Around 8 am I noticed Amma had changed her clothes and was getting ready to go somewhere. Perhaps she was going to Sally’s boarding school. I wanted to go as well. So I asked
“Where are you going Amma?”
May be it was years of conditioning, because I honestly was expecting her to tell me ‘just over there’
“No more rice” Amma spoke
“oh! so where are you going?”
Amma looked at me as though I was the dumbest person on earth, which I no doubt was. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out where would one go to buy rice. Amma must have wanted to go to Vannarppet market or to the one near St. Philomena’s hospital*
“I mean Amma, if you are planning to buy the groceries, we could go to Nilgiris”
Amma was looking at me and I wondered what she was thinking. May be she would have thought how she could give birth to a dumb nut like me? Why would anyone want to go all the way to Nilgiris to buy few kilos of rice?
“What time do they open?” Amma asked
“Well, hmm, I don’t know Amma” I looked at her sheepishly
“Ninakku pinney enna mannankatti aa ariyavunney? (do you know anything in life?)”
I couldn’t stop smiling, because my mother just knew how to put me down each and every time.
“kilicho, athenkilum ariyavallo” (Go ahead, Grin! At least you know to do that”
I tried to stop grinning, but I couldn’t.
“You know something Nina, You have always have a smile on your face. How do you do it? Even as a child I remember you always had a smile!”
“hmm” Amma mumbled.
I wasn’t sure how to react. Should I be happy that my mother said something nice or should I wait for her next complain and the associated curses?
Amma looked at me.
“I wonder whose smile you inherited? Certainly not your father or anyone from his family”
I didn’t reply. Discussions regarding Appa or his family was a ‘no entry’ street for me.I knew Amma hated the fact that I like Appa and Ammachi. She wanted me to hate them just the way she hates them.
“Any news from your father?” Amma asked
“nope” I was quick to reply
I didn’t want to tell her that I received yet another letter from Appa warning me not to be like Amma when I grow up or my poor future husband would end up suffering like my innocent god loving father.
“Don’t know, must be busy with work”
“Work? Your lazy father and work don’t get along”
I wanted to fight for my father. I wanted to tell Amma that, if Appa wasn’t good at what he does, then he would have lost the job long ago. But what was the point? What would I gain by fighting Appa’s battle?
“true” I mumbled. I felt a tinge of sadness. May be a lot more than a tinge.. I could almost feel Appa sayng ‘Et tu Brute”
I told myself
‘Ama et fac quod vis'( Love and do what you want/wish!)’
Appa knows I love him and I felt he knew why I agreed with Amma instead of fighting with her.
“May be we could eat Dosai for breakfast and then go to Nilgiris. By then they should have opened”
Again as soon as I spoke, I regretted talking. I knew Amma was going to ask
‘entha nintey thantha dosai undakkuvo?( Is your father making the Dosai?’
“Let us go to Shivaji Nagar market. Then we can also go to St Mary’s Church. Someone told me if you pray there, your prayers really will be answered”
There was so many things I wanted to tell Amma.
I wanted to tell her, if she believed in God, then she should know that God is everywhere. You don’t have to go to a particular church and pray. But again I kept quiet.
“Go, get ready” Amma spoke
I must have taken less than 10 minutes to get ready and Amma was staring at me when I came out of the bathroom.
“Again?” She asked
“What?” I looked at my clothes and at Amma. “Again what?”
“You wear that blue t shirt every time”
“So?” Amma stared at me as though my question was really dumb.
“Well, you wear the same saree every time” I spoke
“That is because this saree is very easy to wash and it dries fast.”
I just couldn’t resist telling Amma
“Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!”
“You are wasting your time at the medical college. You should have done LLB!” Amma replied.
I looked at Amma. She was smiling and I didn’t feel like talking back.
“What time is Liza going to come back after her sports practice?” I asked Amma
“Don’t know” Amma replied
Don’t you think you should know? I wanted to ask Amma.
Amma took the key from her bag and locked the house.
“Liza has a spare key” She spoke
“hmm” I replied
There was an auto waiting near the main road and I called out
Amma pulled my hand and I turned and asked
“Why do you want to waste the money? There is a bus stand in Shivaji nagar! We will go by bus”
“pishukki( stingy)” I mumbled
“What did you say?” Amma asked
“Nothing. I was saying ‘sure Amma’,
“It sounded like pishukki “
I smiled again.
After waiting like what felt like a lifetime we managed to catch the bus to Shivaji Nagar. There were so many passengers in the bus and I was sure the bus was going to topple over. The conductor as usual didn’t have enough change to give back the balance and he scribbled the balance at the back of my ticket.
“It is their trick” Amma spoke
“These conductors don’t give you the change back, because they are hoping that you would forget to collect the money at the end of the trip and they could pocket the extra cash. This is all a scam”
“No probably. definitely” Amma was sure
When the bus reached the last but one stop, Amma nudged me.
“Ask for the balance” She spoke
“But we are not getting off here, the bus stand is the next stop”
“I know that. But what if the conductor runs off when we reach the bus stand?”
“Why would he?”
“Ask for the balance” Amma’s voice was stern.
I knew there was no point in arguing with Amma, so I asked for the balance.
The conductor was staring at me
“You are going to the bus stand Nah?”
I nodded my head.
“Then you can collect the change there” He was so rude. and some of the passengers were snickering. I was sure they were laughing at me. Here I was wearing a Levi jeans and looking so posh, yet was desperate to collect few paise change from a poor BMT conductor.
“happy now?” I snapped at Amma
She didn’t reply.
When the bus reached the station, the conductor made sure we got the money the last.
I was so angry with Amma. She didn’t have to make me go through this much of humiliation.
I wanted to be nice to Amma.
I knew I was all Amma had.
I could understand her hatred towards Appa and his family, I could understand her love for George, I could understand her faith in George, but I could never understand why she enjoyed humiliating me in public. She thrived on humiliating me and I hated her for that.
*( Does anyone remember the name of this market? Left turn near the hospital and all the way to the end of the road and the market was near the Jacobite church)