Can someone tell me, what is Multiple Sclerosis ( MS) in Malayalam?
I should have known better!
But I didn’t.
And now I am stuck with a shoulder that refuses to move..
All because, I thought/pretended/acted as though I am the world’s best Football player..( at least in front of the kids!!!)
I am bored!!
“Do you remember how you served salt for your parents’ wedding lunch?” Amma was looking at me and grinning
“Yeah, that was funny wasn’t it?” I replied
“You would show the wedding album to everyone and proudly tell that the girl in the photo serving the salt was you!”
“How come you never corrected me Amma? Why didn’t you tell me, I wasn’t even born when you got married?”
“It was funny Nina”
“yeah, funny..You enjoyed mocking me, that is why you didn’t tell me the truth”
“Of course not, I wasn’t mocking you, I think I didn’t correct you then because there was something about your innocence that I didn’t want to destroy”
“hmm” I mumbled
I didn’t believe Amma’s explanation. I wanted to change the subject
“Who was that girl anyway? She looked so much like me, don’t you think?”
“Don’t know Nina, may be she was your father’s daughter”
“No, don’t be silly Amma”
“Seriously Nina. I have often wondered how many children your father really have? You know, when any of the neighbourhood women become pregnant, manussyan thee thinnum!! ( I eat fire) for 9 months, half expecting someone to come and knock our door and tell me that the baby she is carrying is my husband’s. when the baby is born, the first thing I do is to look for your father’s features in the baby. Knowing your father, you can never be sure!”
“po Amma, you are crazy”
“You can say anything you want Nina, but I know your father.”
So did I and I knew Amma wasn’t wrong in feeling that way.
“So how do I clean this cup” I took the silver cup in my hand and asked Amma, hoping to change the subject again.
“What is the point Nina, you clean it, it will shine for a few days, then it becomes black again!”
“Then we clean it again Amma”
I wasn’t going to give up.
“When I was little, it was my job to clean all the silverware at home. I had to use vilimbi puli and salt to clean! Do you know how long it takes to clean all the forks and spoons? When everyone was outside playing, I had to sit outside the kitchen and clean. That too using puli. Nice juicy puli that should be eaten. It tastes so good, when you mix it with salt and chilly powder!”
“You ate vilimbi puli!! You ate the puli! Did you not know that puli is not good for your health? Do you not remember how much you thrashed me for eating it. How could you do that to me Amma? ” I stared at Amma.
I was sure Amma remembered thrashing me when she caught me eating the puli. She had asked me to pick the puli, so she could make pickle and I tried to eat one, just to see how it tasted. It was too sour and I was standing there near the vilimbi puli tree, trying to figure out how anyone could eat it, when Amma came out of the kitchen and saw me with a half eaten puli in my hand.
“puli is not good for your health Nina, I swear”
“Right, I am sure someone you knew lost a daughter after she ate the puli right Amma?”
It was Amma’s ploy to make us obey her commands by telling us terrifying details of how someone she knew who didn’t listen to his/her mother had suffered and died!
Amma looked at me and I stared at her. I had enough of her games.
“Nina, your father left the four of you with me, if anything happened to any of you, do you think he would leave me alone? Besides who would take care of you, if you fall ill? I had to work!”
“But nothing happened to you when you ate the puli “
“You know? And even after knowing, you still hit me!”
“You won’t understand now Nina, One day, when you have your own children, you will understand”
There was nothing to understand. Amma simply enjoyed hitting her children. What other explanation was there?
“Yeah, I will be a better mother than you” I hissed
“You know, I said the same to my mother when I was growing up”
I was taken aback by her reply.
I thought of asking her, Did you? Did you try to be a better mother to your children than your own mother? Were you successful? I wanted to say, No Amma, you were the wost mother on planet earth. But somewhere deep in my head the sensible one whispered
‘What if she really tried to be better mother than her own mother? What if she was better than her own mother?’
I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t accept that my mother had a worst mother than me. But it was not impossible, was it?
Each generation tried to be better than the one before, that is why we call it progressive generations. No?
Amma took my tiffin box from the cardboard box. Small, silver colour rectangle box with two metal clips with a black thingy in the center on either side.
Amma opened the clips on either side and lifted the lid. Inside there was a small container. She used to keep the rice in the main compartment, thoran on top of the rice and the curry in the small container.
“I am going to close the box, do you want to clean the silver cup, or shall I put it back”
“Here, put it back, what is the point of cleaning it, we aren’t going to use it anyway!”
I was expecting Amma to say something nasty like
‘loser, lazy bone, Did I not tell you there is no point in cleaning it? etc etc’
But she didn’t.
