All I ever wanted was to escape from my family and not carry the baggage’s of burdens and responsibilities. The more I tried to flee, the more I got trapped. It felt like I was stuck in quicksand and I just couldn’t get out. I didn’t want to be the one to be there for Amma and at this moment all Amma had was me.
Until that moment my future looked bright and beautiful. I was going to be a doctor and have a life of my own and now I didn’t even know what my future held for me.
Why should I be the one left to take care of Amma?
“Filial piety” Sensible one whispered
‘Filial piety, mannakatta’ I answered
I pulled Amma’s hand and started to walk fast. There were so many cars, bikes and autos parked haphazardly outside the school gate. I walked trying to avoid bumping in to people and hoping I won’t get run over by a vehicle. It wasn’t easy, especially because the path was narrow and I was holding ( I think I was dragging)Amma’s hand. We came across a group of students chatting and walking towards us. They acted as though they owned the road and we should stand aside and give them way. I expected them to notice that I was holding Amma’s hands. They didn’t, They walked straight in to us and I let go Amma’s hand. They pushed Amma to the side and walked off.
“Irresponsible bitches” I cussed. I turned and yelled after them
“How dare you push an old lady like that? Don’t they teach you manners at your school?”
They turned and looked at me and shrugged their shoulder and continued to walk.
“Are you ok Amma?” I looked at Amma. That is when I noticed her nose. Although Amma isn’t very fair complexioned, when she cries, the tip of her nose glistens and turns pink.
I remembered the time I found her scraping coconut in the kitchen after Appa had hit her.
“Are you crying Amma?”
“No, mone’ I am not crying. Why do you ask such questions?”
“Because your nose is red?”
“Where? This one?” Amma touched the tip of her nose. “This is because I have running nose”
I was happy with her explanation. In my small world, I just wanted to know that she was ok and wasn’t crying. I didn’t want her to cry. Mothers don’t cry. Mothers shouldn’t have to cry.
But there was something else that bothered me more than Amma’s crying.
It was me.
I was upset when someone pushed my mother, yet I had no qualms dragging her as I walked. What manners did I have?
I could hear Amma’s voice I am a punching bag, No?
Some how it was ok for me to drag her, but not ok for someone else to push her.

‘mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa ( my own faults)’.

I reached out and held Amma’s hand, this time gently. I hoped she would understand that ‘thought I may not want to, come what may, I will always be there for her’.
I knew Amma was tired, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for the auto.
We walked past Casa picola. My favourite pizza place.
How much money have I wasted eating pizza there? American pizza was my favourite and it alone costs 18 Rs.
18 Rs!! if I had 18 Rs in my hand, then I could have taken an auto to go back home. My mother didn’t have to walk all the way home.
erinja kallum, paranja vakkum, chilavakkiya paisayum!!!

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.
“Oh really?”
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.

“You are not ready yet?” Amma asked
I looked at her and couldn’t help smiling. Amma had worn a black colour blouse to match her black and orange pochampalli print saree!
“What happened to the cream colour blouse?” I asked
“It is there in my cup board” Amma answered as though she didn’t understand I was mocking her.
I wasn’t going to give up.
“How come you are not wearing it?”
“Ah! I decided to wear the black colour blouse for a change” Amma replied
I was hoping to embarrass her, but my attempts were futile. My mother knew how not to get embarrassed! I was a bit annoyed with myself and perhaps to make me more annoyed, I remembered how Amma got this saree.
She came home one day from work and showed us the saree she ‘bought’ on sale. I knew she didn’t buy it. She couldn’t have. She didn’t have that much money needed to buy a zari and silk brocade saree. My mother wouldn’t have wasted money buying an expensive saree when we were having kappalanga thoran(green papaya) and thazhuthama mashiyal. (I don’t know what is Thazhuthama called in English, It grows wildly inside culverts and drains) for lunch and dinner.
Besides, she ‘bought’ the saree in February, like all the other silk sarees in her cupboard. Each and every one of those silk sarees in her cupboard were bought on sale in ‘February’.
Amma is an Aquarian! and I knew who send her gifts for birthdays.

