Rafiq was waiting for at the lobby.
Good afternoon madam” He greeted as soon as he saw me coming out of the lift.
“Good afternoon Rafiq” I replied.
“Your father has asked me to take you to mall”

We walked towards the car and Rafiq opened the door me. Inside the car felt like a hot oven.
“It is so hot. How do you live here” I asked Rafiq.
“June to September are the hottest period here madam. That is why even our schools close during that time”
“How long have you been working here Rafiq?”
“Almost 15 years madam”
“Do you like it here?”
“I have a big family to support madam”
“How often do you go back Rafiq?”
“I was supposed to go back 5 months ago, but it didn’t happen”
“It is all Allah’s wish, Madam”
“What happened Rafiq?”
“It is a very funny story madam” Rafiq started to laugh
“Tell me what happened”
“5 months ago, I was working as a driver for a construction company that was building a road. All the employees had to stay in a caravan at the site. One day my boss wanted to go to the airport. After dropping my boss, I drove back to the site. There was hardly any vehicles on the road and suddenly I saw a fire engine coming behind my car and I gave way. Because there was no other car on the road, I was actually following the fire engine. It was fun madam. the lights flashing from the fire engine and the ngee ngoo ngee ngoo sound from the horn. I have never travelled behind a fire engine before madam.
Soon I felt sad because the junction that I had to take left turn to reach the site was only few hundred meters away. Then you know what happened?” Rafiq was looking at me
“No, tell me”
“When the fire engine reached the junction, it took a left turn!!!”.
“Arey Wah this is my lucky day” I told myself, so happily I followed the fire engine.”
Then the fire engine took a right turn” Rafiq turned to look at me.
“What? Tell me”
” That road only goes to my campsite. That is where all the caravans are”
“Then what happened?”
“There was a fire that evening, three caravans got burned down. Mine was the third one. I was staying with my friend. My boss asked my friend to get all the stuff out before the fire reached our caravan.”
“And?” I asked Rafiq
” He did” Rafiq nodded his head sadly
“he did get all the stuff out. But only his stuff madam” I could feel his voice quivering.
“I was supposed to go back and visit my family end of that month. My niece was getting married, so I brought all the wedding clothes, gifts for her grooms family, a VCR for my parents, chocolates, everything gone madam. Everything.”
“Gosh! Why Rafiq? why did your friend do that to you ?”
“Don’t know madam. There was enough time to remove all the stuff before the fire reached my caravan, I would never know why he didn’t help me madam. All that was left were the clothes I wore that day and my car”
“I couldn’t go home empty handed Madam. I didn’t have the heart to see the disappointed faces of my family members Madam”
“hmm.I know what you mean Rafiq” I replied
“I didn’t want to work there anymore madam. 2 days after I left, my friend told me your father was looking for a driver and I applied. Your father is a very nice man Madam”
“I know” I smiled
My father was a good man. Good to everyone except his own family.
“Your father is very proud of you Madam. he always talks about you”
“Really? What does he say?”
“That you read a lot, very intelligent, and going to be a very famous doctor”
“Rafiq,It is true that I read a lot, but I am not as intelligent as my sisters or my father.”
“hmm” It was Rafiq’s turn to mumble.
I noticed an open truck carrying people at the back travelling on the right lane.
“Who are those people? Why are they travelling in the truck like that at this time of the day?” I asked Rafiq.
Rafiq looked outside and shook his head sadly
” All those people are being transported to the jail madam, they were caught for not having a proper visa and are arrested by the immigration department”
I looked at them. They all looked tired and shocked and I knew the sun shining ever so brightly wasn’t showing any mercy to them either. Why can’t a governtment show a little bit of mercy on people? Legal or illegal, they are still humans. They don’t have to be carried in a truck like that.
They didn’t look like Indians. They all had sharp features and deep set eyes.
“Where are those people from?”
“They are Pathans like me madam”
“Pathan? You are a Pathan?”
“yes madam”
“What do you mean”
“I am a Rohilla madam”
“Yes Madam. I am a Rohilla. My great great grandfather fought against the British and we lost the war. British started to kill our people and my great great grand father fearing for the safety of his family moved to Bombay”
“What war was that?” I asked Rafiq
“Don’t know Madam. My grand father told me that they(British) plundered the Treasury of our king and after that killed a lot of our people for no reason.”

I hadn’t a clue what Rafiq was talking about. I knew about Pathans from Afghanistan, who were mostly cavaliers and traders. I made a mental note to ask Appa about it.

Rafiq took me to the malls and I looked around. I bought few dresses for my sisters and it was already time to pick Appa from his work. As we were leaving the mall, I noticed a small shop by the side of the mall. A lot of people were crowding around the shop and most of them were eating something that looked like a roll
“What are they eating?”
“That is Falafel madam”
“Falafel? What is that?”
“You wait here Madam” Rafiq kept all the shopping bags in the ca and walked towards the shop. A little while later he came back with a roll that was wrapped in white transparent paper.
“Try this madam” He passed the roll to me
“How much was it?”
“Nothing much madam”
“I won’t eat it until you tell me how much it costs”
“Don’t worry about the money Madam Pathans don’t take money from family madam”
I couldn’t argue with someone who considered me as part of his family. I took the falafel roll from him and removed the paper wrapping and started to eat.
The roll was stuffed with grated carrots, lettuce and something that looked like crumbled parippuvada.
“Oh this is so yummy, Thank you so much Rafiq” I spoke
“You are welcome madam. Do you like to eat Fish madam?”
“Yes of course”
“There is a Pathan restaurant here, they make excellent fried Fish. I sometimes take your father there.You only have to pay for the fish. Khubbus is free”
“It is something like Naan madam”
“oh, May be we will go there today” I replied
“Sure madam”

