever oh so clearly
I might have been in love before
But it never felt this strong
Our dreams are young and we both know
They’ll take us where we want to go
Hold me now, touch me now
I don’t want to live without you
Nothing’s gonna change my love for you
You ought to know by now how much I love you
One thing you can be sure of
I’ll never ask for more than your love
Nothing’s gonna change my love for you
You ought to know by now how much I love you
The world may change my whole life through
But nothing’s gonna change my love for you

If the road ahead is not so easy
Our love will lead a way for us
Like a guiding star
I’ll be there for you if you should need me
You don’t have to change a thing
I love you just the way you are
So come with me and share the view
I’ll help you see forever too
Hold me now, touch me now
I don’t want to live without you

I felt time stood still. There were only two people that mattered at that point and that was the two of us. I didn’t have to be ashamed of my family. I didn’t have to be ashamed of incest in the family. I was just me and I knew he was happy with me.
“Nina” He called
“What is one thing that would make you happy?”
“Delusion or real?” I asked
“God, you were offended by that?”
“I was initially, but then I realized you spoke the truth. All my dreams regarding my family are delusions. I know they would never come true. But I still keep on dreaming.
I guess the one thing that would make me happy would be watching the sun set”
“Why sun set? Why not sun rise?” he asked
“Setting sun is a sign of a promise”
“You see, when the sun sets, it is promising you, ‘Don’t worry, darkness is only temporary. I will be back in the morning and it will be a beautiful day’.
Where as the rising sun is just a promise honoured!.
I like the setting sun, the way brightness turn to crimson red then to darkness. Even when darkness envelops all around you, in your heart you know brightness is there right around the corner. You just have to wait. It will surely come”

“I like the rising sun. How the rays warm the cold earth. How the leaves shine in the morning light. The tranquility of the morning is so beautiful, the chirping of the birds, the way the town wakes up with sounds from the vehicles, people rushing, all that makes morning interesting” He replied
“I miss most of that, I am not a morning person. I like the nights”
“Yeah I have heard”
“Heard what?”
“That you never get your breakfast because you are always late”
“Who told you that?”
“Don’t know. Someone was talking about you in the hostel”
“So I must be popular”
“Because there isn’t another person like you”
“What do you mean?”
“Nina, much as the guys judged you when the letter came, they also admired you. The fact that you wrote the exam and passed spoke volumes of your courage.”
“Do you always speak hmm language?”
“hmm” I turned to look at him. My face was so close to his. I could hear Shirley Bassey singing at the back of my head. I looked away hoping he wouldn’t have noticed that I was blushing. I was just so relieved when he said
“Baby, we need to go now” He leaned and kissed the back of my head. I didn’t know how to react, so I didn’t move. He let go off me and we both got up.
“Come,let us go” He picked up the bag and held my hand. As I we climbed down the rocks, I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The road may be bumpy, but I knew the journey would be worth it, that the end results would be spectacular.
Naga warrior and a Malayalee from two corners of earth found happiness in each other.

Dear Appa, where ever you are, Wishing you peace, happiness and health on this day and every day..