Can you help me to put the back? Amma asked
I held the box and lifted it up slowly and together we pushed the box back on top of the shelf.
“Where am I going to get some banana leaves?” Amma came out of the kitchen wiping her hand on her night gown. I have told her a million times, not to wipe her hand on her gown. There were brown stains on either side of her night gown. Her night gown looked dirty all the time because of her habit.
Why can’t my mother use the towel, that is what kitchen towels are for!
Only in our house the kitchen towel was always sparkling white! ( because no one ever used it)
“For what Amma? why do you need Banana leaves?”
I looked at her hopefully, banana leaves! Perhaps she was making ela appam.
“Aiyyah, How am I going to pack Sally’s food?”
“Amma, are you crazy? You want to pack her food in a Banana leaves? ela choru? Have you gone mad?”
“Why are you talking to me like that Nina? How can you talk like that? What is wrong in taking ela choru ? Amma’s voice sounded sad.
I regretted over reacting. I shouldn’t have asked Amma if she was crazy. How was Amma to know what is acceptable in an ash poosh culture?
“Sorry Amma, I was not trying to be mean.
Amma, if you take ela choru, Sally’s friends would think you are a ‘country’! They will all make fun of Sally. No one takes ela choru to school here. Everyone eats burgers and pizzas.”
Amma looked at me and I knew what she was thinking. Hundreds of kids took ela choru to school in Kerala and no one laughed at them. How come it is not ok to do the same in Bangalore?
“May be you are right Nina. I don’t want Sally to think that she has a ‘country’ mother.”
“You are not a ‘country’ mother Amma” I spoke. I felt the need to protect Amma although I wasn’t sure what I was trying to protect her from.
“Shall I pack the food in your old tiffin box?”
“You still have it?”
“Of course, why, you thought I threw it away? Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!”
Why was I surprised that Amma still had my tiffin box, When I know she still carried a box full of moth eaten silk sarees that George gave her when she was still in college?
Amma went to her room and called me
“Nina, come and help me”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked Amma
Amma pointed to the cardboard box on top of the shelf.
“Help me to bring that box down”
“Ok, I will get the chair”
I went to the living room and got the blue chair.
“Make sure you step on either side of the chair, don’t step in the middle”
“I know Amma”
How many million times she has told me that!
“You don’t have to keep telling me what to do Amma. I am 20 years old for heaven’s sake. I can make decisions and I am totally capable of taking care of myself, you know!”
I climbed on the chair and yanked the box from the top of the shelf. It was heavy and my hand swung back and hit the fan blade
“Ouch” I screamed in terror.
“Oh God ! Nina, Are you ok? Let me see your hand, get down Nina, let me see your hand” Amma screamed
I sat down on the chair and checked my hand, there was a gash on my wrist and it was bleeding.
“Oh God” Amma took my hand and pressed the wound to stop it from bleeding.
I so very badly wanted to scold Amma for forgetting to tell me to switch off the fan. I also knew if I did so, then I would have to eat my own words spoken a few minutes ago. After all I was totally capable of taking care of myself!
“move” Amma pointed to to her bed and I went and sat down on her bed, while keeping my hand above my heart level. At least I knew basic first aid!
“ninney okkey onninum kollathilla ( all of you are good for nothing!)” Amma went to switch off the fan. She waited till the fan blades stopped moving and then climbed on the chair, making sure she stepped on either side, not the center and got the box down carefully.
she opened the box carefully and I looked inside. Right on top was a small cup. I remembered Amma used to keep that cup inside her round cake pan to make a tube pan. But now it looked very old and dirty. I couldn’t even imagine using that cup again.
“Why are you still keeping that dirty cup Amma?”
“Dirty cup? You call this dirty cup?” Amma looked at me incredulously.
“Then what? Can’t you see how dirty it is?”
“This isn’t dirty Nina, Do you know how expensive this cup is?”
“what? Expensive? How?”
“This is a pure silver cup, do you know that?”
“Hmm” Amma took the cup in her hand and was looking at it. I doubted if she could see anything written on that cup.
“Where did you get the cup Amma?”
Amma didn’t reply for a few seconds and I thought perhaps she didn’t hear me. i was just about to ask her again when I heard her speaking
“It was a wedding gift”
“Who gave it Amma?”
“Leave it Nina, you won’t know all the people who came to my wedding, would you”
Amma was back to her secretive mood. I never understood what would happen if she told me who gave her the gift. Why did it matter if I knew the person or not?
hv migraine..will write the rest tomorrow
“Nina, Sharon and the gang are organizing Crescent park annual day this Saturday. Would you like to join us?” Arjun Asked
“What annual day?”