Sic Semper Tyrannis

I kicked the slipper as hard as I could and watched it flying in the air and hitting the door and falling down. I was so angry at the door for being there, so I kicked the door. The door swung open, hit the sidewall and swung back to the original position. I didn’t like the way the door was behaving. I wanted it to stay open, so I kicked it again and again, each time the door hit the side wall and it was making too much of noise. I knew the neighbours would come out to check what is going on or who is making so much of noise. I didn’t give a damn.
Did one of them ask my father who the woman was?
Did one of them bothered to find out if this man had a wife and children elsewhere?
Did one of them bothered? No, I kicked the door again.
Then I remembered how I worked hard to organize the kitchen. I wasn’t going to do the hard work for some stupid woman who was trying to steal my father from us. I ran to open the cupboard. The first one had all the tea, coffee and sugar arranged neatly. The bottles looked clean and neat. Just like the bottles in my mother’s cupboards. My mother too was fuzzy about the labels on the bottles. She too spend hours soaking the bottles and scrubbing the labels off.

I stood there motionless. On one hand I realized I was becoming like my mother and on the other hand I knew I was stuck in the loyalty whirlwind created by my father and my mother. I wasn’t sure which was worst, being stuck or becoming like Amma.
I heard the sound of door being opened.

I quickly closed the cupboard, threw the wretched slippers in the bin and closed the bin
“Something smells good” I heard Appa talking
“Hmm” I tried to smile.
“I am famished, let me go and wash my hands” Appa sounded so happy.
I opened the casserole and served the food.
“Wow, Biriyani eh?” Appa saw the food in the plate and asked
“Hmm” I answered
He sat down and started to eat.
“It is really good Nina, I didn’t know you could cook, who taught you to cook?”
“Nobody, I learned on my own”
“You know Nina, This biriyani tastes exactly like my mother’s”
I didn’t reply. I didn’t even bother to tell Appa that the Biriyani would taste exactly like Ammachi’s because she was the one who taught me how to make it.
What was the point in giving credit to someone who betrayed you?
Sic Semper tyrannis* That is the fate of tyrants (who betray you). They never get credit for all the good deeds they have done. Sic semper Tyrannis, sic temper tyrannis, Inquilab Zindabad, Sic semper Tyrannis. I kept chanting that over and over in my head.
“Nina I am talking to you” I heard Appa shouting
“Sorry Appa, what did you say?”
“I asked, what else can you cook?”
“I can cook Pasta, Pizza and..”
“No, not the western food. Do you know to make any Malayalee food? I haven’t had a nice Malayalee meal for such a long time”
I wanted to ask Appa doesn’t the owner of the green slipper, who over the phone asked me Arathu (who is it?) in Malayalam know how to cook?
I wanted Appa to quit playing his pathetic drama. I thought of getting up and bringing the slipper from the bin and show it to Appa. But I also knew how it would pan out.
It would all have been the fault of Amma, who never knew how to be a ‘proper’ wife. It would never be the fault of the man who always loved to run away from responsibilities.
“Do you know how to make fish curry with kodumpuli (kokum)?”
“Good, I will ask Rafiq to buy some fish. Tomorrow you can make moru and meenkari (yogurt curry and fish curry)”
I watched Appa taking second serve. I should have been proud, that my father liked my cooking. I didn’t. I just wanted to go back home to my mother. Back to the woman who was never perfect, yet never gave up trying. She was the only one in the crowd who stood and fought and never once gave up.

My maternal grandparents, they gave up on us long ago when they learned that they couldn’t control Amma the way they wanted to.
Ammachi, she gave up on us when Appa found a new woman.
Appa, he had given up on us before we were even born.
Maria, she gave up on us when she got a job.
I knew soon Liza and Sally too would leave.
That left with only two people. My mother and I. As much as I hated her, I also knew she was all I had and she is all I have

*Sic Semper tyrannis: Brutus spoke that after assassinating Caesar. Meaning this would always be the fate of tyrants. Actual translation is here

Size 6..

I woke up startled, wondering where I was? The room looked so different from my hostel room. My blanket was the softest fluffiest blanket unlike the rough and hard blanket I use at the hostel. The bed looked so different from the metal bed or the ‘mattress bed’ at home.
It took me a few moments to realize that I am actually in Dubai. Then I remembered Appa.
‘Oh my goodness,I forgot about him’. I jumped out of the bed and opened the door and went to the living room, half expecting to see my father sitting on the rocking chair and reading the news paper.
The chair was empty.
“Appa” I called out
There was no response. I started to look for him. I checked his bed room, kitchen and the study. I couldn’t find him.
Then I noticed the note on the dining table. I read the message
‘I will send Rafiq at 4pm’.
4 Pm? What time is it now? I looked at the clock. It was 10.15!!
I wasn’t planning to wake up so late. I didn’t want Appa to think that I am lazy. I should have got up early and made breakfast for Appa. But I knew there was no point in regretting.
I walked to the balcony and looked outside. I could see the cool blue ocean in the far distance. I thought I saw a yacht, I wanted to have a better look, so I opened the glass sliding door to go out.
entey ammo I almost screamed. It was so hot outside. It almost felt like I was walking in to an oven. I closed the sliding door quickly.
Yesterday at the airport I thought everyone was lying to me about how hot it is and today I learned what everyone said was true. This place is burning hot.
How do people survive working in this hot weather?
I remembered my father’s cousin who worked in Saudi Arabia as a surveyor coming to Chengannur house to visit us when we came back from Malaysia. He was trying to compare Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and in the process act big by belittling Malaysia.
But I did remember him saying how hot the place was and that the only shade he ever got while doing survey in the dessert was when a plane flew overhead!! I thought he was puluadikkufying(lying).
But that was not all, he had given me a white staedtler eraser and I was so upset that he gave me such a cheap gift. How could he give me such a lousy eraser, that had no smell and no pictures on it?
I remembered all those times Amma and us complained after inspecting the stuff Appa brought home. As I stood there in the comfort of the cool air conditioned room, I felt terribly guilty for not trying to understand how hard life in the dessert would be.
How we wait as vultures for our loved ones to come back from Gulf, so we can plunder the goods they bring home and then complain.