Free your mind

“How did they do it Nina?” He asked
“Huh? Who did what?” I turn to look at him. He was leaning on the rock and was looking ahead.
“How did a country ruled first by the Romans then by Anglo Saxons, then the Danes and eventually established a monarchy and the descendants of that monarchy manged to rule us? How did they do it?”
Romans? Anglo Saxons? What is this guy talking about? It took me a few seconds to figure out that he was talking about British Empire. The empire where the sun never set!!.
Happiness was knowing that the love of my life loves history just the way I do. I wanted to get up and do a victory dance.
“Because they were systematic” I replied
“Systematic? How could the barbarians be systematic?”
Barbarians? He called the British barbarians? Goodness gracious, that is the name I call them. How did he know that? I looked at him.
“Why are you smiling?” He asked
“Do you know something? When I think of the British, I think of them as modern day Barbarians”
“Because, British had no culture. They had nothing. They changed their rules, when ever they needed to. They were pagans at first, then became Christans with a hope that religion can unite all the Anglo Saxon mini kingdoms and centuries later when the king didn’t get a divorce, he established a new church and called it Anglican church. You see, they were not consistent in their own belief, they changed the rules every time there was a need”
“So how did we land up as their subjects? What do you think happened?”
“Religion I guess.Religion was used to conform people. Religion was used to control and enslave people.”
“Yep Slavery! The Anglican church itself used the religion to enslave people”
“Really? Where?”
“Have you heard of Society for the propagation of gospel in foreign parts?”
“No, tell me about it”
“Well, it was established to evangelize the non believers in the Asia and Africa and America. In fact some of their missionaries were in India promoting education and improving female literacy. But the Church also was actively involved in slave trade. Their sugar plantation survived on slave trade. Their slaves had the word ‘society’ branded on their chest. A lot of people died while in transit to the salve camp, and in the camps.
When the Slavery was abolished compensation was paid. Guess who got the compensation from the British Government? The slaves or their owners?
“Must be the owners”
“Yep, the society that was created to evangelize got compensation for the slaves they set free! You see the paradox? One hand they wanted people to believe in their God, yet they had no problem keeping the same people as slaves. Religion was just a mean to achieve the end result and in their case it was more money. Either way they got it. Cheap labour from the slaves and when it was abolished compensation from the government!”
“But still Nina, how did the British get us sing ‘Yes Sir, No Sir, Three bags full Sir”
“What?” I looked at him stunned
“You know the song right, Ba ba black sheep?”
“Yeah, but the song wasn’t like that it was yes sir, yes sir, three bags full”
“Oh Nina”
“Don’t Oh Nina me. I told you that so many times” I was so angry.
“Oh Nina, Oh my darling Nina, have I told you that you look so pretty when you are angry”
“Get..” I bit my tongue quickly so I won’t say the rest. I knew it I said get lost again, he would start teasing me more.
“Get what Nina? You mean Get lost?” He was smiling
I ignored him. Why do I speak without thinking?
“Come here” He pointed to the space next to him
I ignored him.
“Come here Nina”
“Because it is Saturday” He was laughing so loud
“You wanted a reason why you should come and sit next to me didn’t you? So the reason is Today is Saturday, do you need any other reason to sit next to me?”
“what does that mean?”
“I am not going to tell you”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to”
I watched him getting up and walking towards me.
He sat next to me.
He was looking at me and smiling.
“Nina ma, I was hungry. You have my bag. I asked you to come and sit with me, so you will bring my bag with you and we can eat something”
“what oh?”
“nothing” I wondered why I felt a bit disappointed.
I gave the bag to him. He took out all the stuff he brought. There was bread, Kissan Jam, bananas, potato chips and Indian sweets and Amul Chocolate”
“You can feed an Army with this much of food”
“Well, I don’t know what my Malayalee darling likes to eat, so I had to pack whatever I could find! So what do you want to eat?”
I took some sweets from the box and started to eat, very conscious of the fact that his thighs were touching mine. I thought of all the times I had to endure thigh rubbing in the public buses in Kerala. Yet this time, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I didn’t bother to move my body away.

“When the whites came to India, why did we give them more respect than they deserved? Why did we treat them differently? We have been trading with other nations all through the history right?” He asked me
“then what changed? Why did we start singing ‘Yes sir, No sir, three bags full Sir to the whites?? Why did we think that the whites are superior? Why did we start to dance to all their tunes? Why did we forget out culture? Why did we embrace a new religion? Was it all to make us more equal to the Whites?”
“I don’t know”
“Have you heard of Steve Biko?”
“No” I shook my head
“You haven’t read about him?”
I wondered what I missed reading?
“He was one of the first black people who started to preach about blacks not being inferior to the whites and whites not being superior to the blacks. He said the “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” He started the change and guess what the whites did? They killed him! Then they had the audacity to say that he died because he was on hunger strike! He was a medical student, just like us Nina. He was killed because he spoke the truth. A minority of white could rule over a majority of black because they made them think that they are inferior. You see Nina it is all in the mind. Unless we liberate our mind, we will always be some one’s slave”
“What do you mean?”
“Initially I thought education would change our attitude. But I was wrong. We are not allowed to think. If we have a different opinion, we won’t express it, lest we be called names. We are afraid to think. We are afraid to be different. Look around Nina, India has been independent for decades, yet see the way Indians treat whites.
Have you seen how an ordinary Indian treat a white visitor? For all you know he must be a labourer in England but when he visits India..”
“Yes Sir, No sir, Three bags full Sir” I continued the rest for him.
I understood what he was saying. We have been free from British rule, but the cultural Imperialism..that is alive and kicking.

Further to Abraham’s comment in my last blog, I would like to ask.
“What did you learn in school about Dravidian’s?
I remember studying about Dravidian when I was 11 0r 12 years old. From what I remember, I learned that Dravidian are dark they have curly hair etc etc and were uncultured and uncouth.
My view of Dravidian were something similar to Barbarians, where as I learned that Aryans were superior, they were fair complexioned and they wrote the vedas etc etc.
As a child I didn’t want to be associated with Dravidian. I was glad that I was fair complexioned and have straight hair. I wanted to be associated with learned scholars, not barbarians. In fact I even felt sorry for my older sister, because she was dark and would be considered as a Dravidian!
How did I land up thinking that way? It had to be the way it was taught!

It took years of reading to finally erase all the prejudices I have had and be proud of what I am. ie to accept that I am a homo sapien, just like everybody else.
That being said, has the education system changed? Has the stereo typing changed?