There was not a single soul outside the lecture hall. Everyone in my class was inside the lecture hall. My juniors were in the Anatomy lab, seniors were all inside various labs doing experiments. And I who normally bunks most lectures was standing outside the lecture hall because my Professor Kicked me out of the class for no reason.
I felt so lost and lonely.
I was so angry.
There was no point standing outside the lecture hall like a scarecrow.Should I go back to the hostel and skip the rest of the lectures today? I decided to go back to the hostel and read some books. As I started to walk, I thought again about what happened today.
I could hear Dr. Gopal yell at the top of his voice and asking me to Get out. I tried to figure out why he was angry with me.
Have I ever met him before?
No, I was pretty sure that I had never seen him before.
Then why was he angry with me?
Could it be that he knows something about my family? Does he know my sister? Does he know George?
I was struggling to breath when I realized what probably is the reason why I was kicked out of the class.
Bloody hell. I swore.
But then something changed. Each time George upped the challenge, I fought and I won. Why was I giving up now?
Suddenly I was back to being Methran Thambi’s grand daughter.
I didn’t come this far to lose now. I turned back and walked back to the lecture hall. I stood right out of the door.
If Princy came for a spot check, I wanted him to notice me and ask me why I was standing outside the class.
Wasn’t I the same one who used to run and hide behind the doors when Princy came for surprise visits, because I didn’t want to get caught for bunking?
Princy didn’t come, but a little while later I heard the door being opened and Dr. Gopal walked out. He looked surprised to see me. I ignored him.
There was so much of ruckus inside the class which is the usual scene as soon as the professor leaves the lecture hall, but as soon as I walked in, there was pin drop silence. Everyone was staring at me.
My seat was still empty and I went to sit there. As soon as I sat, Anitha moved far away from me, as though I was some untouchable. There was now enough space for another student to sit between both of us. Not that anyone would want to take that prime spot.
Some people say, we are punished for the sins of our previous life. But what horrible sins could one commit for being punished like this over and over and over?
When will I ever finish paying for my past life sins?
I wished someone would just hold me and tell me it is ok. I knew the whole class would have seen the way Anitha reacted when I sat down. But I was all alone in a class of 120 students. I was always all alone. I held my books close to my body.
thanikku thanum, purakku thoonum.
When will I ever have someone to share my burdens?
‘You had someone, you $%^&*8 it up’ Sensible one spoke
I was too tired to argue with her. What was the point? The end result was still the same.
I lost and there was nothing new in that knowledge.. Was there?
I kept on building and some one kept on moving the foundation.. Houses in the sand..
“oh, you are back!”
Shylaja opened the door and was staring at me. I quickly wiped my tears.
“Are you ok?” She asked
I got up quickly and put all the cards back in the plastic cover. I didn’t want to discuss why I was upset with Shylaja, so I ignored her and went out.
Anitha was standing in the corridors
“hi” I replied.
“Did you hear?” She asked
“We have a new Associate prof for Micro”
“Hmm, Guess what, He is a Malayalee”
“Lucky you” One of the North Indian girls spoke while looking at both of us.
It was true. Anitha and I and all the other mallu students were indeed lucky. It isn’t often we have a Mallu lecturer in our college. Having someone from our home state meant a bit of favouritism and chance of passing the viva!
Not that I needed extra help to pass Microbiology. I loved microbiology. But perhaps now I could aim for getting the gold medal ( especially with the help of my fellow country man!)
“What is his name?” I asked Anitha
“Dr. Gopal something something”
I mumbled. I was already dreaming of winning the shiny gold medal.
“Did you bring anything from home?” Anitha asked
“yeah, I got pickles and Shrikhand” I replied
“Shrikhand? Anitha howled. “You brought Shrikhand? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Before I had time to react, half the girls in my class were already in my room and eating the Shrikhand Arjun’s mother made for me.
“Your mom makes the best Shrikhand Nina” Anitha spoke. “I wished my mother knew how to make North Indian sweets. She only knows to make the boring payasam. You are so lucky”
I wanted to scream at the top of my voice and tell her that I am not lucky, my mother doesn’t know how to make Shrikhand and even if she knew, she wouldn’t make it for me. I so very badly wanted to tell the truth that Arjun’s mother made the Shrikhand. I wanted to give the credit where it was due.