I saw that Appa had kept all the newspaper neatly on the coffee table. I had nothing else to do, so I sat on the couch to read the paper.
I noticed the Tuesdays’ Khaleej Times had a special Kids news paper. I knew my sisters would love to read the adventures of Otto. So I went through the news paper box underneath the coffee table and collected all the previous Kids news paper.
I continued to read the paper and went through all the classified ads. Most of them were for Cars and then I saw the personal message column. I read who all passed the driving test and then I saw a message that read
“Welcome to Dubai Kochumaharani, love Appa”
I read it again. It was not Nina, but Kochumaharani. Appa hadn’t called me that name for so long. Was the message for me?
I picked up the phone and dialled Appa’s office number
“Thomas speaking” I heard Appa’s voice
“Appa, it is me”
“Appa, I saw” I spoke
“Saw what?” He asked
What if the message was for someone else?
“Saw what Nina?”
“the message in the paper” I replied hesitantly
“It took you a long time. I was expecting your call for more than an hour”
“oh yes Kochumaharani”
“Why didn’t you tell me Appa? what if I never saw it?”
“Do you remember the time your mother send you out to buy eggs?”
“The time Amma was trying to bake a cake for you?”
“Yep, the time, you tried to read the news paper the egg was packed in and dropped the eggs!”
I remembered the incident very well. I was walking back from Anichettan’s shop after buying the eggs and noticed the photo on the news paper cover. It was a black and white photo of a lovely lady with a sharp nose and beautiful eyes and without thinking, I turned the cover to read the caption under the photograph.I just wanted to know who that beautiful lady was It was the photo of Kerala Governer Jyothi Venketachalam lighting the lamp for some function in Kottayam.
“I know you Kochumaharani, I know you would read every single sentence in the paper” I heard Appa speaking.”That is why I didn’t tell you”
“Thank you Appa, you made my day”
“Did you eat something?”
“Not yet”
“You only woke up now?”
“Not really”
“oh you woke up half an hour ago?”
“More likely” I started to laugh
“Nina, I have to work. Raifq will wait for you downstairs at the lobby around 4 pm, you can go to the malls and come and fetch me around 7 pm, then we will go out for dinner, ok?”
“Sure Appa, once again Thank you very much Appa”
“You are welcome Nina”
“Bye Appa” I put the phone down.
I was so happy. I felt like dancing. I switched on the music system. There was already a cassette inside, so I didn’t bother to change it. I heard Freddie Mercury singing We will rock you. I too stamped my feet and clapped my hand along with the song. It felt so good to be alone in a cozy apartment and listen to the music and dance. It felt good to be free. I was beginning to feel a bit hungry, I danced all the way to the kitchen and started going through the cupboard.
It was a total mess.
Sugar was kept with Chilli powder and Olive oil
Nescafe, tea and rice was in one shelf.
Masala powders were in different sizes and types of bottles. All the bottles still had the nescafe/jam etc labels still on them. I hated labels on the bottles. I didn’t mind reusing bottles, but it surely doesn’t hurt removing the old labels.
Chilli powder in a pineapple jam bottle looked odd. Only my father can be so lazy to remove the labels before reusing the bottles.
I took all the bottles out. Filled the sink with water and gently removed all the labels. Then I dried all the bottles and arranged them neatly.Spices in one shelf, lentils in another shelf, coffee, tea and sugar in another shelf. As I arranged them I remembered the woman’s voice on the phone.
No, it would have been a mistake, there was nothing that indicated of a woman’s presence in this house. The kitchen cupboards are the testament. Only Appa could have such a disorganized kitchen I told myself.
But I wasn’t sure, I still wanted to check. Though much as I didn’t want to snoop and be like my mother, there was a need to know the truth. I quietly walked in to Appa’s room.
First I opened Appa’s closet. All his cloths were hung neatly. There were no woman’s cloths. I checked the toilet, there was only Appa’s toiletries. I checked the study, there were few files from Appa’s office and books.
I felt so stupid for thinking that Appa had a mistress. I felt so guilty for doubting my own father. I wanted to do something for my father. I didn’t know what to do. I looked at the clock, it was almost 11.45pm. If I hurried I could cook lunch for Appa. That is the least I could do for my father. I knew Appa loved Biriyani. I checked the freezer for meat. There was only ice cubes and some ice cream inside the freezer.
It took a while but I still managed to make Egg Biriyani and onion raita with tomatoes( there was no yogurt). As soon as the Biriyani was done, I called Appa’s office
“Thomas speaking”
“It is me Appa, have you had your lunch yet?”
“Not yet Nina, I will be going out to eat soon. Why?”
“Can you come back home for lunch?”
“I cooked lunch for you”
nee enney kollan ulla paripadi ano? ( would I die after eating food cooked by you?”
“If you don’t want, then don’t come”
“Ok ok. Give me 20 minutes.”
“Thanks Appa, Bye” I put the phone down.
I quickly set the table. Then I noticed the onion peel on the floor. I couldn’t find the broom, but I found the vacuum cleaner. I didn’t know how to operate the vacuum cleaner. It took me few minutes to figure it out. I switched on the machine and was amazed to see how the machine sucks in all thee dirt. Since I was already cleaning, I thought I might as well vacuum the whole house. I cleaned the living room, then I went to Appa’s room. it was difficult to clean under the bed, so sat on the floor and tried to see if there is any dirt under the bed. I saw a pair of slippers under the bed. I thought, Appa must have misplaced the slippers. I used the long handle of the vacuum and pulled the slippers towards me.
I looked at the slippers. It was a pair of green color rubber slippers. From the look of it, I knew the slipper was well used, the sole of the slipper had almost worn out.
Appa is so stingy, why does he use such worn out slippers? I wondered
I took the slippers and walked back to the kitchen I wanted to throw them out before Appa came back. I opened the rubbish bin and was about to throw the slippers when I noticed that the slippers indeed look small. It was almost my size. My father wears Size 11. I put the slippers down and kept my feet next to it. It was a perfect fit. Size 6 !!