I was so angry with Amma for lying to us.
I was even more angry because I remembered Chechy’s class photo. Amma refused to buy a simple cotton pochampalli saree for Maria. All the girls in her class decided to wear a pochampalli saree for the annual class photo and Amma didn’t buy Maria a new saree. She didn’t want to waste money buying a brand new saree for a photo shoot!
I remember seeing Maria’s class photo. It was a black and white photo, and my sister looked so out of place in the midst of all her classmates. She was the odd one out. I knew how much it would have hurt my sister. What excuse could she have given when everyone knew Appa worked for her Majesty and Amma too was working! I wished I could take away all the miseries and pain Amma had given her. I wish I could tell my sister how much I love her.
“Are you going to get ready or not?” Amma asked again. This time she had my lunch box in her hand.
“It is too early ma. School only gets over at 4 pm. It is only 2.30,What are we going to do there for another hour and a half?”
“I don’t want to be late Nina”
“Amma it is too hot outside, we will leave by 3 It only takes 20 minutes by bus to reach her school and we won’t have to sit and wait under the hot sun”
“You never understand. I am not going to argue with you. If we are late, I will kill you” Amma huffed and went to her room.
Although I knew the chances that we would arrive at my sister’s school late if we leave by 3.15 were extremely low, I really didn’t want to take a chance. So I got up to change my clothes.
“Amma, I am ready, come let us go”
Amma came out of her room, took the hand mirror and opened the main door to check her hair under bright sun light!
“Do I have any grey hairs here?” Amma pointed to the back of her head
“No ma” I was in no mood to find all the stray grey hair and apply the dye stick!
“You are not looking properly. How can you see the grey hairs, if you are standing so far away. come here and look”
I walked to where she was standing and looked at her hair. There were plenty of grey hairs at the back of her head. I probably missed it when I applied the dye this morning.
“No, Amma, there are no grey hairs. Everything is black” I lied. I knew she won’t be able to see it and there was no way I would get in to trouble for lying!
“Are you sure?”
“Yes Amma, I am very sure”
“Ok, come let us go.” Amma kept the mirror back. Took the lunch box and her hand bag and came out. I locked the main door.
“Can we go by auto?” Amma asked
“Why Amma, why waste money? her school is close by”
“I know, I don’t want to ruffle my saree. We will take an auto from here and from there we can back home”
I only had the balance of the 100 Rs I gave Amma in the morning. The trip should costs less than 1o Rs. If we were going to walk back home then it should be fine.
We stopped an auto and got inside. I checked the meter. I knew the minimum fare shown on the meter would not change until we reached the army barrack. I wanted to make sure the meter wasn’t tampered and like Murphy’s law,the meter started to turn even before we reached the army barrack
Annai your meter is not working properly” I spoke quickly. I wanted him to know that I know he tampered the meter!
The driver turned his head and looked at me. “No madam, it is working properly” He replied sternly.
“No Annai, It is minimum fare till the Army barracks. I know because I take the auto every day. Your meter is showing the wrong reading”
He ignored me.
I watched the numbers on the meter changing every few feet. My heart started to pound in my chest. First of all his meter is tampered and secondly I only had less than 20 Rs in my hand
“Your meter is wrong” I yelled.
I watched the driver turning to the side of the road and he stopped the auto.
“You can pay and get off here” He spoke.
I was going to. But Amma leaned over and whispered
“You go Annai, ignore her. she is mad”
The driver looked at Amma, nodded his head and continued the journey.
Athentha Ammey Anginney paranjey? (Why did you talk like that) I asked Amma in malayalam.
pinney, nadu rottil ayalu erakki vittal, nammalenna cheyyum? ( what are we going to do if we have get off here?)
verey auto pidikkanam” ( we will get another auto)
pinney, podi, ennu vecha nintey thantha vandiyum kondu varumo” ( yeah, your father is going to bring the auto)
kashillanjitta” ( I have no money) I hissed
mindathiri, ayalu kelkkum” ( keep quiet, the driver would understand)
I honestly wanted to pinch Amma. I don’t know why I felt that way. And I knew it was a stupid thought. But I wanted to pinch her so hard.