I wanted to tell Maria the truth, that Amma didn’t start the fight. But there was a part of me that blamed Amma. She knew Appa got angry with anything and everything. Why did she have to sing the songs? She just had to keep her mouth shut, No?
No! I screamed.
I opened my eyes to see if anyone heard me. Luckily my room mates had gone to the mess to have their tea.
My mind was so restless, I looked at the microbiology text book in front of me. I flipped the pages to see how much I have read so far. I still had plenty of chapters to read. I didn’t feel like studying anymore. .
I got up from my bed to check on the crow. The sun was setting in the distance and I couldn’t find the crow. It must have gone back to its nest to check on the young ones!
I watched the senior boys dribbling the basketball and walking back to the hostel. I hummed slowly
day is done
gone the sun
from the lakes
from the hills
from the skies
all is well
God is nigh.
As I hummed I hated Appa. All my Amma did that day was to sing a song. He didn’t have to hit her for that.
I wondered if his actions that day preplanned? Did he purposely borrow that tape from his colleague and played it at home, so Amma would perhaps sing along and he could hit her for singing? Was he looking for a reason to fight with Amma?
I was sure it was preplanned, because my father’s motto was ‘neither be a lender, nor be a borrower’.
Gosh! How much I hated my father. I always thought I was his favourite daughter. I didn’t want to be his favourite daughter anymore. I didn’t want to be the daughter of a man who looked for a chance to hit his wife. I was so glad Appa was staying in Dubai. I didn’t have to see him everyday.
I wanted to sit. I moved the books from the corner of the table and was just about to sit when I noticed there was coffee stain on the table cloth. Appa had brought that table cloth few years ago when he came to visit us and I took it from the cupboard without telling Amma. I knew Amma would freak out when she finds the stains on her precious cream coloured ‘foreign’ table cloth. I had to find a cloth to clean the stain.
I opened the cupboard and stared inside.
I looked at the upper shelf, middle shelf and the lower shelf.
On the top shelf, apart from all my clothes, I had Three bottles of Oil of Ulay night lotions, 2 Yardely lilly of the valley body spray, 2 bottles of perfume, a bottle of Johnson’s baby lotion a blue round tin of Nivea and a bottle of seven seas codliver oil pills. Appa bought all that.
Second shelf had all my textbooks and an electric hair dryer
I could almost hear Methran Thambi’s son speaking as he took the hair dryer out from his suitcase
“This is for my kochumaharani. Now you can dry your hair after your shower. You no longer have to worry about catching cold!”
I was 12 years old then and how much ever Amma had tried to convince Appa that Maria deserved the hair dryer and not me( especially because Maria had long hair and I had motta thala(short hair), Appa had stood his ground.
I closed the cupboard quickly and walked to my bed and sat down. I knew the mattress and the bedsheet on it was also bought by Appa.
How do you hate a man who gave so much?
Tears started to well up in my eyes.
I heard sensible one speak
‘there is no hatred without love’
Ah! Wilhelm Stekel.
May be she was right.
I was sitting on my bed and revising when I heard the constant cawing of the crow.
“Shalyam, padikkanum sammathikkathlla..(pest!! won’t even let me concentrate on my studies)
I got up from the bed and walked to the window and looked outside to see where the stupid crow was sitting. I spotted the crow sitting on the tree near the basketball court.
“Shoo, Shoo” I yelled while waving my arms. Hoping the crow would understand without any doubt that it better stop cawing and annoying me or be doomed.
Actually the crow stopped cawing
Wow! I could tame a crow. I was proud of my abilities. With my head held high,I turned to walk back towards my bed and must have taken 2 steps, when the crow started cawing again
Bloody hell! I ran back to the window and shouted
“Hey, shoo shoo”
There were few senior students walking towards the basketball court and they all looked up to see who was yelling Hey shoo shoo from the ladies hostel.
I did what any sane person would do when faced with such a terrible situation.
