When I took the 11 Rs and 40 paise out of my purse to pay what would normally be around 7 Rs, I was so angry. Only those who has nothing but few more coins in their wallet and few more weeks of wait till the next draft would know how it feels to overpay the auto driver. There was no need to overpay. We could have got off and taken another auto.
“nee orikkalum konam pidikkathilla” ( You will never do well in your life). I muttered as the driver started the auto and took off.
I knew I promised each time Amma cursed me that I won’t be like her and curse others. I didn’t want to be like her. But what was I going to do the next few weeks without money? Everyone in my class would come back after holidays with new clothes and lots of food. I didn’t mind not having new clothes. But at least I should take a packet of ‘Mixture’ with me, No?
“nee enthina ayaley prakiye? ( why did you curse him?) Amma asked me.
I thought I muttered quietly and was surpirsed that Amma had heard me cursing. Then I remembered, being deaf, one tend to speak louder even when whispering.
“You shouldn’t curse” Amma spoke.
Coming from someone who was forever cursing her daughters, that was news!
“Really Nina. Bhoomi devi is always saying anginney varattey (let it be). So at the time you cursed, if Devi was saying anginney varattey, then it would come true.”
“Oh really?” I knew I sounded pretty defensive and I spoke without even waiting for second to counter attack
“Then how come Amma you curse us all the time?”
“That is not the same”
“How come? Oh I forgot, you know the exact time bhoomi devi says anginney varattey and avoid cursing us at that time?”
“Don’t be stupid Nina. Mothers can curse their children, but nothing will happen. kakka kku ennum thann kunju pon kunju aa, do you know that?”
Wow. I was taken aback by her response. It was something I never thought my mother would say. Did she really mean that? Does that mean I am precious to her?
For a moment it felt so good, thinking that I am precious to Amma.
“onnu vegam nadakkunnudo?.. aadi thoongi nadannolum!!! ( can you walk a bit faster?)”
entey helium ballon nte kattu tsssss nnu poyi!
Amma opened the blue metal gate and held it open for me.
I walked in and looked around. There was a basketball court right in front of me, and there was a building with yellow painted walls at the far back. There were a couple more buildings on the left side.
“onnu varunnundo” Amma yelled and I started to walk fast and follow her.
“Where are you going?”
“To the hostel”
“Where is the hostel?”
“There” Amma pointed to the yellow colour building.
“Nice flowers alley” Amma pointed to the flower pots by the side of the walk way.
Oh no! Amma and plants, I knew where this was heading.
“Amma you aren’t going to steal the plants. They will catch you”
“Oh pinney, who is going to know?”
“Amma please, don’t steal the plants. Remember the last time I took you to Lal Bagh and the guard yelled at you for stealing the plants?”
“But no one caught me during the flower show in Kottayam!” Amma announced proudly.
There was no point arguing with Amma.
I held her hands and pulled her away from the plants. The best thing I could do under the circumstances.
We stood in front of the hostel trying to see if anyone was around. There was not a single soul in sight.
“May be we should wait” Amma spoke
“oh Really? Didn’t I tell you there is no point in going early? Did you listen?”
“Why are you always fighting with me Nina?” Amma asked
Fighting? Always fighting? Now this is my problem? Did I not tell her that we only need to leave by 3.15? She is the one who wanted to leave early and now we had to sit and wait for the school to be over.
But I knew Amma just wanted to see her youngest child and I felt perhaps I was being too harsh on her.
“I wasn’t fighting with you” I replied half heartedly.
“venda onnum mindeda” (don’t say anything!) Amma spoke sadly.
Amma walked to the side of the basket ball court and sat on the small concrete divider. I sat next to her.
“Sorry ma, I wasn’t trying to fight with you”
“All of you are same. I am this punch bag that all of you can keep hitting. Like a punch bag,I have no feelings, No?” Amma looked at me.
“Aiyyo Amma, I said I am sorry alley?“
“I am not a lorry to carry your sorry” Amma spoke.
There was a moment of silence and we looked at each other. I could see the smile on Amma’s face and we both started to laugh.
It was Maria’s favourite dialogue. Each time she punished us for disobeying her, we would holler “I am sorry”, hoping she would forgive and she would speak calmly
“I am not a lorry to carry your sorry”.
