“Nina, tell me another story” sally spoke
“Aiyyah, how many stories do you want to hear in a day? What do you think? That I am a story machine?” I asked her almost feeling annoyed as I had just told her the story of the purple fox.
Sally didn’t reply. I was a bit concerned if I had hurt her feelings, so I lifted my head to see her face. She looked so sad. I felt terrible for hurting her feelings. How could I be so mean to her. I wanted to apologize. I looked my sister again. Her lips were pursed and she was trying to pull the blanket over her head.
Oh my goodness! She can’t do that. She can’t cover her face. We only cover the faces of dead people.
“Oh Sally, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I am sorry, Please forgive me” I tried to pull the blanket from her face.
She was holding on to the blanket.
“come on Sally, Don’t cover your face. chathavarudey monthaya thuni ittu moodunney(only dead people cover their face)”
I pulled the blanket from Sally’s face. I was expecting to see a sad miserable face, instead I saw a laughing face.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked her
“My God Nina, you sounded just like Amma, chathavarudey monthaya thuni ittu moodunney!!! ” Sally was laughing and imitating me.
Sally continued to laugh and I wanted to push her off the bed.
Idiot. I wanted to call her that. She doesn’t know that I am not like Amma? How dare she compare me to Amma?
I am not like Amma, I am intelligent enough to be not like Amma.
But wasn’t there a truth in what my sister spoke just now? Amma never let us cover our face with the blanket. She always said the same chathavarudey monthaya thuni ittu moodunney.
No! I almost screamed. I am not like Amma. I am me, Nina Thomas, in three years I will be Dr. Nina Thomas. I will earn my own money. I will live in my own house and I will be me, just me. Not Methran Thambi’s grand daughter, not Thomas and Mary’s daughter, not Maria’s, Liza’s and Sally’s sister. I will be me. Nina Thomas, who loves to read, who loves to cook, who loves to travel.
Three years!!! After living a life time of suffering I knew it is just a matter of time, I will be free. Beautiful tomorrows beckoned me, like a mother calling a child and tomorrow’s daughter was born.
I might sound like Amma today, but I knew tomorrow I will be a good wife and a great mother, not at all like Amma.
My tomorrows were mine alone and I knew I would make it across.
I heard a loud knocking on the door
“What are you both doing inside” I heard Amma screaming
“Nothing Amma” Sally answered
“open the door” Amma screamed
“Why Amma?” Sally asked
“I said open the door”
“ok, ok, You don’t have to scream” Sally got up and opened the door.
Amma was staring at me
“Why are you laying down on Liza’s bed?” Amma was screaming at me
“What?” I asked Amma
“How dare you lay down on Liza’s bed? You want to create unnecessary fights Ah? You know your sister doesn’t like anyone sleeping on her bed, Get up, get out of her bed and her room” Amma was pulling my hand and I pushed her away
‘You know Amma, you are the root cause of all the trouble in this family” I screamed at her
“Why are you dividing and ruling us? If my sister creates a scene because I lay down on her bed, then you should be able to tell her that we are a family. it is not a crime to sleep on your sister’s bed.”
“Ptui” Amma spat on the ground. “You are talking about family? What do you know about family? Your grandmother was almost killed by her own mother in law. What family are you talking about Nina? Your pezhacha grandmother was living with a Nair. So tell me Nina, What do you know about the family?”
“You are right Amma, what would I know about family when my mother and sister ” I was just about to speak, when I noticed Sally staring at me. I couldn’t do it to her.
“nee enthadi nirthiye (Why did you stop talking)?” “Come on, speak, I am telling you, speak the rest of the sentence Nina, let me see what fault of mine you have found this time” Amma was shaking my shoulders.
I pushed her away and got up.Why am I fighting for a chance to lay down on a stupid bed? Even though it was bought by my father and I am surely his daughter and by right being the second one, I should have more rights than Liza!
“Enthadi nintey navu erangipoyo Have you swallowed your tongue Nina?” Amma was following me.
I had to get out. The house was suffocating me.
I opened the door and walked out. It was almost getting dark. The neon street light across the street hadn’t been switched on. Men and women holding grocery bags were hurrying home. I wondered what they would be carrying. May be rice and lentils and some fruits. Vege and meat were always bought in the morning. I could hear kids from the neighbouring house reciting poem to learn it by heart. Mrs Nagesh was washing the steps in front of her house. I knew she would wash the steps again in the morning and draw the kolam in the morning.
I started to walk. Everyone, even the cattles that belonged to my neighbour was walking towards home. I was leaving home.
I noticed the old man huddled in front of the Marwari pawn shop. His daughter was sitting next to him. They always came and sat in the same spot each evening. I looked at the child, she would probably be about 9 or 10 years old. wearing an old sleeveless dress. Her brown hair was matted, yet it was tied in a pony tail. I knew she was cold by the way she was holding her arms across her body. I looked at the old man. He was scanning the people walking by.
I took a deep breath and continued to walk. I had no idea where I was going. Any hell hole was a better place than home. But much as I tried to shake the image of the girl with matted hair and sleeveless dress from my mind, it kept coming back. I turned to look a her. She was still sitting in the same place, her arms across her chest, she was staring ahead. I looked to see what she was looking at.
She was staring at the blue shutters in front of the gold smith shop. Goldsmith always closed his shop before the sun set. What did she see there?
The gold jewellery? or was it the maker of the jewellery?
Nah, I knew where the goldsmith lived. His house was behind our house. I have seen him walking home most evenings holding his bag in one hand and the umbrella in the other hand. He was always coughing. He would walk a few feet, stop, cough while holding his chest and bending forward. After few minutes of coughing, he would straightened up and walk again.
Nah it couldn’t be the gold smith she was looking at. She was staring at the emptiness in front of her.
Was she too looking at her tomorrows? What did her tomorrows hold for her?
I knew her tomorrows were empty, like her todays. That man sitting next to her had ensured that. But mine wasn’t. No one could take my tomorrows away. I will not let them.
I turned and walked back home. I made a conscious effort to not to look at her as I passed where she was sitting. From the corner of my eyes I could still see her, in her sleeveless dress. I took a deep breath and hurried home
“Entha deshadanam kazhinjo?” I heard Amma asking
I ignored her.
Does anyone remember the gypsy woman of Indian descent who married a rich guy? Her story was featured in Femina long ago.. I think there was a picture of her sitting with her legs crossed on a chair/swing