I ducked my head and crawled all the way back to my bed. I hoped they didn’t see me. I couldn’t imagine being called “hey shoo shoo” every time I went to the hospital for the rounds.
I almost laughed thinking how stupid I was becoming.
pavam kakka! (poor crow). How was it supposed to know that it shouldn’t caw before exams and disturb students who were well known for last minute studies?
I remembered Amma teaching me my first Malayalam nursery rhyme
Kunjinu theetta kodukkanjal
Kunju kidannu karayilley?”
I remembered sitting on Amma’s lap and her singing songs for me.
I remembered the time when I was around four years old, Appa had borrowed a music tape( english songs) from his friend and brought it home and played. Amma was sitting on the door step and I was sitting on her lap. Amma started to sing along.
My mother had such lovely voice. She knew most of the songs in that tape. I remembered asking Amma how she knew all those songs and Amma just smiled.
But there was something about that day that I couldn’t remember. I tried to think what it was. I just couldn’t remember.
I tried to remember all the other times Amma sang after that time.
There were none.
‘Why? Why didn’t my mother sing after that time?’
I closed my eyes. I knew there was something that I was blocking out.
I could see the blue door frame. I could see the Rattan chairs in the living room. I could see the tall mango tree outside the house near the corner. I could see the (brick wall)fence in front of the house. I could even see the green moss on top of the fence.
Maria and I used to play the mighty knight games with the top part of the moss( sporophyte?). We would hook the curved top part and pull. It was so much fun.
But that was not what I wanted to know.
I came back to the door step.
Amma was wearing Sarong and a blouse that day.
I remembered Amma wearing Sarong when she was expecting Sally. So she must have been pregnant with Liza, I thought.
Then it all came back to me.
Appa pulling Amma by her hair and Amma pushing me off her lap. I fell down and hit my head on the step. My head was hurting but I still ran inside. I saw Appa pushing Amma to the wall and I could hear Amma saying
“You are hurting the baby”
“parayedi, whose baby is it? nee mattavantey koodey arunno? How did you know the songs? Where did you hear it?”
“Are you mad? What is wrong with you? I learned those songs at the women’s college. Emily used to play the guitar in the evening at the hostel and we used to sing along. Where else would I learn?”
“You are calling me mad? You think I am mad?” Appa kicked Amma and she fell down. I remember running towards her and Amma pushed me away
“Go Nina, go, get out, go to Tante’s house”
I wanted to save Amma. I didn’t want to go to Tante’s house. I had to protect Amma. Maria wasn’t home. She had gone for Christmas choir practice. It was my job to protect Amma when Maria wasn’t home.
Amma hit me so hard on my leg and yelled”go” and I ran as fast as I could. Away from the mean mother who pushed me and made me fall down and hit my head on the wall and then again hit me on my leg, when all I was trying to do was to save her.
I could hear Appa yelling at Amma
But I didn’t want to hear. I looked down to see the weals on my skin. It was red and my skin felt as though it was on fire.
I remembered thinking nobody loves me.
I didn’t go to Tante’s house. I waited for Maria to come back home. I remembered telling Maria that Appa and Amma fought again.
she asked me “why?”
“I don’t know” I replied.
“Why you don’t know anything? And what are you doing standing outside?” Maria sounded so annoyed
I remember thinking why is everyone so mad at me? What have I done wrong? How was I supposed to know why Appa and Amma fought? And I was standing outside because Amma asked me to leave. I was about to tell that to Maria when
Maria held my hand and started to drag me towards the house
“come, let us go and check on Amma” she hissed
When we entered the house, Appa was sitting on the rattan chair. He looked at both of us. He looked so mean and angry. I thought of running out.
May be I really should go to Tante’s house. But Maria was holding my hand. We both stood near the door trying to figure out what to do. Should we walk inside without talking to Appa? Then would he get angry because we didn’t talk there by ignored him? Should we say something to Appa? Then would he ask us”did I ask you to talk?”