“Crescent park annual day! You need to have a reasons to have a party nah? So they chose a day to celebrate their apartment’s birthday!, there will be music, dancing and booze! So you want to come?”
I wasn’t sure. I knew Amma would be upset if I go out for a party. I knew exactly why Amma would be upset. She wanted the society’s respect. Some how going to a party with a boy was not a socially acceptable behaviour. The irony of it all was, while she didn’t practice what she preached, She expected me to. And all I ever wanted was to enjoy my youth, because in three years I will be working as a doctor and I won’t have the time to go and attend a party.
I hated the situation I was in. I wished I was born in Arjun’s or Sharon’s family. I envied my friends and hated my family.
Three years, I just had to survive another three years more, then I would be out of this miserable family.
‘I would divorce my family’ I told myself.
I looked forward to the day I can be free of family.
“Can I ask you a favour?” Arjun asked
Gosh, favour? Is he going to ask me to bring something for the party? I am broke! I don’t have any money to buy anything. I should have said No, when he asked me if I was coming. Damn.
I looked at Arjun hoping he won’t ask me to bring something
“Can you not wear this t shirt?” He pointed to my favourite blue t shirt. “I am sick of seeing you in this t shirt. Please Nina, please don’t wear this t shirt. Did you know that you wore this t shirt every time we have gone out together?”
I wasn’t sure, but I knew he might be right. It was my favourite t shirt and I have the tendency to wear my favourite clothes over and over!
“Really. I can spot you among the crowd in commercial street. I just have to look for the blue t shirt!” Arjun was laughing
It felt weird. I was always able to spot my mother in the crowd. I just had to look for a woman wearing cream colour blouse, irrespective of the saree colour. I didn’t even want to think if I was turning out to be like my mother. Besides my blue t shirt matches my jeans, it is not like wearing a mismatched blouse with a saree, Right?
Amma was in the kitchen when I came back. I could smell something nice.
“What are you cooking Amma?” I asked
“It is not for you” She replied
It really hurts when Amma talks as though I never mattered. I wanted to hurt her and fight with her. I thought of saying I didn’t ask for whom it was, I asked what was cooking? Does she not understand English?
To hell with Amma.
I walked in to the kitchen to see what she was cooking. Amma was applying ghee on a steel plate. She then took the kuali and poured the contents in to the plate.
She was making Rava laddu.
She covered the plate and turned to look at me
“I made this for Sally and you don’t touch it. Tomorrow is Friday, I am going to take it with me when I visit her tomorrow”
“ok” I wanted to tell her, I won’t die if I don’t get to eat her harder than the rock laddu. But I didn’t.
Then I remembered, Amma never made Rava laddu for me.
I thought of asking how come you never made Rava laddu for me? But what was the point in asking? I can fight as much as I want to, but she was never going to change. Was she?
“Do you want to come along?”
I missed Sally. I missed talking to her and playing with her. I wondered how she had been? It felt good to know that I will see my baby sister tomorrow. I looked forward to seeing her.
In the morning, Amma made me apply the hair dye on her hair.
“You didn’t put it here, you see, there is still grey hair here” Amma was standing near the main door and checking her hair in the hand mirror.
“So what Amma, few grey hairs won’t kill you”
“oh pinney! Do you want Sally’s friends to think that I am her grandmother?”
“Grandmother? Why would they think like that?”
“Viddi kooshmandam” ( dumb nut!) “I am not going to explain to you. if you can’t understand simple things, why are you wasting your energy and studying for medicine?”
We heard the fish seller ringing the cycle bell. Amma looked at me.
“mone’ Do you have money?”
I was viddikooshmandam a second ago, now I am mone’???
“Sally may not have had good food at the hostel. You know, you are staying at the hostel. Can we buy some fish? Then I cam make some fish curry and pack some rice along to take with us.”
Amma looked at me pathetically. She looked as though she was begging me.
I didn’t want her to beg to me. Much as I hated her for treating me badly, I didn’t want her to beg.
I only had 100 Rs, till I get Appa’s next draft.
I took the money out of my handbag and gave it to Amma
“This is all I have Amma.”
Amma took the money from my hands and ran down the steps calling after the fish seller.
“Nina, get the pot” Amma called out.
I took the meen chutty and went downstairs.
I looked inside the fish basket. There were few pomfrets, and some small fish. I knew Amma would buy the small fish. Pomfret was expensive. Besides I had already told her, the 100 Rs note in her hand was all I had.
What did I know?
