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