“Do you want me to come with you to the airport?” Amma asked me as I was getting ready to leave.
I wasn’t sure. I had travelled in a plane so many times as a child, so there was nothing new in going to the airport. I was still thinking when Amma spoke
“I have to pay premium rate for the auto from the airport, why waste money? Alley?”
“hmm. You are right Amma”
“Oh I forgot, your sisters had written a list, let me get it for you”
“What list Amma?”
“List of things they need!”
I saw Amma walking to her room and she returned with few sheets of paper.
“This is Liza’s foot print” She passed me a sheet with a drawing of Liza’s right feet.
“This one is Sally’s, and this is their list and this is mine” She passed me 4 sheets.
I glanced through Amma’s list. Pefumes, powder, Pears soap, Fa soap,7 seas cod liver oil tablets, Nivea cream, hair dye( make sure it is dark brown, not black), night gowns, slippers, steel wool for scrubbing the pots..list went on
I folded the papers and kept it in my back pack.
“Don’t forget to buy sneakers for Liza. She needs it”
“Remember to send money for Sally as soon as you reach there”
“Ok Amma” I checked the clock. It was almost 8.30 Am. My flight to Bombay was at 11 am.
“Amma I have to go now”
“Come let us pray”
“Huh?” I asked
“Liza, come, Nina is leaving. Let us pray before she leaves” Amma called out
“You can pray Amma, I will listen here” Liza spoke from her room
“Come here this instant Liza Thomas. Your sister is going on a long journey and you can’t even pray for her ah?” Amma yelled
“Ok ok, no need to scream” Liza came out
“Let us pray” Amma held mine and Liza’s hands and started to pray
“Dear God Almighty, we are gathered together this morning in your presence….”
Amma went on praying for all the neighbours, cousins, their extended families and it was going on and on and was taking a long time. I opened my eyes a little bit to look at the clock and that is when I noticed Liza was squinting and looking at Amma. We looked at each other and at Amma, who was still deep in prayer. Liza started to laugh and I quickly closed me eyes and looked down
“How dare you laugh in God’s presence?” I heard Amma asking Liza. “Look at Nina, See ! That is how you should stand in God’s presence”
“veruthey aa ninneyokkey valarthunney (it is a waste raising you guys)” Amma mumbled
“Sorry Amma” Liza spoke
“hmm” Amma grunted and started to pray. I opened my eyes when I was sure that Amma was deep in prayer. Liza was looking at me and I stuck my tongue at her.
“I will get you” She mimed
“oh pinney“ I replied
Then we heard the words we were waiting
“In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit”
“Amen” We shouted as loud as we can and I tried to pull my hands from Amma’s grasp
“Not yet” She held my hands tight
“Lords prayer” “Our father..” She continued. I let Liza and Amma say the Lord’s prayer.
“Nina” Amma called out angrily
“Our father who art in heaven..” I joined in quickly. I didn’t bother to open my eyes to look at Liza. I knew she would be waiting to stick her tongue at me.
After the prayer, Amma kissed me
“poyittu va money” She spoke
“Bye Amma, Bye Liza” I grabbed my bag and left without looking at Liza.
I walked down the steps and opened the gate. Then I remembered Sally, who had gone to school in the morning
“Amma, say Bye to Sally for me” I looked up
Amma nodded her head. Liza was standing behind Amma and she wasted no time to stick her tongue at me.
Amma must have seen her, Because I heard her asking Liza
“Why are you konjanam kuthifying your sister?”
“Bye Amma, Bye Liza” I said my byes quickly and let Liza do the explaining!
I took an auto to the airport. As the auto turned right in to the airport, I looked at all the bikes parked by the side of the road. I knew he would come. I was sure I would be able to find his bike. He knew what flight I would be taking and I knew he would come to the airport to see me off. When we reached the end of the bike park, I realized his bike wasn’t there.
May be he parked out side. May be he borrowed someone else’s bike.
I paid the auto and walked in to the airport. I looked every where for him. There were lots of people outside the airport. Parents were hugging their children who must be going to Dubai or some place like that to work. Women in sarees were smiling and then turning around to wipe the tears in their eyes using the saree pallu, so no one would see them crying. Little children were hugging their father one last time till the next long leave would bring their father home and I was alone. I was alone in a crowd of families. I had no one to see me off. I looked around the airport one last time. He didn’t come. He could have, he should have, but he didn’t.
As I entered the airport I realized, I had no idea what to do. As a child I held my father’s hand to guide me through all the airport formalities and now I was all alone. I felt so alone and miserable and lost
I saw a security guard standing near the door on the left side and I walked towards him
“Ticket” He asked
I took my ticket from the bag and showed him.
He let me in.
It took me a while to figure out what to do next and finally I managed to reach the boarding area.
Eventually the announcement came
“Indian Airline’s flight to Bombay is ready for boarding”
Suddenly all the people at the lounge got up and started to run outside. I wasn’t sure why everyone was running!
I looked outside. I could see the aircraft in the tarmac and every single passenger was running towards it, so I too decided to run. I ran like all those times I ran when I saw the KSRTC bus at the stand.
I found my seat and sat down, glad that I got the window seat. A little while later a dignified looking lady came and sat next to me
“Hello. I am Mrs.Murthy” She looked at me and smiled
“Hello Aunty. I am Nina” I replied
“Going to Bombay?”
“hmm” I replied
“No. I am going to Dubai”
“Oh I see. I am going to Bombay to visit my son. He is a scientist at Bhabha Atomic Research Center”
“oh” I replied.
“What do you do?” She asked
“I am a second year medical student”
“Your parents are working in Dubai?”
“Only my father”
“You stay in Bangalore?”
Before the flight took off, the hostess came holding a brass plate full of candies. I took an orange colour candy and Mrs Murthy reached her hand out. Her fingers were stretched as wide as possible. In an instant the hostess tried to pull the plate away, but she was a tad too late. Mrs.Murthy had already managed to grab a handful of candies.
Goodness She is so greedy, I thought
I noticed the disgust on the face of the hostess, but Mrs Murthy didn’t seem like she was concerned what the hostess thought about her.
Somehow Mrs. Murthy reminded me of my own mother. Amma always stole plants! I used to dread going with her for the flower show at the park in Kottayam. I never understood why my mother had to steal plants when she could buy them? I hated Amma for trying to save money by stealing instead of buying plants. After all Plants are not like diamonds. They don’t cost so much of money
I looked at Mrs.Murthy. She was wearing a Kashmir silk saree and she had a navaratna bangle on one hand and a dozen of gold bangles on the other hand. She also had a diamond mukkuthi on her nose. She certainly didn’t look like she was in financial dire straits!
May be she really wasn’t greedy. May be she was diabetic and on medication. May be she was saving the candies for emergency. I felt bad for thinking that she was greedy. Why do I always jump in to conclusions?
‘You need to learn to not to judge people’ I told myself.
By the time the aircraft landed, Mrs.Murthy had taken all the magazines and the barf bag from the front pouch and kept it in her bag. she took the jam, butter, bread roll, sugar and coffee creamer and even the plastic cutlery from her meal tray and kept them in her hand bag too. When the flight was about to land she took the pillow that was given to her, so she could rest her neck and stuffed that too in her bag. She then looked at me and smiled. She had the same smile on her face that said
chumma oru rasam.