I watched my mother spending my last 100 Rs and buying the biggest pomfret. It was my money and there were so much of stuff I wanted to buy and I hated the taste of pomfret.
As we walked up the stairs Amma spoke
“I know Nina that you don’t like to eat pomfret. pavam Sally alley! You know she loves fish molley. Oh I forgot, I need coconut. Take this money and go to the corner shop and buy 1 coconut and a small bottle of coconut oil. Fish molley taste better if it is cooked in coconut oil”
Amma gave me the balance she got from the fish seller. It was my money and I had no control over it. I hated myself for being a sucker!
The first time I saw him, he was picking through the garbage can near the school soccer field.
I remember that day very clearly.It was baby’s first day at school and I was feeling very miserable. After all it was the first time I let my precious child out of my eye sight. I went through in my mind all the things I must tell my child. Things about strangers, teachers, bullies etc..
I hoped baby would remember everything I had told her. I hoped she would remember what she should do, if anyone approached her. I wanted to protect my child and 20 feet in front of me was this stranger, wearing old and ill fitting jacket( most of the down was coming out of the jacket), holding on to a stick for support and checking the garbage can for pop bottles. I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He didn’t look like a drug addict and I wondered why then was he collecting pop bottles?
With a suspicious eyes, I watched the old man, as he checked the contents of each and every garbage bin the school compound. I wondered if I should report him to the school authorities. He clearly didn’t belong to the group of people that comes to school to fetch and drop children each day.
But it was Baby’s first day at school and I wanted to be there for her, though she clearly didn’t need me. I remember her walking to her class, holding her back pack and talking to her new found friend. She didn’t even say good bye to me.
The next time I saw the old man, it was in the evening after the school was over. He was holding a back pack. I wondered if he stole that bag. Probably some kid must have left the bag in the soccer field and the old man must have taken it. I watched the old man, making sure that I knew where he was going, so I could tell who ever lost the bag who took the bag!
Then I heard someone yelling
“Grandpa” and old man stopped in his track and turned around. He said something and I thought that sounded like Tagalog.
He is a Filipino?
I have lots of Filipino friends in Malaysia, suddenly the old man ceased to be a stranger. There was a sense of familiarity. Filipinos and Malaysians shares so much of history! ( not to mention love of macaroni salad and Tagalog songs(Freddy Aguilar).
I saw the old man most evenings. He would come 15 to 20 minutes early, so he could check the garbage cans. I learned from my other Filipino parents that the old man is not eligible for Canadian pension for another 2 more years and he was too ill to work. So he collects cans to recycle.
I was worried what would happen to the old man when the school closes. Where would he go to collect all the cans?
We don’t drink much pop at home. I collected the juice boxes and occasional pop cans for over 8 months. There wasn’t much and I told the old man I would leave the bottles for him outside my house and he could pick it up any time..
He came just now.. but the bottles and the cans have gone..
And the old man is still looking..
I had no clue where he was going and I didn’t want to lean over his shoulder and ask him. suddenly I was getting paranoid about physical contact!
Still I wondered what aftershave he used.
Appa was an ‘Old spice’ fan. He always smelled like a freshly baked Christmas fruit cake!
I smiled when I realized that I was comparing my father to a fruit cake.
Ok lah, may be not like a fruit cake but fresh and cinnamonish!
I wondered again about Arjun’s aftershave.
Is he using Old spice?
I gently leaned over Arjun’s shoulder, making sure that I didn’t touch him and sniffed and savoured his after shave
A part of me was embarrassed with my own behaviour and a part of me was trying to act innocent.’ hey, it isn’t a crime to sniff someone’s aftershave.. I am not sniffing glue you know!’
Arjun parked the bike in front of a huge building and I checked the sign board outside. It was written in some script that I assumed is Gujarati or Marwari.
Ok, Now I trusted Arjun, there was no doubt about that. But I still needed to know where he was taking me to. He can’t just expect me to follow him without knowing where exactly we were going. How can he do that?
“Where are we?” I asked again.
The fence was too high and I couldn’t see what was inside. There were few scooters and bikes parked outside and I noticed some Marwari women were standing near the entrance. They all wore expensive clothes and Jewelry.
Is there some sort of party going on?
“Oh Nina, Everyone is leaving, I hope we aren’t too late” Saying that he started to walk and I was sure he expected me to follow.
Oh Nina!, aventey ammentey thala!
Doesn’t he know yet how much I hate him saying ‘Oh Nina’
To hell with him. I stood next to his bike. He can go inside and do whatever he wants. I had no intention of following him. I simply would wait for him to return.