I wanted to pee. It was so scary standing there and not knowing what to do.
“Where did you go?” Appa finally asked Maria
“Carol practice” She mumbled
“hmm” Appa mumbled.
Maria tugged my hand and quickly we both walked inside. We didn’t run. You were not allowed to run inside the house. We were careful not to drag our feet. We were not allowed to drag our feet and make noise.
We went to our room first, because we knew Appa was listening to the sound.
“So what song are you singing?” I asked Maria in a tone loud enough for Appa to hear
“Oh the same songs like last year” Maria replied. We both peered from behind the door to see if Appa got up from the chair.
“Where is Amma?” Maria whispered in my ears
“bedroom” I replied quietly.
We tiptoed slowly to Amma’s room.
Amma was still sitting on the floor leaning against the wall. Her hair was all dishelved. Her blouse sleeve was torn. Her eyes were closed.
“Amma” Maria whispered
She didn’t respond
We had to be careful. We were not supposed to check on Amma. We were supposed to leave her alone. That was Appa’s golden rule. I kept turning my head towards the door to see if Appa followed us.
“Amma” Maria touched Amma’s shoulder and she opened her eyes and looked at us.
“I am fine, go to your room” Amma whispered
“Shall I get you some ice?” Maria asked
“I told you I am fine. How many times do I have to tell you to go, get lost” Amma hissed.
I was sure Appa would have heard Amma yelling
“Come” I pulled Maria’s hand and we quickly ran to our room.
“Ammakku vatta alley? ( amma is mad, No?) Maria asked as soon as we closed the door.
“Yeah” I whispered
“She would have been the one who started the fight No?” Maria spoke
I was angry with Amma, so I answered”Yes”
“See, I was right” Maria nodded her head.
“I wish Amma would just die” Maria spoke
“Me too” I replied
Circle Game, Joni Mitchell
Gong Xi Fa cai
Gong Xi Gong Xi Gong Xi Ni
Have a wonderful Chinese New Year.
I want to go home!
Ah! I did something today!( Hey, not what you are thinking!)
Something that I normally don’t do!( again you are wrong)
Something I normally have to do but try not to do.( wrong, wrong wrong, you are getting it all wrong)
I went shopping!
My friend wanted a side kick as she was on a mission to find Shocking purple window blind. Yes, only shocking purple!
Unfortunately We didn’t get the blind.. and I was too late to write my blog..
Yaya has a science fair project tomorrow..( she is doing a project on Blizzard..)
So will see you all on Monday
Have a jolly good weekend
I was feeling a bit hungry. Then I remembered I had bought a loaf of bread from the bakery across my house. I opened the cupboard took the bread out.
“Hey anyone wants to eat some bread and jam?” I asked
“Yeah sure” Aparna and Shylaja answered
“What jam do you have?” Anitha asked
“Kissan mixed fruit” I took the bottle out and showed her.
“I prefer Kissan’s pineapple jam. It is really good, have you tried that?” Anitha asked
Pineapple jam? A floodgate of memories burst open suddenly.
‘I hate you Amma; you are the worst mother on planet earth. How can you make us eat bread and jam every single day? I wish Appa was here. He would have given you two tight slaps for making his children eat onakka rotti and Pineapple jam’ I heard little Nina screaming.
“Yeah I have tried it, it is very nice” I replied.
Very nice? I said the pineapple jam is very nice when my friend said she liked it?
Am I not the one who said, pineapple jam is the worst jam on earth few years ago? Am I not the one who accused my mother of trying to save money by buying the cheapest jam on earth? Now all of a sudden pineapple jam is very nice?
I remembered all those times I used to fight with Amma for making me eat bread and jam.
Amma used to buy a huge tin of pineapple jam and expected us to eat bread and jam for breakfast and for evening snack every single day. I used to hate her for not caring enough. I felt my Amma was a lazy bone unlike the loving mother’s of all my friends who would wake up early in the morning and make puttu or Dosai or things like that for breakfast!
