“Hungry?” Arjun turned his head towards me and asked
“no” I replied
“You want to eat something?”
“No” I replied
sheda, Didn’t I just tell him that I am not hungry? Why was he eating my head? I wondered. Then I realized perhaps he was hungry.
“Are you hungry?” I leaned over and asked.
He didn’t reply.
Perhaps he didn’t hear me. There were plenty of traffic on the road.
I tapped on his shoulder and shouted so he could hear me
“Are you hungry?”
Arjun turned his head and screamed
“No, how many times do I have to say No? Stop screaming Nina”
“Ok ok, you don’t have to yell” I wanted to add moron at the end. But I was a bit afraid of the consequences.
He rode the rest of the journey in absolute silence and I didn’t bother to talk to him either. What was I going to talk about anyway? We were forever screaming at each other.
Arjun stopped the bike in front of the gate and I got off. Even before I could say thanks, he zoomed off.
I heard screeching of brakes followed by honking
Arjun almost knocked in to an auto that was taking a left turn in to our lane.
I watched the auto driver and Arjun yelling at each other.
“terey bap ka mal hey ye kya?”
I didn’t want to be in the midst of the fight, especially when I knew Arjun was clearly at fault. He was speeding.
I walked up the stairs and tried to open the door while balancing my bag on shoulder and the flowers in my left hand. It was locked.
That was unusual. Amma usually didn’t lock the door. I knocked the door once. Then I remembered something. I placed the bag on the floor and
ta ta da duh da ta ta( star wars!) it sounded good. So I repeated agian and was about to knock the third time when Amma suddenly opened the door. I must have been a sight, holding something in my left fist and my right hand in a fist in mid air. I started to laugh.
“Why are you laughing? have you gone mad? How many times do you have to knock at the door?”
Only then did I notice Amma’s face. She was looking so angry.
Amma leaned over and looked down the steps
“Where is he?”
“Nina, stop acting dumb”
“huh? you mean Arjun?”
“alla nintey mattavan“
“oh, he went home”
Amma tuned and walked towards her room.
I stood there trying to figure out what exactly was going on? Why was everyone so angry?
I took the bag from the floor, Then I remembered the chempaka poo (flowers) in my hand. Amma had told me long ago that she used to keep Chempaka flowers in her closet. May be I will give her some flowers.
I kept the bag in the living room and walked to Amma’s room. Her bed was full of clothes and she was mending Sally’s clothes.
I heard Amma muttering
“Valla avanum keri erangi nadannolum. Bakki ulloru kashtapettonam.”( something like, I have to struggle because of Arjun!)
” What do you mean Amma?”
I really wanted to know the answer. What did Arjun do to her for her to be so mad? He only dropped me back home for heavan’s sake.
Amma stopped sewing and stared at me
I stared at her back half expecting her to accuse me of starting the fight as soon I came back from the hostel.
“Nooru vettam thuni maranam” ( change the clothes a hundred times!) Amma spoke and started to sew.
So that was the issue. She was angry with me because she had to change her clothes.
“I didn’t ask you to change your clothes. Besides Who asked you to wear your old nighty?”
“Then what should I wear eh?”
“Didn’t I bring you new night gowns from Dubai? Who are you saving that for?”
“If I wear it all and spoil it, who will buy me new ones? entha nintey thantha vangichu tharuvo? ( will your father buy it?)”
I could never understand my mother’s logic. How could she keep good clothes in the cup board under lock and key and wear old tattered clothes today because she is afraid that she won’t get anything new tomorrow?
“I will buy you new clothes” I spoke
“oh pinney, athinu nee medicine pass ayittu vendai ( oh really! for that you will have to pass medicine, which is not likely)
I squeezed the chempaka flowers in my hand. I didn’t want to stand there and argue. So I turned to walk.
I heard Amma say
“valla avanteyum purakey nadanno, medical college il vittathu padikkana ennu ortha nallathu” ( having affairs! you should remember you have been send to the medical college to study)
That was twice in day. First it was Aparna’s grandmother. Now it was my own mother. I walked to the kitchen and threw the chempaka flowers in the rubbish bin. I looked around the kitchen. There were few dishes to wash in the sink. Amma must have known I would come back today!
I opened the pots on the gas stove. There was a some moru (yogurt) in one pot and cabbage thoran in another pot. I searched for rice. The rice pot was empty.
I was hungry. I only had one poori for breakfast. There was a huge crowd of students waiting for poori at the mess in the morning and I didn’t feel like waiting. So I shared a plate of poori with Aparna. I didn’t have time to eat lunch and now there was no rice to eat at my own home. I regretted telling Arjun that I wasn’t hungry. We could have gone to Mac’s fast food and had something nice to eat.
I heard someone yelling and screaming in the street below and I opened the balcony door to see what was going on.
Few of the boys were playing cricket outside and one of them was surrounded by others and they were arguing if it was LBW or not.
I never played cricket and I only watched criket when Imran Khan played!
I stood there, remembering my pre-degree days, bunking the classes to watch Reliance cup, How sister Savio threatend me with expulsion and how I forged Amma’s signature on all the permission slips!
“Akka, was it LBW?” One of the boys looked up and asked
“I didn’t see” I told him. I didn’t tell him, even if I saw, I wouldn’t know!
“he is always cheating.” he pointed to his friend and told me
“Where is Liza Akka?” He asked
“theriyathu ( don’t know)
It was true. I didn’t know where my sisters were! They should have been home by now. I was getting a bit worried. Then I realized it was Amma’s job to worry about her daughters. I don’t have to worry.
I stood there watching the kids play cricket. Across the street the marwari ladies weree sitting down on the floor in front of the house and chatting. One of them had her daughter on her lap and she was plaiting her daughter’s hair. When I have a daughter, I will also plait her hair. I will buy Jasmin flowers and clip it on her hair. I imagined a child with long black hair and jasmine flowers wearing pattu pavada. I should get some kajal too. I thought.
It was such happy thoughts and I smiled. Then I thought I should make some tea. I was getting thirsty.
I turned and almost bumped in to Amma.
“Arey aadi nee chirichu vasheekarikunnathu? ( who are you trying to flirt with?)
“You think I don’t have eyes?”
“Don’ you know they are a traditional marwari family. They will kill him, if he marries a Christian girl” Amma spoke
“What are you talking about Amma?”
I looked around to see who was Amma talking about.
“mandan kali nirthadi” Amma shrieked.
I looked at the Marwari ladies sitting in front of their house. There were no boys in their midst. My mother was going mad.
“Who are you talking about Amma?” I asked her angrily
“Who are you fooling Nina, from the time you stood here,I have been watching both of you and I saw you smiling at him. There he is still looking at you” Amma pointed towards the shops”
I looked at the shops. There was an old man in the first shop, he was reading the news paper and in the second shop there was a young guy and when he saw me looking he looked away.
A part of me wanted to kill him for looking at me
A part of me wanted to convince Amma that I wasn’t looking at him or smiling at him
A part of me knew it would be fuitile to convince Amma otherwise
I lifted my hand to wipe my face and my hands still had the chempaka smell on them. I rubbed my hand on my jeans hoping I could wipe the smell off, hoping I could wipe my mother off.
“Hungry?” Arjun turned his head towards me and asked