I would have, if his sister had not come out of the building holding a box full of stuff. She was wearing a beautiful turquoise colour gagra choli. She saw Arjun and yelled
“You are too late” Then She saw me standing near the bike.
“Hi Nina how are you” She looked at me and at Arjun who was atleast 15 feet away from me. Arjun saw the look on his sisters face and he turned to look at me.
Only then Arjun realized I wasn’t walking with him.
He looked at me bewildered.
“Is everthing ok?” Preetha asked
“yeah, everything is ok. I was just wondering if it was ok for me to come in. I am wearing jeans.”
“So? what is wrong in wearing jeans? It is only a food fair! We are raising funds for our school. Didn’t he tell you?”
Preetha was struggling with the box in her hand and she yelled
“Hey moron, Can’t you see that I need help”
Arjun ran to help his sister. He took the box from her hand and looked inside
“You sold everything?”
“yeah, everyone loved the pav bhaji “
“You didn’t leave anything for me? How could you?”
“hey, you were late, who asked you to come late?”
I had no idea what the two of them were fighting for.
I saw Arjun putting his hand inside the box and Preetha shrieked
“don’t you dare touch it. It is mine. I bought it with my money.”
“ha!” Arjun kept the box on the ground and I watched the brother and sister pulling, pushing and shoving each other. Arjun threw a small plastic bag with something pink inside towards me and shouted.
“Take it and run”
I caught the plastic cover and in seconds Preetha was in front of me
“Give it back Nina, it is mine”
Arjun was standing right behind her and he waved his hands and I threw the cover to him, he caught it, opened the plastic bag quickly and started to pull a handful of pink stuff out.
“Give it back” Preetha punched her brother on his arm.
“Ouch, that hurts” Arjun screamed. “Ok, ok, here, take it” He gave the plastic bag to his sister.
“You took half of my cotton candy. I promise, I will make you pay”
She turned and looked at me. I thought she was angry with me for not giving her the packet. But she was smiling
“You too! Watch out. I will make you pay too! Both of you will get it!”
She turned to her brother, who was busy eating cotton candy.
“Now help me with the box, will you?”
Arjun still had cotton candy in his hand.
“You hold one side, I will hold the other side” he spoke while trying to swallow a mouthful of cotton candy.
“Come, I will help you” I lifted one end of the box
Preetha stopped an auto and together we carried the box and kept it inside.
“You are coming home, right?” She asked
“I think so, depends on your brother”
“Arjun, bring Nina home” She ordered her brother. “See you soon, ok.”She spoke to me
As the auto was about to leave, Preetha pulled something out of the box
“Hey bhaiyya, see what I got?” She waved the box and shouted “Kesar Shrikhand! I will save the empty container for you!”
Preetha looked out from the moving auto and grinned.
“Damn” I heard Arjun mutter.
“Come Nina, let us go and see if they have anything else left”
It felt weird, the fact that Preetha didn’t hate her brother for stealing her cotton candy.
They fought, she even punched her brother. But not like my sisters and I. We always said, nasty mean things to each other and we pretty much showed each other how much we hate each other. We returned all the pinches and punches with added interest! Arjun was stronger than his sister, yet he didn’t punch her back.
Where did we go wrong? How did we end up hating and hurting each other so much? How did we have this much of hatred?
I didn’t know the answer.
“You want some?” Arjun opened his hand to show me the squashed remnants of cotton candy in his hand.
“Here” he pinched some and gave it to me.
It was the first time I ever ate cotton candy. I have always seen people selling cotton candies in parks. Amma never allowed us to buy cotton candies. She called it “thuppal muttai”. She named it so because apparently she had seen the seller wetting his hands with his saliva while mixing the candy!
There was something special about doing things the first time.
first bus ride, first boat ride, first this, first that..
“Want some more?” Arjun asked
I took some more candy from his hand and together we walked around empty tables in empty booths, while eating cotton candy. There were few people sitting down on the grass field and eating.
“hey Divya” Arjun called when he saw his sister sitting with other ladies. As soon as she saw him she got up holding a plate and walked towards us.
“Did you guys get anything to eat?”
He shook his head
“Here, there is some aloo tikki and channa. You both can share! I was keeping it for Rajashree. You guys can have it. Rajeshree won’t mind.” She looked at me and spoke
“Sorry Nina, I didn’t know you were coming, otherwise I would have surely kept something for you”
“Wait here, I will find spoon for you”
She went to one of the ladies sitting in the group that she was in and got two spoons from her.
She gave the spoon to us and spoke pointing to the two empty chairs in one of the booths.
“Go, sit down and eat”
The golden rule at home was ‘Girl and a boy are not supposed to be together and they certainly need to be kept away from each other, so nothing untoward happens’.