I knew my Amma was a nasty mean Amma, that is why she bought bread and jam. She didn’t even have to waste her precious time and spread the jam on the bread. Her kids were old enough to do that chore all by themselves.
I used to think that, If Amma had loved us a little bit, then she would have cooked something for us for breakfast. I used to wonder why she gave birth to us if she didn’t want to raise us!
And now, when I was hungry I had no trouble eating bread and jam.
gathi kettal puli pullum thinnum. I tried to laugh it off by saying that desperate situations calls for desperate measures. But there was an itsy bitsy ache somewhere in my heart. An ache of regrets.(erinja kallum paranja vakkum!!)
I made jam sandwiches for all of us.
I folded the bread cover back and wrapped a rubber band around it. I didn’t want the bread to get mouldy. I won’t be able to buy another loaf of bread till I go back home.
I remembered Arjun. I knew he was hungry and I knew instead of going to the canteen to eat something, he would be sitting in the room and sulk. I took the rest of the bread and the jam and was just about to open the door when I heard Shylaja ask
“Where are you going?” Shylaja asked. She was looking at the bread in my hand
“Oh!Arjun wouldn’t have got anything to eat, so I thought I will send him some food through Gangamma” I regretted the moment those words came out of my mouth. It was nothing but the truth. But it had more implications than a simple gesture of feeding the hungry.
“Oh that is so romantic!” Shylaja cooed
Was it romantic?
Sending food to your classmate because you know he is hungry (and you are the reason he is hungry) is not romantic.
I looked at Shylaja to tell her that it wasn’t a romantic gesture.
But sometimes you just know you are wasting your time trying to change someone’s convictions, especially when you are holding half a loaf of bread and a nearly full bottle of Kissan jam in your hand.
I turned and walked out of the room.
It didn’t take too long to find Gangamma and enlist her help to deliver the bread and jam to Arjun. I went back to my room and proceeded to revise microbiology.
I felt good knowing that I was a nice person. At least I send bread to someone who was hungry.
I waited for Gangamma to come back and bring the Thank you note from Arjun. That is the least he could do No?
I waited and waited. Sometime later I heard Gangamma talking loudly to Siddamma outside the corridor. I checked the time. 4.30 pm. It took Gangamma this long to come back?
I opened the door and went out
“Gangamma did you give the bread?” I asked
“Yes Ma. I gave it almost 2 hours ago” She answered
I thought of snapping and asking her, then why didn’t you come and tell me? Then I remembered, I didn’t ask her to come and tell me that she delivered the bread. I had simply expected Arjun to send a note through Gangamma.
“Did he say anything?”
“No ma. He didn’t say anything.
“You gave the bread to Arjun sir, No?” I wanted to reconfirm.”Yes Nina ma, I gave it to Arjun sir”JERK. That is all I could think at that moment. I regretted even bothering to send the bread.
“Come, let us go to the canteen” Arjun spoke
“No, Arjun. I need to revise”
I didn’t want to go the canteen. I didn’t want to be with Arjun. I certainly didn’t want Beautiful Eyes to see me with Arjun.
“Oh Nina, you are always worried about your studies. You need to learn to relax. Chul, lets go to the canteen. I am famished.
Arjun checked the watch to see the time and spoke” I didn’t eat breakfast today because I was busy revising in the morning and by now there won’t be any lunch left at the mess. Come let us go.”
Oh Nina, Oh Nina, Oh Nina. The words were repeating over and over in my head.
I was sick and tired of Oh Nina.
“Can you stop saying Oh Nina?”
“because I hate it.”
“Why? What is wrong with saying Oh Nina?”
“I have told you so many times why I hate someone saying Oh Nina. How many more times do I have to tell you before you get it in your head?”
I wanted to say ‘get it in your dumb head’, but I didn’t want to be that rude.
Arjun was staring at me.
