The Chat seller near the MG Road and Kamaraj Road junction had already set up his stall. I was hungry and I was tired. I knew if I ate food from the street vendor I sure would have diarrhoea. I looked at the round pooris in the shelf. Small tiny pooris, all same size and puffed up. The pooris looked at me invitingly.
The seller was busy cutting onions and his assistant was washing the plates in dirty water. I looked at the pooris again.
“Yes Madam” The seller was looking at me.
Should I or not?
Nah, it is not worth it. It is not worth falling ill. Besides I knew Amma would have cooked something for me.
“Nah it is ok” I shook my head and started to walk.
There were lots of people waiting to cross the road and the police man was trying his best to control the traffic. My stomach was growling.
I heard the sensible one asking
‘Who are you kidding Nina? You really think your mother would keep some food for you?’
She was right. Absolutely right. I turned quickly and almost bumped in to a middle aged lady. I heard her swearing. I was too hungry to bother.
I ordered a plate of Bhel poori. There was no place to sit and I had books in my hand. I walked to the back of the shop and kept the books on my feet and leaned against the fence and started to eat the food. My spoon was bend to one side and the handle was dirty. I pretended I didn’t see it.
I looked at all the people standing near me and eating the food. Most of them were men and from their clothes it was obvious they belonged to the low income group trying to make a living in Bangalore. I didn’t belong there, Did I? My father worked for British Government. My sister is an IIT graduate and I am a medical student. What was I doing here?
Some of the men were looking at me, as though they have never seen a woman in their life. I looked down and again noticed the dirt on the spoon handle. I didn’t want to eat the food. But I was hungry. I could have gone to Mac’s. But Amma needed new spectacles.
There was a little bit of yogurt by the side of the plate. I used the spoon and scraped the yogurt and ate it. The yogurt was thick and creamy, not at all like Amma’s. Her yogurt had two layers. Milk solids on top and whey at the bottom.
‘Don’t forget the worms’ Sensible one spoke
‘Oh yes the worms too’ I agreed.
I gave my plate to the sellers assistant and walked away quickly.
I could see in my mind all those guys standing there and eating and the seller’s assistant washing those plates in dirty water. The water must have had every one’s saliva.
Yuck! I wanted to vomit. I felt dirty.
I was angry with myself. Why did you eat there Nina? I asked myself.
Because I was hungry and there wouldn’t be anything to eat at home.
But you could have cooked something?
It was true. I could have.
I could hear Amma talking
“pathirupathu vayassai, ippolum thalla vechu vilambanam”
Amma was right. I was a lazy person. I had to change.
I decided, I will help Amma in the kitchen. Anyway I have three weeks of holidays, I might as well do something good. I walked back home.
As soon as I turned left from the main road, I saw the white Ambassador car parked in front of the house.
I clenched my fist to prevent my hands from shaking.
I will throw that bastard out this minute. I ran all the way. I noticed the driver was still sitting inside the car. I opened the gate and ran up the steps. I intended to throw him out. How dare he visits my house? Did I not tell him the last time that he can’t come to our house? Has he got no shame?
The door was open and I marched in.
Maria was sitting on my bed, going through my back pack. I looked around to see where his holiness was. I couldn’t find him. Then I remembered my bag
“What are you doing with my bag?” I tried to snatch the back pack from Maria’s hand. She was holding it tight.
“Give it back Maria” I yelled
Maria still held on the strap of the bag and I started to pull. I knew the bag will tear any moment. “Let go off my bag Maria, it is going to tear”
Maria started to pull the stuff out of my bag.
“Stop it” I yelled. “How dare you” I let go the bag and tried to put the clothes back in the bag. Maria pulled the bag away from me.
Amma was standing by the kitchen door
“Can you tell her to give my bag back” I asked Amma.
Amma pretended she didn’t hear me.
I watched in horror as my sister started to pull all the clothes and books out of my bag. She even flipped the pages of my text book to see if I have anything hidden inside the books.
I had nothing to hide. I knew my sister was always checking my personal belongings. That is why I had asked Beautiful Eyes to keep all the cards and gifts he has got for me in his room.
After the inspection my sister looked up.
I thought she looked ugly. She wore bright red lipstick and purple eye shadow!
I thought of asking her ‘Have you looked at the mirror recently? You look like a slut!’
“Where were you?” Maria asked
“pardon me” I stared at her trying to figure out what exactly was she hoping to hear from me
Our relationship had became more formal as we grew up.
“Mother said you went out in the morning” She replied
Mother? Wow, even Amma and Maria were becoming very formal.
“Yeah, I went out”
I thought of saying ‘just over there’, but that dialogue no longer had any effect.
“What is your issue?” I asked
“I asked you why you went to MG road?”
“Who are you to ask me that?”
“See, I told you, she has been acting very rude lately” My mother spoke. I looked at Amma and at my sister. I wanted to go to my room and shut the door, away from these two mad women. But I didn’t have a room. The living room was my room and the couch was my bed.
“What were you doing outside from 9.45 till now” My sister rephrased the question.
“Again, who are you to ask me that?”
“nee pezha adi”( my sister spoke)
I couldn’t stop grinning
“That is new coming from you” I replied
“What do you mean? Maria got up from the bed and even Amma came towards me
Two against one.
Two women who had so much in common against me.
Who were they kidding?
“You think I am a fool?” I asked. I took a step back, just to make sure that if they decided to hit me, I still have enough room to protect me.
“pareyedi, njan enna thetta cheythathu? (tell me what have I done wrong?” Maria spoke. She sounded so much like Amma
I wanted to tell her. But how could I? I knew what she was doing, but it was so humiliating to even utter it.
“I know about you and Acha” I spoke finally. I wanted Maria to know that I knew the truth. I wanted Maria to know that, even if Amma refused to see what is going on, I can see, that I ain’t blind, that I ain’t stupid, that she has gone too far.
“What do you know, huh? huh? huh?” Maria was panting like a rabid dog
I didn’t bother to reply. If she was going to act dumb, so be it.
“Acha and what?” Maria asked. She was holding my wrist and I pushed her away.
I heard Amma speaking
“She is jealous Maria, ignore her”
I thought of telling Amma, I would have to be brain dead before I feel jealous about what my sister was doing. But my mother was already brain dead, what was the point in telling her? Which mother could stand there and ignore the truth? Only a dead one!