But like all the (mis)information I have encouraged my friends to create and believe before, this too was something that I didn’t plan to, but ended up doing.
I didn’t want to hear all the snide remarks if I had told that it was Arjun’s mother who made the Shrikhand. How was I going to explain why my own mother didn’t make anything and why Arjun’s mother made something for me?
Arjun was standing in front of the lecture hall along with few of the North Indian boys and he was looking at me. I so very badly wanted to tell him that I am so sorry for yelling at him in the morning. But how to apologize in front of the other students. Under the circumstances, I did what I could do to ease the ‘misunderstanding’, although technically there was no misunderstanding and I was the only one to be blamed, I looked at him and gave him the best smile. He just turned his head and ignored me.
There was something about looking at someone and smiling. When you smile,You are hoping the other person will smile too and then you know everything is going to be ok. But when the person turns his face away, then you don’t know what to do with the smile on your face. Your immediate reaction would be to get rid of the smile before someone notices that you are standing in the middle of the corridor and grinning like a mad woman.
I quickly looked down, hoping no one saw my ‘foolish’ smile and walked inside the lecture hall.
“Dr Gopal is coming” Someone announced and I ran to get the best seat. I wanted to be in Dr. Gopal’s good books.First seat in the first row is the best seat in the whole gallery. It faces the prof”s table.
Anitha sat next to me. She was staring at the door, waiting eagerly for Dr. Gopal.
I looked at her and thought to myself
“I know why you want to sit in the front row! But I got the first seat!. I felt so childish, yet I was still very happy that I got the best seat and not Anitha.
Dr. Gopal walked in to the class. The first thing I noticed was that he didn’t wear his lab coat. Instead he wore a long sleeve shirt and a tie.
Everyone got up and greeted him
“Good afternoon sir”
He nodded his head and moved his hand asking everyone to sit down. he took the attendance register from the peon and sat on the corner of the desk.
“I” he looked around to see who was number 1 in the attendance list.
“Yes sir” Anil got up and answered.
Each student got up and answered yes sir as he called out the numbers.
After taking the attendance he gave the register back to the peon and the peon left the lecture hall and was about to close the door.
“Don’t close the door” Dr. Gopal spoke to the peon.
“Nina Thomas” Dr. Gopal called out.
I was sure I heard him call my name. But I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps I was imagining. My heart started to pound, because I knew something was wrong
“he is calling your name” Anitha nudged me and I got up.
I was planning to look at him and smile because I thought being a Malayalee he would be happy to see another mallu.
But he was staring at me and the way he looked at me was scary. I had even forgotten to smile. I quickly tried to remember as many microbiology facts as I can because I knew he was going to ask me some tough questions.
There was pin drop silence in the class and I knew all the students were staring at me.
“Get out” He pointed the door and spoke
“What?” I stared at him like a dumb head.
“I said, GET OUT” He screamed
I took the books from the table and started to walk out. I could hear shoes clacking on the ground and the sound was echoing in the absolute silence in the class. My normal reaction would be to walk as gently as I can, so my shoes won’t make so much of noise. But I didn’t care anymore.
As I reached the door, I noticed the peon had already left.
Eblis must have got to my cursed tongue because what I did next was unbelievable even to me.
I looked at Dr. Gopal right in his eyes and asked him
“Sir, would you like me to close the door?”
I didn’t wait for his answer. I closed the door after me and noticed my hands were shaking.
I was so angry.
I hated the day I wanted to do medicine. I hated the day I was born.
I didn’t do anything wrong, still I was thrown out of the class for no reason. Why I was I punished like this? Have I not gone through enough?
I wanted to escape.
I just wanted to leave everything and go somewhere. But that was the main problem wasn’t it? I never had any place to go.
paambu kalkku malam undu..
parava kalkku akasham undu
manusya puthranu thala chaykkan
odicha lekkillenkil moothamma-kkirunnottey!
I knew the saying so well. Amma always said that to me each time I got angry with my sisters and took it out on Amma. Now it was Arjun, who had to endure my crankiness.
I wanted to apologize, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Arjun wore the helmet and started the bike. I sat right behind him. I was sure he was going to speed, so I held on to my seat for support.
Just as he turned in to the main road I remembered I hadn’t taken my sweater. It was still lying on my bed. I thought of asking Arjun to turn back. But somehow the bubble of silence that hung between us was soothing to my soul and I didn’t want to change it.
