“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.