Yet here we were, eating from the same plate and no one batted an eye lid.
Trust came as it should.
I had even forgotten I was angry with Arjun few minutes ago. I knew it was time I got over my ‘Oh Nina’ Phobia. There were more important things to do in life than getting someone to stop saying Oh Nina.
When I was at the college, All I wanted was to have a break. I didn’t want to wake up early in the morning, attend the morning clinic, go for afternoon lectures and go back to the hospital and see the new admissions in the evening. I just wanted some free time to read and dream.
Now that I have holidays, I wondered what was that I was so much looking forward to? There is only certain hours one can sleep and only so much one can read. What else was there to do? Amma was in her own world, Liza was busy with sports practise and I was bored beyond explanation. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. I just wanted to enjoy my holiday and it was simply impossible.
It felt so good when I heard the sound of a bike stopping in front of our house. I knew who that would be. I ran and opened the door. Arjun was just parking his bike. he must have heard the door opening. He looked up and smiled. I noticed he was wearing a check shirt.
“Hai” He spoke
“Hai” I replied
I watched him climbing two steps at a time and he stood in front of me.
“How are ya?” He asked
He peeped inside the house and whispered
“I missed you”
“chal, let us go”
“New ‘carry on’ movie has come out.”
“Carry on loving. It will be fun”
“What time is the movie?”
I leaned back to check the wall clock “It is already 2!”
“I would have come early, but I only woke half an hour ago. I had to shower, eat breakfast and lunch, then only I could leave home nah?” He looked at me innocently.
I smiled thinking of him eating breakfast and lunch.
“Go, get ready quickly, otherwise we will have to sit on the floor in front of the screen and watch the movie. Believe me, your neck will be dead after looking up at the screen for 2 hours”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I used to watch the movies sitting on the floor, so I know”
“Back home, in our village, we used to have this mobile theatres. If you are sitting on the floor, then you pay less. You know what I remember the most? In one of the movie the Nargis was crying and my dadhi ma reached across and touched the screen and said
“roh nah math meri jaan, sab tik ho jayengi! Roh nah math”
Arjun was laughing and I too started to laugh.
We stopped when we heard footsteps behind me.
Amma was standing in the middle of the living room
“Hello Aunty” Arjun spoke
“hello” Amma greeted Arjun with great difficulty.
“Go, get ready” Arjun whispered
I was certain, I shouldn’t go out with Arjun. Amma wouldn’t like it. But it was my holidays. Going out for a movie wasn’t a crime. Besides what was I going to do the rest of the day?
“Amma I am going for a movie” I spoke and quickly went to Liza’s room to change. I changed my clothes quickly and wore my favourite blue t shirt and jeans and came out.
Arjun was still standing near the door.
Amma could have asked him to have a seat. I thought. He had done so much for us.
‘Hey, stop blaming your mother all the time. You too could have asked Arjun to have a seat’ Sensible one spoke
I was beginning to hate sensible one. She seemed to be coming out with winning arguments lately.
“Bye Amma” I spoke. She was staring at me
I felt her eyes were saying
“nee pezha adi”
and I hoped she read my eyes, for they said
‘So be it’
“Bye Aunty” Arjun spoke and we both left the house quickly. I contemplated if I should close the door after me. But I didn’t want to stay there a second longer, perhaps afraid that Amma would tell me not to go. So I left the door open.
“Your mom is strange” Arjun spoke as he started the bike.
I didn’t reply.
“Nice shirt” I changed the topic
“Wore it for you! I know you like check shirts” Arjun turned to look at me. He was smiling”
“How did you know that?”
“it is a secret”
Arjun placed the helmet on his head and started to ride the bike.
I wanted to know how he knew that I like check shirts. I never told him that. I was sure of that. I leaned across his shoulder and asked him
“How did you know?”
That is when I smelled his Aftershave. He smelled heavenly.
“You smell nice” I spoke and immediately realized, I shouldn’t have. There were some lines one could cross between friends and discussions of perfumes and deodorants of a friend especially a boy wasn’t one of the lines. I knew I went too far.
Immediately I sat straight, making sure that our bodies didn’t touch. I regretted talking without thinking. I wondered how he was going to take what I said just now.
Arjun didn’t say anything and I thought perhaps he didn’t hear me.
I should have just stayed home. It was too late for that and when we saw the crowd in front of the theater, it was obvious that we were too late for the movie as well.
“Damn!” Arjun swore, looking at the crowd.
“Do you really want to watch the movie today?” He asked
“Why? Why do you ask like that?”