Om Shanti

“Come, we have reached home” Appa spoke finally. We haven’t spoken a word since he yelled at me for not knowing what to order at the restaurant.
I looked at Rafiq to see if he would be opening the car door for me. He was still holding the steering wheel, so I opened the door and got out.
“Sir, would you be needing me this evening?” Rafiq asked
“No, Park the car and bring the key,” Appa ordered.
I looked around. I was standing in front of a tall building. Walls were painted with light brown paint. Palm trees were planted in the neat row around the building. On the right side I saw couple of kids roller blading. I hoped they stayed close to where Appa stays. I really wanted to learn Roller blading! I was about to ask Appa, if he knew those kids, when I heard Appa talking
“They are mad”
“Who?” I asked
“Those kids” Appa pointed to the right. “They are always playing there, they make so much noise. Can’t they see that this is a residential area?”
“See, all the stunts they do? They don’t even wear a helmet. They are asking for trouble.”
“hmm” I mumbled.
I realized I would have to find where those kids are staying by myself!
“Finally, it sure takes him a lot of time to park the car, bloody fool” Appa mumbled. I looked around to see where Rafiq was and saw him getting out of another car, a white car and running towards Appa to hand over the keys.
“Good night Sir, good night Madam” Rafiq bowed his head.
“Good night” Appa mumbled and turned to walk inside. Why can’t my father be a bit nice? I wondered
“Good night Rafiq” I smiled and greeted him. He too smiled and I knew he must have been thinking how did this Moron get a nice daughter!!! I couldn’t stop smiling thinking about it.
Appa turned to look at me and I tried to look as serious as I could. I was afraid he would think I was flirting with the driver and I knew that would lead in to another screaming session. I decided to change the topic quickly
“Does your office provide a car for the diver too?” I asked Appa
“Nah, that is his own car”
“Really? He can afford to buy his own car?”
“That was some kattarabi’s old vehicle. kattarabi didn’t have the patience to advertise and look for a buyer for old car. Rafiq negotiated with the kattarbi. Instead of paying a lump sum he pays 150 Dirhams every month. It would take Rafiq another 5 years to pay back. But right now, he is the king among his friends. He is the only one who owns a car. He is enjoying his new found status”
“wow, what kind of car is that?”
“Mazda 323 sedan”
“hmm” I mumbled
We were waiting at the lift lobby and suddenly Appa asked
“Nina, how did Mazda get its name?”
I was stunned. It was just like all those years in my childhood. Appa was asking me questions. But much as I was glad that we were recapturing the magic of childhood, I also felt disappointed. I had no clue how Mazda got its name. I wanted to know, I wanted to answer my father’s question. I tried to think. Mazda, Japanese, Keiko, Monako, Masako, nothing none of those made any sense.
Mazda, how did the word Mazda originated?
Mazda, Mazada? Masada
“Is it from the word Masada?” I asked Appa hopefully
“Masada?” Appa looked at me
“Yeah, Masada, remember battle of Masada, Jews and the Romans”
“Oh that one, No Nina, the word Mazda didn’t come from the word Masada”
The lift door opened and few people came out. We got inside and Appa pressed number 11. I wished Appa would ask me what number 11 in Malay( seblas) or Mandarin(shiyi) or French(onze) or even German(elf). I could have answered, but I didn’t know how Mazda got its name.
Appa looked at me and I shook my head
“Ahura Mazda, the word came from Ahura Mazda”
“Do you know who is Ahura Mazda?” Appa asked
That was the third item in a day I didn’t know
I shook my head
“You need to read more Nina” Appa sounded Agitated
“Ahura Mazda is the name of Zoroastrian God”
“Oh” I was awed
“Do you know who are Zoroastrians?”
“Parsi’s” At least I knew that.
Appa didn’t answer and I knew my answer wasn’t what he was expecting. I promised myself I would read more about Zoroastrians when I get back to Bangalore
Lift stopped at 11 Th floor and Appa held the door open for me.
I thought of telling Appa I am sorry for not knowing who are Zoroastrians. But Appa had already started to walk. I quickly followed him.
“B-11-3, remember that.” Appa pointed to the sign on top of the wooden doorframe.
“Sure” I replied, still hoping Appa would ask me a question about number 11. I so very badly wanted my father’s approval, so very badly wanted him to tell me that he was proud of me. Appa opened the door
“Welcome home Nina” He spoke
‘Home? This wasn’t home. Home was in a small village in Chengannur. This was a house, not a home. I thought of telling that to Appa, instead I told him
“Thank you Appa”
The first thing I noticed was the chandelier in the living room. It was so beautiful.
“Come, I will show you your room” Appa spoke
I followed Appa.
My room was twice the size of Amma’s bedroom in Bangalore. There was a big bed with a headboard in the middle. There was also a dressing table and a cupboard. All the furniture was in matching colours. Appa showed me how to switch on the AC.
“Do you want to take a shower first?”

