I couldn’t go back to sleep, I just lay down in the bed and dreamed. The optimist in me knew everything will turn out for the better tomorrow.
I remembered Methran Thambi’s wife’s favourite quote
“This too shall pass”.
I didn’t want to think about her because it hurt too much each time I thought about her. I could see her struggling to walk, sitting on the parapet wall and waiting and waiting.
I knew I was all she had and I knew I failed her.
I wondered if it was my ego or was it my pride that couldn’t forgive the one person who meant the world to me?
No , it was all her fault. She should have put her feet down. She should have told Appa off. She was the only person who had the courage to do so in our family and instead of telling him off, she encouraged him.
‘But you are not thinking about her Nina’ Sensible one spoke
‘Who said I am not thinking about her?’ I asked
‘Well then tell me, who would take care of your grandmother in her old age?’ Will you? Do you think your mother will?’
I wanted to say I will. I really wanted to say I will. But I knew it was impossible. I wanted to study further. I wanted to get married and live in the land of Nagas
‘Shut up and get lost’ I told off the sensible one.
She always had thee last word and I hated it. She just knew how to nail me, didn’t she?
I heard Amma getting up and wearing her slipper. I quickly closed my eyes. I could hear the footsteps coming closer and closer.
May be she was coming to check on me. May be she will tuck the blanket properly for me. I waited in anticipation for some motherly attention.
I could hear her walking by the side of my bed and then I heard her switching off the fan in the living room and going back to her room.
I pulled the blanket up angrily over my head. I felt I was a fool for even hoping that Amma actually got up to check on me.
Electricity bill was more important!
I waited for Amma to settle down in her bed before getting up and switching on the fan.
When I have children, I promise, I won’t be a pishukki (stingy) like my mother! I promised myself. After all how much money was Amma trying to save by switching off the fan for few hours in the morning?
It didn’t matter that I paid the electricity bill each month.
An hour later I heard the milk seller ringing the bicycle bell and I got up to get the milk pot. As I came out of the kitchen I checked Amma’s room.
Amma was still in her bed but I knew she wasn’t asleep. She was waiting for me to get up and go downstairs to get the milk. What is the big deal? Walking down a flight of stairs isn’t going to kill me!
I went downstairs, got the milk and brought it back to the kitchen.
I had two choices. I could leave it on the kitchen counter and wait for Amma to get up and boil it or I could boil it. I didn’t want to start the day with a fight, so I decided to boil the milk. I reduced the flame to low so the milk won’t boil over. It was so boring standing in the kitchen and watching over a pot of milk.
I opened the balcony door and walked outside. Mrs Nagesh had already drawn the kolam in front of her main door. She could really create intricate patterns. I wanted to learn how to draw a kolam. I tried to follow her pattern in my mind and at the back of my mind I could hear Methran Thambi’s daughter in law screeching
“Artist, you want to be an artist? You can’t even draw a straight line for heavan’s sake!’
But Amma was right. I could never draw a straight line.
That is because I have Astigmatism.
I felt so sorry for myself and tried to console myself. It wasn’t your fault Nina. Amma had mumps while she was carrying you. It wasn’t your fault.
“Are you planning to donate the milk to the gas stove” I heard Amma speaking.
Entey Ammo!! paalu! ( Oh no, the milk!) I ran back to the kitchen. My heart was pounding. I looked at the pot and milk was just beginning to boil
“It didn’t boil over” I spoke. I knew I sounded angry. But that was the truth. I did keep the milk on low flame and the milk didn’t boil over.
“Yeah, if I didn’t come now, it would have” Amma spoke
“No it wouldn’t have. I kept it on low flame”
“Ninne onnum onninum kollathilla” ( you are all good for nothing)
That was so mean. There was no need for Amma to be so mean in the morning. I wanted to give it back to her. I wanted to make her feel guilty.
“Why didn’t you give me dinner last night Amma?”
“You were asleep!”
“huh?” Amma looked at me
“You couldn’t wake me up?”
“Ennittu venam Amma maharani kku kali keran! ( so that Amma Maharani could get angry!)
“I wouldn’t have got angry if you woke me up from my sleep and asked me to have dinner Amma. When did I ever get angry with you for waking me up?”
“Yeah right. How many times you yelled at me for turning off the fan?”
“what has that got to do with this? And why do you want to turn off the fan anyway?”
“Wasting money! No one other than my children in Bangalore would use a fan in the morning. It is so cold and they still want to use the fan and waste money on electricity”
“What is your problem Amma, I am paying the bill No?”
“So stop annoying me in the morning” I yelled
“Morning itself you have to start the fight eh? Can’t you stay in your hostel? Why do you want to come home?”
“I didn’t start the fight. You did”
“Ninakku vatta( you are mad)”
“It is hereditary. Did you not know jathya gunam thoothal poovulla ( try as you might,you can’t erase your genetic factors)
I stormed out of the kitchen and went and sat on my bed. I could hear Amma mumbling something and I knew she would be cursing
Nee orikkalum konam pidikathilledi ( you will never do well).
My sisters woke up a little later and I heard Amma saying
“Good morning” Then she pointed her hand towards me and told them
“raviley vattu elaki irikkuva, ( she has gone mad) you don’t go and ask for a fight. Leave her alone”
I could smell Amma making uppuma. The smell itself made me hungry. But I knew if I had to get something to eat, I needed to wait for everyone to eat first. Amma wasn’t going to give me food after I yelled at her, would she?
I was so hungry, I regretted yelling at Amma in the morning. When will I ever learn to keep my mouth shut?
I closed my eyes and all I could see was a bowl of steaming hot uppuma.
I had to think of something to take my mind off uppuma.. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep the image off a bowl of uppuma with pickle, or may be some sugar and bananas.
vayinnu vellam ozhuki…Kappal odikkam!
Then I remembered Ammalu with her chanthu pottu and how she went to school only on those days they served school lunch.
I wondered what happened to her? I knew children like her ended up in the red lights streets of Bombay. But one can still hope No? One can still have hopes for those people who were part of your life however brief the time they spend with you, No?
I hope Ammalu where ever you are, you found happiness. I whispered slowly. I hope you would remember me and if you ever need medical care, find me and I promise I will not charge you.
Liza was taking a shower and she yelled out from the washroom
“Amma, can you iron my blue top?”
“ok” Amma answered.
I wondered when was the last time Amma ironed my clothes. I couldn’t even remember. Even while at school I always ironed my own uniform.
I watched Amma combing Sally’s hair. She put two hair clips on either side of the pony tail. I bought those hair clips for Sally. Sally looked so cute in her pony tail. I
“Bye Sally, take care and be good Ok” Amma got up from the chair and kissed her on her forehead.
“I love you Amma” Sally spoke
“I love you mone” Amma whispered.
Sally took the bag from the floor and walked out. I was laying down on the bed next to the main door. She had to walk by me to leave the house. She didn’t even bother to say bye to me. But she had no qualms wearing the hair clips I bought for her. Absolutely no qualms.