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?”
“You only woke up now?”
“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
“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 !!