“because if you really want to, then I can buy the ticket from the scalpers. Otherwise we can come tomorrow and watch”
“Nah, don’t bother. we will watch it some other time”
“Now what?” Arjun looked at me
He was staring at me as though I would be able to come up with something fun to do.
“I don’t know, I honestly don’t know Arjun”
“chal Get on the bike”
“Where are you going?”
“Get on the bike, Nina”
“Where are you going?”
“Trust me, will you?”
“ok” I mumbled.
Again I sat behind him,making sure our bodies didn’t touch.
Yesterday someone I absolutely adore said to me
“Do you think your mother is the only person who would refuse to buy coffee for 38 bucks? So would my own mom, so would all the other mallu moms. It happens in every family”
Only then I realized that no one really understand what I am writing. Most are seeing a vengeful daughter who is out to tarnish her mother’s name.
I do not hate my mother. I love her absolutely. But when I write things that my mother did, why must you assume that I wrote that because I hate my mother? If I said I had enough of my mother, does that mean that I hate her?
I lived a life being afraid that someone would find out the truth about me.
I was like the Dutch boy who saved the town from flooding by covering the hole in the dam wall with his hand. In my case, there were not just one hole to cover. There was abusive father, stupid older sister, crazy mother.. there were way too many holes that I had to cover so I could be normal just like everyone else.
What I was to my classmates was only a part of who I really was. For them I was this rich kid whose father worked for Her Majesty, whose sister is an IIT graduate etc.
Deep in my heart I knew I was tricking/cheating my friends. Yet I couldn’t show them what I was.
Imagine how anyone one would have reacted if they had known who I really was!
Dr Nina Thomas, Grand daughter of Methran Thambi, daughter of a wife beater, womanizer… sister of Maria..
How many of you who read this blog would have wanted to do anything with me if you had known who I was?
Do you know how it was to live each day knowing that it is totally possible that one day one of my patients would know that I am so and so’s daughter( the one who made such a scene at the coffee shop or the bus stand or where ever) and tell me in front of everyone that “you are not worthy to be my doctor. You come from a screwed up family. You are messed up totally. I don’t want you to be my doctor”.
I was every bit ashamed( embarrassed, angry, annoyed with) of my mother’s behaviour. Because I knew most of what she was doing was attention seeking behaviour and she was doing it at my expense.
I didn’t ask for anything but a normal life.
But that was simply not possible in my life. So I had to create an illusion of normality in my life, I had to hide every embarrassing behaviour of each and every member of my family. My silence harmed me more than I ever realized. While everyone else around me lived a normal life, I was busy covering up my family’s mistakes.
There are times I feel I shouldn’t write everything, like someone mentioned ‘privacy is for a reason’. But I need to do this, not for anyone, just for me. What I couldn’t speak all those years, I am doing now and I just want to tell my side of the story.
So yes, most mothers don’t buy coffee for 38 bucks, they also don’t create a scene, if they chose not to buy. Mine did and I was embarrassed. All I wanted was for Amma to be like everyone else. If she did,Then I had few less holes to cover up.
It didn’t mean that I don’t love her. Even after all those manipulative mean things Amma has done, I still love her. She is my mother.
I wanted Amma to protect me, but I always felt she was throwing me in to the cave of Lions.
I knew how to protect myself, yet I let her do everything her way and then feel bitter about it.
I could have put my foot down and told her that I would collect the balance from the conductor when we reach the bus stand. I should have. I didn’t and I am angry with her for humiliating me.
This was not the first time and this wouldn’t be the last time. I always trust my mother, even when I knew deep in my heart not to do so. Even when I knew she would never buy me love birds, I still trusted her and let the barber butcher my hair. Even when I knew no good would come from meeting George, I still did and what did that bring?
I looked at my mother who was haggling in Tamil with the seller to reduce the price of a milk pot.
She gave birth to me and she tolerated Appa’s abuses for me and I wanted to love her.. but each time I loved her, I hated myself that much. I hated loving a woman who always got me in to trouble.
I wanted to walk away, but where could I go?
I was as free as a kite.. I could soar up in the skies , but Amma still had the string and I was afraid to even think what would happen to me if the string breaks.. Where would I go? Who would want me?
I had no idea, the mere thought of being all alone was scary.
I wanted someone to hold me and tell me that he would be there for me, each day, every single day.
Someone to love, someone to share the burdens I carry.
Some where at the back of my head I could hear the sensible one speak
‘You had that someone and you screwed it up royally babe’
I knew she was right, so I didn’t bother to argue with her.
