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!

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