Appa was watching TV when I came out.
“neerattam kazhinjo? (finished bathing?)” He asked
“hmm” I replied
“This is for you” He handed me and envelope
“What is it?” I asked
“Open and see”
I opened the envelope quickly.
There were a bundle of crisp bank notes inside.
“That is 1500 dirhams. You can buy what ever you want with that”
“Thank you Appa”
“Rafiq will take you to all the malls”
I held the money in my hands. Liza’s shoes, dresses for Liza and Sally and something for Amma. I would be able to buy all that.
“Can you cook?” Appa asked
“Of course I can, Amma always..” The word had slipped out of my tongue. Of all the words on earth, that was one word I shouldn’t have spoken. It was the key to Pandora’s box.
“Where is your mother now?” Appa was staring at me
“At home” I replied, hoping Appa won’t ask where is the home
“What about your sisters?”
“Chechy is working in Bangalore, Liza got Admission to do Pre degree at Jyothi Nivas”
“Appa” I called
“What is it?” He sounded serious
“I was wondering, since Maria, Liza and I are in Bangalore, should I bring Sally to Bangalore as well?”
“So we will all be together and besides schools in Bangalore are much better than Kottayam.”
“Have you found any schools yet?”
“There are few good schools. There is Bishop Cottons, but it is difficult to get admission. There is also Baldwin school. My classmates aunty teaches there, so I can always ask her for help to get the admission”
Appa didn’t speak anything. I wasn’t sure what to do next.
“It will be good for Sally Appa” I spoke again.
“Where will she stay in Bangalore?” Appa asked
“Along with Liza, There are paying guest accommodations available”
“What does your mother say?”
“I don’t know. What would she say? It is better for Sally right?” I looked at Appa. I knew the trump card and I knew my father would do anything to make his wife unhappy. Taking her daughter away from her would be the best idea!
“I will have to convince Amma. It is better for Sally that she studies in Bangalore” I used the trump card
“Ok” he agreed
“So you will pay her fees”
“I said ok, didn’t I?” Appa screamed at me
“Ok ok ok” I was so relieved. I didn’t get upset with Appa for screaming at me. But I wanted the money now, so I could send the draft to Amma. But I couldn’t ask Appa. I realized Appa would know that everything I said until now was a big lie. I had to find some other way to get the money to pay Sally’s fees. I simply had to.
I was tired and exhausted emotionally.
“Appa, what time do you go to work?” I asked
“I leave at 7”
“Why? you think 7 is too early?
I knew we are in for another lecture about time management and work etiquette.
“No Appa, 7 is not too early. I start my clinics at 7” I replied
Only if Appa knew the truth! Only I knew how many times I missed morning rounds because I didn’t get up on time! But that was my secret
“Good night Appa”
“Good Night Nina”

I lay down on the bed and tried to sleep. I couldn’t. My heart felt heavy. I had lied to my own father. Situations and circumstances didn’t permit me to speak the truth and I had no choice but to lie. That didn’t make it right. A lie is still a lie.
I closed my eyes and recitedOM. Dyauh Shantir-antirksha-gwam, Shantih Prithivi, Shanti-rapah, Shantir-aushdhayah, Shantih. Vanaspatyah, Shantir-vishve Devah, Shantir-brahma, Shantih, Sarva-gwam Shantih, Shantir-eva, Shantih, Shantih Saa Maa, Shantiredhi. Om shanti.
I found this on Youtube, one of the best documentary I have seen of late

be back soon

Forgot… Today is Mama’s and Baby’s day out..
Baby was sad that she never gets to spend quality time with Mama. ( Mama always spend time with Yaya and Chacha!!!)
I am taking her out for coffee( for me) and cake( for her)..
Will update the blog when I come back in the after noon!

update: Sorry, just came back, we had too much fun!!
Wishing you all a great weekend

if only!

