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.

8 thoughts on “pashanam

  1. Back home, Sarah and I am going through your posts I missed for more than a week.

    Sarah, I know you will take us to the present time one day, but it’s getting harder to hold longer.
    So would you please tell us that you and all your three sisters are fine now? That you four are finally settled with a happy family?

    much love to you.

  2. Oh come on …

    And spoil the whole thing? That will be like reading the first few chapters and then skipping to the last chapter of a fine story!

    Hold on to your curiosity while this lady who lived it let it flow at her pace …

    Sarah … if I were you, (which so far I want to be as in personality but not in life, sorry!) I won’t do it!

  3. atleast it seems that your mother was fair! she treated you all equally badly, except maria maybe….:)

    maan what a mad house! and all that because george’s mother decided to cook the bird rather than let him keep it.

  4. @ muthoor: I didnt mean to be a curious cat, rather the mother in me wanted to confirm all was okay. Just a line saying everyone’s okay. Not a post on what the three sisters are upto.
    But then on second thought, that is a selfish me.
    Afterall Sarah is writing to vent her heart and not for entertaining an audience.

  5. Hey Upsilamba … greetings!

    Don’t we all feel the same way …!

    Not only the mother, but father, brother, sister or any other human would feel the same way you did. That is the sign of a good and concerned heart.

    I was only expressing my personal thoughts on your comments.

    The tragedy is; if we take the families in India, don’t you think a few percentages are going through similar situations … regardless of cast, religion or anything that separates us in this wonderful country of such vast regional divergence?



  6. Upsi: The damage done over the years.. they are too deep, that even the maturity that comes with adulthood couldn’t mend it.
    I haven’t seen or spoken to my sisters for so long..

    Muthoor: Thank you

    Art: when it came to love Amma was partial.. Abuse was equally divided!

    Abraham: When I read your comment I remembered a Russian saying that goes like this
    “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost
    For want of the shoe, the horse was lost
    For want of the horse, the rider was lost
    For want of the rider, the war was lost
    For want of the war, the kingdom was lost
    All for the want of the horse shoe nail!

    so yes, all because of a pigeon!

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