I still had my tomorrow.. and I knew everything would be alright. All misconceptions could be cleared after a heart to heart talk. It has to. I love him that much.
“Come let us go” Amma pulled my hand
“You are not buying the pot?”
“Very expensive, Can you believe, it is 10 times more than what it costs in Kottayam! Why should I waste my money? Besides we still have our old milk pot No?. We don’t really need a new one. It is just that I thought that pot looked nice” Amma mumbled.
I thought of asking why then did she waste so much of her energy haggling with the seller. I knew what Amma would have said.
“Why are you taking his vakkalathu? ( Why are you fighting on his behalf?)”
“Nice coffee smell eh?” Amma looked around to see from where the smell was coming.
“There is a shop down there that sells freshly roasted coffee” I pointed to the shop
“How did you know that?” Amma looked at me suspiciously.
I knew what she was thinking and I was tired of trying to make her understand that I didn’t hang out with anyone at the Shivajinagar market, it was just that I saw the signboard when she was arguing with the milk pot seller.
“Do you want to buy coffee?” I asked
“Sure, it smells nice”
We walked to the shop. There were glass jars filled with different types of coffee and a matsalleh woman wearing a saree was busy buying coffee.
“avaldey saree kando?” ( did you see her saree?) Amma asked
She was wearing a pink colour saree with lots of zari work on it.
“pelayan style eh” ( low class!). Amma snickered
I ignored Amma’s comment. Why do I have to bother what a stranger chooses to wear? It is not that my mother wears proper clothes. She always wore a cream colour blouse with all her sarees.
“Yes Madam” The owner of the shop was looking at us. He had three rows of vibuthi on his forehead. Three eyes of Shiva, sun in the right eye, moon in the left eye and fire in the third eye. “When Shiva opens his third eye, everything will be over” I could hear Ammachi telling me the story of Shiva’s third eye.
I looked at the vibuthi lines again. What are the chances that Shiva would open his third eye anytime now?
End of the world! Gosh that was scary.
“How much coffee do you want?” I asked Amma quickly
“Ask how much?” Amma spoke
“How much what?”
“You tell me how much coffee you want to buy first” I hissed
“Which one do you want to buy?” I asked Amma.
The seller pointed to each jar and explained the goodness of different types of coffee and finally Amma made her choice and he measured the coffee and sealed it in a plastic bag.
“38 Rs” He spoke, as he handed the coffee to Amma.
“what?” I heard Amma screaming. “38 Rs for 250 gm of coffee?”
“Amma, it is freshly roasted coffee and it is expensive. I have the money and you don’t have to worry”
“You have the money? When did you start printing money? The money you have is your parents money. her money! Ha!”
I didn’t want to create a scene. I took my wallet and took out a 50 Rs note.
Amma chucked the coffee packet on top of the glass jar and turned around
“Come let us go. I have no intention of buying coffee that costs 100 times more than Brooke bond. Freshly roasted! ha! You think Brooke Bond company don’t roast their coffee fresh? Crookes” Amma hissed and walked out.
The matsalleh woman was staring at us and I looked at the seller. He looked so angry
“Sorry” I whispered.
He ignored me.
By the time I came out Amma was already walking towards the church.
I will never ever go out for shopping with my mother. I promised myself. I was so angry with Amma. What did she think? Freshly roasted coffee would be cheaper than Brooke Bond?
Amma stopped in her tracks and turned to look at me.
“Are you coming or not?”
I thought of making a quick dash across the road and get an auto and go to MG road. I could go to Gangarams and see what new books they have, then I can go to Eloor library and look for the books. But I knew I still have to go home in the evening. Go back to my mother’s house!
I walked quickly to where Amma was standing. I was still so mad at Amma. I wanted to ask her why she behave like this. But Amma acted as though nothing happened.
There were lots of people outside the church and most of them wore yellow colour clothes. Girls in yellow frocks, men in yellow shirts and women in Yellow sarees.
“What is going on?” Amma asked
“Why are they all wearing yellow colour?”
Inside the church, there were more people wearing yellow.
I heard Amma asking a lady standing near the entrance why is everyone wearing yellow. I heard her reply that
“We wear yellow to celebrate feast of St. Mary”
“Why Yellow?” Amma asked
“That is our colour” The lady replied
“But we Christians don’t use yellow. White is our colour. Only Hindu’s use yellow. You should really talk to your priest and tell him to get everyone to wear white colour”
I didn’t bother to wait and hear what the lady replied.
“Amma you go ahead and pray, I will wait for you outside”
I didn’t even wait to hear Amma’s reponse. I walked out quickly. I had enough of my mother. I couldn’t take anymore.