I could see Rafiq driving a shiny black car. I wasn’t sure what model/brand car it was. Then I saw the distinct circle with blue and white quadrants.
“BMW eh?” I asked Appa
“Oh yes” Appa smiled.
I wasn’t surprised at all that my father owns a BMW. It was always his favourite brand. I knew Appa would ask me what BMW stood for. He always used to ask me that question when I was little. I looked at my father, eagerly waiting for the question, so I could tell him BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works. I wanted Appa to know that I hadn’t forgotten any of the things he taught me.
But he didn’t ask me.
I looked at my father. He was busy opening the door for me. He sat next to me at the back.
“Sir where to?” Rafiq asked Appa
“Are you hungry Nina?” Appa asked me
“hmm” I mumbled
“Ok, let us go and eat something. “Indian food?” Appa was looking at me
“Rafiq, take us to the Indian restaurant near the souk”
“ok sir”
I looked outside. I didn’t understand what was going on. How did my father became a stranger to me? I so very badly wanted to recapture the wonderful times I had with my father when I was little.
“Appa, BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works, No?” I asked Appa, hoping I could still make him feel proud of me.
“Yes” He nodded his head. He was looking outside, as though there were more interesting things outside.
“Those are palm trees” Appa pointed to the trees planted on the median. “Every single plant that grows here is watered regularly. That is why this place is so green”
“Hmm” I replied
I noticed the pink and white flowers we used to call shavam nari poo.. growing wildly on road sides. Nobody wanted to keep those plants at home in Kerala. Yet in Dubai it was thriving and the only reason it was thriving was because someone bothered to water it.
shavam nari poovintey bhagyam(lucky flowers), I thought. At least it was loved and wanted somewhere. What about me?
May be Rafiq noticed the eerie silence inside the car, he turned on the car stereo.
I almost smiled when I heard Beatles singing ‘Yesterday’. I leaned back on the plush seat and closed my eyes.
Paul McCartney was singing
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Yesterday, I was my father’s little daughter, his little angel. He used to carry me on his back and I would yell edathaney, valthaney( turn left, turn right). He was the one who taught me the constellations. He was the one who introduced me to country songs. He knew my favourite food, my favourite colour, my favourite actor today, he didn’t even know who is Salman Khan, he didn’t care to notice that while he was travelling in a BMW, I was struggling to raise money for my sister’s( his youngest daughter) school fees.
My beautiful yesterdays were nothing but a brief moment in life that would never be repeated.
All of a sudden I was nothing but a stranger to my father, stranger connected by genes and two birth marks on the right hand.
The journey was smooth until now and suddenly I could feel the car going over a bump every few seconds. I opened my eyes to see what was going on. We were on a bridge..I thought of asking Appa what is the name of the bridge. But I hated my father. I hated the way he was treating his family. I didn’t want to talk to him.
Besides I thought,What am I going to gain by knowing the name of the bridge? ‘Nothing.’
I closed my eyes.
After a while I heard Appa speaking to Rafiq.
“Rafiq, you can drop us here. You go and eat your dinner, come back and fetch us in about an hour”
“ok Sir”
“Nina, wake up. We have reached the restaurant” Appa tapped my thigh gently.
“ok” I opened my eyes and mumbled
We got off the car. There were lots of people in the street. Almost all of them were Indians. I noticed few women wearing the black Purdah and walking quickly. One of them had shiny golden colour metal mask on her face, that covered he lips and part of her nose. She had beautiful eyes, still she looked scary. She reminded me of Medusa and her Gorgon mask. I remembered reading why Medusa’s eyes were not covered, while her mouth was covered with the mask. It was because she was full of wisdom that allowed her to see the truth, but her mouth was deadly hence it was always covered.
Appa opened the restaurant door for me.
One of the waiter saw us and quickly approached us
“hello Sir, how are you Sir?”
“Good” Appa answered
” your daughter?” He asked Appa, when he saw me
“Yes” Appa nodded.
“Come this way Sir” The waiter started to walk and we followed.
He lead us to a table near the window.
“What do you want to eat?” Appa asked
“Anything Appa”
“Anything? I asked what do you want to eat? What does anything means? What does the waiter understand when you tell him to bring anything? Do you think he has a crystal ball in his hand? Anything, avalde ammentey thala( her mother’s head!!)” Appa was yelling at me.
I had never been to this restaurant before and how am I supposed to know what is available? I stared at my father. The waiter was looking at both of us. Even people sitting at the other tables were looking at us. My father seems to enjoy humiliating me in public.
“can I have the menu please?” I asked the waiter
“Sure madam” he went to get the menu.
I was so mad at the waiter. He could have brought the menu earlier, instead of standing there like a telephone post. My father wouldn’t have yelled at me.
But I knew there was no point in blaming the waiter.
How did my mother ever live with this unreasonable man? I wondered.
Why was he getting angry with me because I didn’t know what to order?
When the waiter brought the menu, I went through it quickly, because I knew if I took a second longer, my wonderful father would start the next session of yelling
“One chicken Biriyani and one tea” I ordered
“Anything else madam, we serve excellent fried chicken here”
“No thanks”
“I will have a thali meal” Appa ordered
Thali meal, I would loved to have Thali meal. In my hurry to order, I didn’t notice thali meals in the menu. I heard the waiter asking Appa
“Anything else sir”
“Coffee, bring the coffee later”
I could still cancel the chicken biriyani and ask for thali meal. But I knew my father well. he would be yelling at me for being fickle minded. I didn’t want to be yelled at.
We ate in total silence. I could see the street from where I was sitting. I saw a father and mother holding their children’s hands and crossing the street. Father was holding the daughter’s hands and the mother was holding the son’s hand. They were talking to each other and laughing. I envied them.
When they reached the restaurant, I saw the older girl tugging her father’s hands and pointing to the restaurant. Her father shook his head and said No. The girl started to cry, while trying to pull her father towards the restaurant. Her mother grabbed her hand and started to walk away, almost dragging the child. She turned one last time to look at the restaurant and saw me watching her. I could see the envy in her little eyes. Only if she knew!

Dream come true

I just couldn’t believe it!
I am on my way to meet my father in Dubai. Is this some kind of a dream?
I looked around me and immediately noticed the guy sitting in the aisle seat in the front row was still staring at me. He has been staring at me from the time the flight took off. When he saw that I noticed him, instead of looking away, he smiled at me.
I knew in an instant that this wasn’t a dream. You do not dream about weirdos smiling at you. That only happens in real life.
I took my novel to read. After a while I realized my attempt to read one of the best books written by Irwin Wallace was futile. I couldn’t concentrate, I was too excited. First, I saw Salman Khan and now I am going to Dubai.
I wondered if I was excited because I would be seeing my father or that I get to see Dubai? I wanted to say seeing my father after a long time was important, but I was going to Dubai, The Arabian peninsula! the land, full of historical stories.
My fascination with Persian and Arab history started with reading Scheherazade’s 1001 nights. The seven voyages of Sinbad the sailor to all those fascinating foreign lands made me want to learn more about Persian history.
I have read so much about the rise and fall of the of Persian empire, especially the Sassanian dynasty and its eventual destruction by the Muslim Caliphate. I loved to read about the battle of Talas( AD751), where the Arabs defeated Chinese Army.
To be able to visit a part of the land you have known through stories is a nothing but a dream come true and mine was coming true.

When the seat belt sign came on and I heard the captain announcing something, I knew we would be landing soon. I looked outside.
My idea of Dubai was nothing but a sprawling dessert and few buildings.
The first thing I noticed were the trees, not just here and there one or two trees. There were acres of trees.
Trees? In a dessert? I looked outside again. Did I get in to the wrong flight? I should have listened to what the captain was talking when we took off. But then again I rely on lip reading and I can’t really decipher words over the speaker system.
kashum illa,evidannu ariyahtum illa..thaley vara!!( my destiny! I have no money with me and I haven’t a clue where I was!)
“Ladies and gentle men” The captain announced. His next words sounded to me like he was eating a mouthful of boiled tapioca and trying to speak at the same time. I concentrated and I did hear the word Dubai and to me that is all that mattered.
I took my backpack and stood in the aisle along with all the other passengers. There was a bus waiting outside to take all the passengers to the arrival hall and as usual all the passengers were trying to be the first to get inside the bus. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I waited. The air outside was a bit dry, but it wasn’t hot at all. I was expecting hell fire, because that is what everyone who went to Gulf told me. It wasn’t even as hot as Bangalore during summer months.