“You know, I am sick and tired of you yelling at me. I do everything for you. I even handed in an empty answer sheet for you.” Arjun yelled and then turned and started to walk off.
I wanted to call after him and apologize. I also wanted to be out of the mess I was in. I knew I was over reacting. Why do I get so worked up when someone says Oh Nina? Why can’t I ignore it?
I remembered each and every time Beautiful Eyes (playfully )said Oh Nina. But I never got angry with him. In fact I loved the way he used to say Oh Nina. I knew he was teasing me and I knew how much he loved me. Yet I hated it when Arjun said Oh Nina. I hated everything about Arjun. I hated the way he was standing by me. I wanted him to walk away from me. I wanted him to leave me alone.
I watched Arjun walking towards the hostel. He didn’t go to the canteen. I knew he was hungry and I felt sorry for making him so upset. I hated the way I was behaving.
I was turning out to be a person even I didn’t like!
I walked back to the hostel.
Shylaja must have been waiting for me because as soon as I opened the door I heard her ask
“So what did Dr. Murthy want?”
I looked at her while trying to think of a smart answer to tell her. I couldn’t tell her that Dr. Murthy called me to discuss the marks. I couldn’t tell her that he isn’t going to use the marks from this exam. I knew she waiting for a chance to confirm that George’s influence and my father’s money is the reason why I pass the exams.
“He wanted to know If Arjun and I are going steady”
“Oh! How did he know about both of you?” Shylaja asked
“I don’t know”
“What did you tell him?”
“Arjun told him Yes”
I wanted to make sure, she heard that right. I didn’t tell Dr.Murthy that we are going steady. Arjun said that
“Arjun was with you?”
“Yeah, he wanted to see both of us together”
“Oh ok” Shylaja went back to reading her notes.
I thought of asking her, Are you happy now? Did you get all the information you wanted?
‘Satiable curiosity’ Sensible one spoke. I almost smiled when I remembered where I read satiable curiosity. I could almost see an Elephant’s child with a nose as big as boot sitting on Shylaja’s bed and reading microbiology notes.
I heard someone opening the door and I turned to look.
“Did you hear? Dr.Murthy asked Nina. if Arjun and Nina are going steady!” Shylaja spoke even before Aparna entered the room. Anitha was with Aparna and both of them asked at the same time
“Really? How did he know?”
Both of them were staring at me
“I don’t know” I relplied
“Was he angry?” Aparna was genuinely concerned. It was a common knowledge that an angry professor meant no chance in hell to pass the viva voce and there by repeating the subject till the professor retires.
“nah, he wasn’t angry. He just wanted to know if our parents knew about it”
“Oh you are so lucky. I heard that Rajashree madam had to repeat ophthalmology because the professor didn’t like students falling in love. Apparently according to him, you have come here to study, not fall in love.” Aparna spoke
“But she is married! isn’t she? Doesn’t she tell everyone that Anil sir is her friend?” Anitha spoke
“She is married? What are you talking about?” Shylaja asked loudly the question I was sure was in all three of our mind
I remembered how Rupesh used to call them football and cricket bat! I always thought they were going steady. They were always together. They went to the class together, they were always at the canteen in the evening.
“What I heard is that Her parents forced her to marry when she was doing her plus 2. Apparently her husband is in his mid thirties”
“Really?” I asked
“Have you not noticed that she never goes home during the holidays?” Anitha asked
That was true. When I stayed back after the anonymous letter episode, Rajashree madam also didn’t go back. I remembered her telling me that she didn’t want to miss clinicals, so she decided to stay back.
I had always thought only I felt my home was a prison. Suddenly there were others who were trying to run away from the sanctity called home. I felt sorry for Rajashree madam, because I knew how it felt to run away from home when everyone around you were rushing to go back home. I also felt happy knowing that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t want to feel happy when someone was suffering. But I couldn’t help it.
I have been searching so long for this song!
Tracy Huang singing feelings
Song starts at 1:20