“pavam, enginney thanney jeevikkunno avo! ( hope she is ok)
“hmm” I mumbled.
I wasn’t sure what to say. Did I think that Amma cared for Maria? Did I think that her concerns were genuine? I wanted to say No.. but I could hear her saying
‘kakka kku ennum thann kunju pon kunju aa’
Then why doesn’t she do something? Why Amma Why? I wanted to scream at the top of my voice and ask. I wanted to, but the words refused to come out of my mouth. What was I afraid of, I never knew.
Amma and I talked and discussed Indian politics,especially Gandhi Dynasty. Amma loved Rajiv Gandhi and she wanted Priyanka to be the next PM not Narasmiha Rao. I spend the next 45 minutes trying to convince her why Gandhi’s were a bane to India! and I leanred the hard way pothintey cheviyil vedam oothittu oru kunavum illa..
A little while later, we heard the bell ring and there was a moment of silence after the bell and then all hell broke loose. There were so many students every where and everyone was talking at the top of the voice. Some students came to the basket ball court and dropped their school bag on the floor. The next second someone else came dribbling the basket ball and they all started to stare at us, before continuing to play the basket ball.
For a second I was conscious of my appearance. My hair was in a mess, mostly because I had cut it short few months ago and was now growing it, hoping to have long hair before the exams in January. I had tied my hair in a(very short) pony tail, may be not a pony tail, a pig tail!.
Perhaps I should have left it loose. I thought of pulling the rubber band off.
“Nee entha vayum nokki erikkunathu, go and ask them where to find Sally” Amma nudged me.
I got up and looked at my clothes making sure my clothes are ok and walked towards the girls playing basket ball.
“Excuse me, Can you tell me, where I can find Liza Thomas?”
“Liza, is she in Std 5?” One of them turned to look at me
“Oh No, Sorry, not Liza, Sally, I am looking for Sally Thomas”
“Oh Sally” The girl with the basket ball stopped dribbling and spoke
“She went off early today”
“Her sister had come early this afternoon and said there is some family emergency and fetched her” Then she looked at me and thought for a second
“Who are you?” She asked me
I ignored her question. “Are you sure, we are talking about the same Sally Thomas?”
“There is only one Sally Thomas in this school and her uncle is some big shot” She answered smartly.
“Are you her sister?” She asked again
“yes” I mumbled and turned to walk away quickly, before she could ask me ‘how come you didn’t know about the so called family emergency?’
“What did they say?” Amma asked
I looked at her. She was already standing holding the lunch box in her hand.
“Where is she Nina?”
“She is not there ma, come let us go”
“What do you mean she is not there?”
“Chechy came and fetched her early”
“What? They must have got it wrong, it must be someone else. ninney okkey kondu onninum kollathilla.”
Amma walked towards the girls
“Excuse me, I am the mother of Sally Thomas, Can you tell me where she is?” Amma spoke in her typical mallu accent. I could see some of them snickering and looking down to hide their laughter. The girl with the basket ball wiped her face with the back of her hand to hide her smile and spoke
“Aunty, Sally went home with her sister this afternoon”
“Are you sure, it is Sally Thomas?” Amma asked again reinforcing the word Thomas
“yes aunty, I know Sally Thomas very well. She is in my class”
“She is very tall and has short hair” Amma pointed to her hair as though the girl wouldn’t know what is hair.
“yes Aunty, I know aunty. She went home this afternoon”
“Why ah?” Amma asked her
Now all of them were looking at Amma as though my mother is an alien.
I went up to her and held her hand.
“Come Amma, let us go”
“Wait Nina, let me ask, why she went home?”
I knew we were creating a scene.
“amma, avarkku engineya ariyavunney ( how will they know?)
Amma looked at me and I saw tears welling up her eyes.
“ba amma, nammakku thirichu povam”
I took the lunch box from her hand and held her hand and started to walk towards the gate. The lunch box was still warm.
But my heart was cold. I hated Maria for hurting Amma like this. I knew there was no family emergency. Maria knew Amma would visit Sally on Friday evening.
Amma had told her that.!
forgive the grammatical and spelling errors..I just can’t go through this again.