From outside the airport looked almost like the Subang Airport in Malaysia, old and dirty. What is the use of being an oil rich country, if you can’t even have proper airport? I wondered.
As I stepped in to the arrival hall, it was like I was transported in to a magical castle. It was so beautiful. I just stood there mesmerised. The floors were clean and shiny. The walls didn’t have a speck of dirt on it. The lights on the ceilings were so pretty. I had never seen anything like this before and I understood why my father chose to work in Dubai.
This was heaven on earth.
I didn’t have any baggage to claim, so I walked to the immigration counter and gave my passport. I looked at the man sitting at the counter. He looked pretty serious. He checked my passport, turned all the pages, checked again.
“I don’t need a visa, because I am a Malaysian Citizen” I told him.
He stared at me and I knew he didn’t appreciate my help.
Without another word, he got up from the chair and went inside to the a room by the side of the counter.
Few minutes later he came out with another serious looking guy.
“Is this your passport?” Second guy asked
I thought of telling him alla, ente ammentey aa..(no it is my mother’s). Can’t he see my photo inside?
“Where are you from?”
“Then how come you have a Malaysian Passport?”
“Because I am a Malaysian Citizen”
He was talking something in Arabic to the first guy and I knew it was time to act
“I was born in Malaysia to a Malaysian mother. My family moved to India, so we could study in India”
“Where is your place of birth?” Second guy asked
He checked my passport to verify my answers.
“Where is Penang?”
“It is an island in the west Malaysia, close to Kedah and Perak”
“How long you lived there?”
“till I was 10”
“Why are you visiting Dubai?”
“Because my father works here?”
“Where does your father work?”
I told him the answer, then he asked for the Appa’s office number and address.
“How long are you going to stay here?”
“10 days”
“10 days? Why 10 days?”
“Because I have to go back and write my exams”
“What are you studying?”
I was getting annoyed with the questioning. I thought of asking him, if I look like a criminal to him?
He spoke something in Arabic to the first guy and handed my passport to him.
Without another word the first guy stamped my passport and gave it to me
“next” he shouted
“Thank you” I spoke as I was leaving
He didn’t even respond.
What is wrong with all these immigration people? Why can’t they be nice?
I didn’t know the answer.
As I walked out of the immigration area, I could see through the glass partition the anxious faces of relatives waiting for their family members. I checked to see if I could find Appa, then I saw him. Appa had seem me already and he was smiling.
I ran to him, like all those times I ran to him when he used to pick me up at my school.
“Oh Appa, I missed you so much” I hugged him
“My God Nina, you have changed so much” Appa spoke
“hmm” I mumbled
I looked at my father. He was wearing a blue and red check shirt and a black trousers.
He had aged so much since the last time I saw him. His hair was all grey and I knew if Amma was around, she would have ensured that he dyed his hair.
“Where is your luggage?” Appa asked
“only this” I pointed the bag to him
“only this?” Appa asked
In an instant I regretted not bringing anything for my father. I should have bought something for him, I shouldn’t have listened to Amma. But it was too late, way too late.
“Appa I only brought few of my things.”
I knew I had to tell Appa.
“Yes Nina”
“I am so sorry, I didn’t bring anything for you. I didn’t have time to buy anything”
“That is ok Nina.” Appa spoke. I could feel the disappointment in his voice and I hated Amma for giving me the wrong advice.
” How was your flight?” Appa asked
“Do you know what? I saw Salman Khan” I tried to change the topic and cheer Appa.
“Salman Khan?”
Aiyyo, entey Appa! He is a famous Hindi film actor”
“Oh” Appa mumbled
“Rafiq, this is my daughter” Appa introduced me to the man who was standing a few feet away from us and was watching us all these while
“Nina, Rafiq, my driver”
“Rafiq, can you get the car?” Appa asked him
“Yes sir” Rafiq nodded


