Appa continued to walk towards the lobby. He never once turned to look at me to see if I was following him. I remembered all those times my mother had to get the four of us out of the car and run behind Appa and I knew if I don’t stand next to him by the time the lift arrives, chances are my father would enter the lift and would not wait for me and I would have no idea where he went.
After all Appa had left us once at Chengannur bus stand. There was a huge crowd going to Kottayam and we were pushed to the back of the queue and my father managed to get inside the bus and the conductor closed the door. My father never even bothered to tell the conductor that his family was still outside. That day fortunately Ammachi had given each of us 5 Rs before we left. If we didn’t have that money, we would have had to borrow bus fare from other passengers. I was so mad at Appa that day.
“Wait till I get back home, I will give Appa a piece of my mind” I told Amma
“You are wasting your time Nina” Amma replied
“What do you mean Amma?”
“Nina, Your father is waiting for a chance to demean you. He will tell you that it was your fault that you didn’t get in to the bus, not his”
“But he could have told the conductor that we are still standing outside!”
“He could have Nina, he certainly could have, but if you tell him that, he would ask you, who are you to tell him that?”
“Then I would tell him I am his daughter”
“Then he would tell you, you hould have stood next to him in the queue”
“But it wasn’t my fault that everyone pushed us to the back Amma”
“True Nina, but you think your father is going to think that way? He would tell you, you should be smart enough to fight for your own survival”
Amma reached her hand and held my hand
“Nina, there is no point in fighting with your father. I gave up long time ago. There is nothing we can do to change him. I tried Nina, I really tried”
“hmm” I thought of telling Amma that may be she didn’t try hard enough. But deep in my heart, I knew Amma was saying the truth.
I walked quickly and stood next to Appa. There was a lady wearing a purdah and two kids waiting for the lift. When the lift door opened, Appa got in and I pushed the lady who was standing in front of me and got inside. I heard her say something in Arabic and I knew she was cursing me. She entered the lift and was staring at me. She kept muttering something. while holding her children close to her. I wanted to tell her that I am sorry for pushing her. I didn’t mean to. I would have never done it normally. I was just so afraid that my father would close the lift door and leave me outside.
I looked at my father to see if he noticed what kind of trouble he was putting me in to. My father was adjusting his neck tie. I had the urge to pull that darned tie as hard as I could.
Lift stopped at the 7th floor and Appa got out. I was surprised to see Appa holding the door open for me. He said something to the lady in Arabic and she nodded her head.
“Come, let us go. Shobha has invited us for dinner” Appa spoke
I thought of asking Appa who is Shobha, but I knew better.
Appa rang the door bell and waited. As I waited I was trying to figure out who this Shobha is. Then it occurred to me, Is this the “Arathu” lady’s house? Oh my goodness, the nerve my father has! How dare he takes me to visit his mistress? I wanted to run, but where to? Where do I go?
I heard someone opening the door.
“Oh, hello Uncle”
A young man wearing spectacles was standing at the door. He then turned his head and shouted
“Shobha, they are here” “Come on in Uncle” He told Appa and then he saw me
“Oh, hi, you must be Nina”
And I wanted to ask him and you must be?
“Come, have a seat” He pointed to the couch in the living room
“Shobha” He called again
“Just a second Achaya” I heard a woman’s voice.
Achaya? Who is Achaya? My father or this kannadi vala? I had no clue.
Few seconds later, a lady came out from the kitchen. She was wearing a simple saree and I noticed immediately that she wasn’t wearing any jewellery. Her neck looked so bare.
“Hi, I am Shobha, you must be Nina” She spoke
“Yes, I am” I replied
“Hello Uncle” She greeted Appa. “She looks just like you” Shobha pointed me to Appa.
Appa laughed. I didn’t feel like laughing. There was a time I was so proud to be my father’s daughter. I no longer felt any pride being his daughter.
“Your father always talks about you” Shobha spoke
I smiled. I didn’t know what else to say.
I looked at Shobha. She was extremely fair complexioned and had long hair. I noticed the hole in the ear lobes. I knew she must have worn earrings at one time. Why doesn’t she wear any jewellery now?
“You know Nina, We are so obligated to your father, without him we would have never been together” Shobha spoke
“Oh no, you don’t have to be obligated to me. God has decided that you two should be together and I did what I could” Appa spoke
God? When did my father start to believe in God? God? My father believes in God? I looked at my father to see if he is the same man I know as my father? My father never believed in God or going to church
“You know Nina, only your father stood by us. My family and Achayan’s family didn’t want us to get married” Shobha spoke
“No Shobha, You can’t blame your family. They have been brought up in the traditional mentality, But one day it will change. don’t you think so Nina?” Appa was looking at me
I had absolutely no clue what was going on, so I looked at my father to see what he was expecting me to say
“How can you blame the parents? Shobha is from a famous Nair family in Kerala and Philip is a Pentecost. You can’t blame the family for objecting their marriage. Can you?” Appa spoke
I wasn’t sure if he was asking me a question. I wasn’t even sure if my father would have been this magnanimous if I told him I was seeing a Naga guy. Would he let Methran Thanmbi’s grand daughter to marry a Naga guy?
“Shall we eat now?” Philip asked Shobha
“Sure Achaya. Give me 10 minutes” Shobha got up
“Can I help you?” I asked Shobha
“Oh, no, you sit here. Everything is ready. I just need to warm the curry”
I didn’t want to sit with Appa and talk, so I followed Shobha to the kitchen.
“So how many more years for you to finish medicine?” Shobha asked while she switched on the gas.
“3 more years”
“What are you planning to do for PG?”
“I haven’t decided yet”
“You know Nina, you are so lucky. I wish I had a father like yours. Your father is so understanding. He even loaned us money to buy furniture for this place. We owe everything to your father.”
I didn’t reply anything. How was I to explain to Shobha that the man she knows as my father and the man who is my father are two totally different people?