When the flight landed in Bombay, I looked around to see where is the terminal for Dubai flight. I couldn’t find anything. I spotted a man wearing a light blue shirt and holding a walkie talkie. I assumed he would be an airport employee and I walked up to him and asked
“Excuse me Sir, where do I catch the flight to Dubai?”
He looked at my face, then at my back pack and again at my face. His facial expression changing from shock, surprise and finally to anger.
“This is the domestic airport. You need to go to Sahar airport for international flight” He spoke
“Oh! Where is Sahar airport?” I asked
He stared at me with a look that said,’ which planet are you from?’
I suddenly felt so mad. I was angry with Appa for not telling me what I should do? at least he could have told me that there are two airports in Bombay. How was I supposed to know all these? I have never been to Bombay before. Appa knew that, didn’t he?
“Where are you from?” He asked
“Hmm” He grunted as though I was excused for my ignorance.
“You need to take an Airport transfer bus to Sahar”
“Where do I find the bus?” I asked
He stared at me for a few seconds. Few seconds that felt like a life time. I had no idea what else to do, so I continued to look at him.
“Come with me” He barked and started to walk.
Come with me? To where? I wasn’t going to follow a stranger. Besides this was Bombay. The place where my mother’s cousin vanished. I remembered Amma telling me about her cousin who was studying in Bombay. Apparently she went downstairs from her 2nd floor apartment to buy milk and was never seen again.
I watched the man speaking something over the walkie talkie as he walked. Then he noticed that I wasn’t following him. He turned around to look at me
“Are you coming or not?” He yelled
I looked around trying to figure out what I should do? There was plenty of people around and I knew to ask for help in Hindi( bachao!! ) if anything went wrong. I decided to follow him. But I was afraid. I didn’t want to vanish in the streets of Bombay.
He nodded at the security guard standing near the glass door and walked out. He reminded me of George.
I too nodded my head at the security guard and tried to walk out. The guard held his hand out and blocked my path.
“Madam, ticket” Security guard asked me.
The man in the blue shirt and the security guard was looking at me and I quickly opened my back pack and got the ticket out.
“No luggage?” Security guard asked me
“only this” I pointed the back pack
“ok. Go” He passed the ticket back to me.
The man in the blue shirt started to walk towards the counters on the left side of the lounge.
“Taxi, hotel, 5 star hotel” Someone at the counter started to shout as soon as he saw me walking towards the counter.
entey ammo, this man is sending me to some hotel, I thought. I quickly turned to run back in to the airport. Only then I realized the security guard is manning the exit gate and there is no way he would let me in. Technically I was in between the devil and the deep blue sea. One side was the streets of Bombay, the other side was the ‘taxi, hotel, 5 star hotel’ and a guy wearing a blue shirt.
I wanted to scream bachaoo, but the words didn’t come out. Suddenly thorugh the glass partition I saw a group of men coming out. Everyone around me started to run towards the group of men coming out of the exit gate.
“Sir, Sir Sir” Everyone was screaming and shouting and I saw a man in the middle of the group. He had his arms foldedand was saying namaste to everyone around him. When the group reached the place where I was standing, he nodded his head when he saw me.
It took my panic mode brain a few seconds to realize that the guy in white pants and white shirt, who just smiled and nodded at me was SALMAN KHAN!
I had watched his Mainey pyar kiya movie few months ago.
Oh my goodness, Salman Khan! I saw Salman Khan in real life, I wanted to jump and down. I was so excited, I turned around to see Salman one last time.
There he stood with his hands at the hip with the walkie talkie still in his right hand. He looked so angry and disgusted with me
“You get the bus here” he pointed to the 3rd counter and stormed off. I knew I should say my thanks, but I was still trying to see where Salman went. I saw Salman getting in to a car and he went off.
I remembered the Thanks I owed and I turned around to look for the guy in the blue shirt. He was already inside the domestic terminal.
Too bad I muttered, but never mind. I met Salman Khan!
I paid 25 Rs for the shuttle service to the International airport that is provided free by the airport authorities. But I was too excited to notice that.

My flight to Dubai was at 5.40 pm. I had to wait almost 4 hours at the Sahar international airport. Fortunately I had taken a novel with me. I opened my back pack to get the novel. I noticed my text book inside. I had an exam to write when I come back. I should be studying. I looked around. Some people were laying down on the seats and sleeping. Some were talking.
Arum padikkunnilla, pinney njan mathram enthina padikkunney(no one around me is studying, so why should I be the only one studying?). I took the story book out. The plot by Irwin Wallace.
A little while I felt thirsty and I walked to the coffee shop. I looked at the menu that was on the wall.
I saw the sign for Beverages and under that I spotted Cappuccino.
Oh I would love to have a cup of Cappuccino. I checked the price. I saw the $ sign and then 3.75. Dollar? In India?
I checked again, everything was in dollar. May be it was just a sign, so I asked the guy at the counter
“How much is the cappuccino?”
“Dollar 3.75 madam”
“Dollar? Why it is in Dollar?”
“We only accept Dollar madam?”
“Huh? Why? This is still India, No?”
“That is our policy madam”
“So you don’t accept Indian Rs?”
“No madam”
I never understood how India worked. The Rs in my hand was the currency used in India, but a coffee shop that was in Indian soil only accepted American Dollar.
Only in India, this would happen. I was so angry with the system. I walked away disgusted, thirsty and angry.
I regretted not taking a bottle of water with me. I checked my backpack to see if I have any candies. I saw my red colour passport in the outside pocket. My Malaysian passport. I leaned back on the chair and gently held my passport in my hand. With this passport, I could leave India any day. But would I? Could I?
Each moment in India was a struggle. I always had to fight for my survival. I remembered my life in Penang. It was so peaceful. No one ever cheated us. I remembered my friend Siti, I wondered what she would be doing now? I remembered our neighbour Mr. Ooi and his mother whom I used to call Nenek (grandma). Nenek used to make the best pisang goreng (banana fritters). She spoke Hakka and I never understood what she was telling me. But she knew I loved pisang goreng and whenever she made it, she always made sure that I got some.
I wanted to see all of them. I wanted to go back. I could go back, but I knew I couldn’t. The most important people in my life lived in India. I simply couldn’t walk away!
I felt I was being tied down. I wanted to be free.
I hated Amma for coming back to India. If she didn’t, then I would have never been close to Ammachi. I would have never done medicine in India, I would have never fallen in love with Beautiful Eyes.
‘Nina,Do you regret falling in love with Beautiful Eyes?’ Sensible one asked.
No, No, No. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. I replied
But, I tried to explain
‘No but Nina, there is no but in a relationship. Either you are in or you are out.’ Sensible one spoke.
Emotionally Beautiful eyes was like my anchor. He was my support. But there were so much about him that I didn’t know. He kept telling me about war with the Indian government. But he never once told me what exactly he does. He never told me how he got so much money in the locker. He never came to see me off at the airport.
I didn’t want the sensible one to think that I have second thoughts about Beautiful Eyes. So I continued to read The plot.
Eventually I heard the announcement that flight is ready for boarding. I felt excited. I was going to see my father after a long time. I was going to Dubai.

For Mathias

Mathias is a 7 year old boy.
He is the son of Lori, Grandson of Nicole, brother of Kyle and the current BMX junior champion.
He was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumor 2 weeks ago.
Doctors have done what is medically possible.
Mathias is getting blind by the day and he no longer can walk unassisted.
His mother Lori and his grandma Nicole want your help.
They want you to remember Mathias in your prayers.