I was feeling cold and I noticed Arjun wasn’t riding as fast as I thought he would. I lifted my hands and tried to hug myself to keep me warm. My arms were touching Arjun’s back and I tried to lean back so I won’t touch him. He was wearing a jeans jacket and I wished he would be like all my heroes in Mills & Boon novels, and notice how cold I was and would offer his jacket to me.
‘Cinema style life’
That was my mother’s biggest contention with her husband. My father lived in a dreamy world where the wife waits for her husband with a smile and cup of tea and my mother lived in a practical world where sometimes one runs out of milk and sugar to make the tea and frown replaces the smile and expected her husband to understand that life isn’t a movie.
Where was I heading? I wondered. Was I too dreaming of a ‘cinema style life’? I didn’t know the answer.
Arjun stopped the bike in front of the college main entrance and I got off.
“Thanks” I mumbled and started to walk.
“Wait” Arjun spoke
I turned around to see him digging through his back pack and he pulled out two bottles
“here” He held the bottles in his hand and I noticed one had green chilly pickle and I wasn’t sure what was in the other container.
He probably noticed me staring at the container in his hand and spoke
“Ma made Shrikhand and pickles for you”
There are no words left to describe the humiliation I felt at that moment. I chewed his brain first thing in the morning and now his mother had send goodies for me, even when my own mother hasn’t bothered to do so.
I took the bottles from his hand and tried to look at his eyes to apologize. He didn’t make any eye contact. He just mumbled ‘bye’ and zoomed off.
I stood there motionless with an enormous feeling of hatred for my own mother.
I hated Amma because she never had the time or money to make anything for me to take back to the hostel. She could make fish curry for Sally, but nothing for me. I was never worth the trouble for her.
I wasn’t trying to assign the blame of my own horrible behaviour to others.
‘Yeah right’ Sensible one spoke.
“But Amma could have made something for me, Arjun’s mother did, why not my own mother?” I asked the sensible one
‘She didn’t have money Nina and you knew that’ She spoke
‘Yeah, she never had money when it comes to me and shut up I don’t want to hear you justifying my mother’s action”
I walked quickly back to the hostel and opened my room door. The room smelled musty. I noticed Shylaja’s bags on the bed. Aparna’s bed was empty. She mustn’t have come back yet. Although she wasn’t in my group, I was still relieved to see that even she missed the morning rounds.
I opened the windows to get rid of the musty smell. Took my clothes out of the bag and put them back in my cupboard. I noticed the Archies plastic bag that held all the birthday and Christmas cards I had received the last 2 years. I took the plastic bag and went and sat on my bed.
I took out the two pencil drawings Arjun had drawn for me. He had asked me what I wanted as a gift for my birthday and I had asked for his paintings. I had seen all his paintings at his home. I loved his paintings. He didn’t have any paint at the hostel and instead made two pencil drawings for me, with a promise that he would paint something for me later.
I looked at the picture of women carrying water jars on their head and walking in a row. Those women in the picture represented something that was totally alien to me. We never had drought in Kerala, I never saw women going to the distance to carry water back home. I looked at the faces of women.
Only then I noticed,They didn’t have a face. Their faces were covered with their duppatta.
I wanted to scream.
I didn’t want to be a woman without a face.
I could never be a woman without a face.
I rummaged through the cards. I wanted to find something from Beautiful Eyes. I wanted something to hold on to. I remembered soon enough that I had nothing from beautiful Eyes. I had asked him to keep all the cards we gave each other because I didn’t want Maria to find them.
Bitter tears started to fall down my cheeks. I didn’t bother to stop. Like the candle that burns to its own end and disappears, I hoped my tears would finish me off. Because there was no other escape for me.
“Will you be coming home this weekend” Amma asked
“No Amma, I have so much to study” I replied.
“But you can come home and study Nina” Amma spoke
I looked at Amma to see what she was talking about. My mother wanted me to come home?
“Huh?” I asked her
“It is the same right? If you sit here and study or at the hostel?”
“Why do you want me to come home Amma?”
Amma didn’t answer that.
“Don’t come if you don’t want to” She got up and went to the kitchen. I knew she was angry, because I heard her dumping the coffee cup with all her energy in to the kitchen sink.
I quickly glanced through all the pages of Deccan Herald paper. I had to take the paper downstairs before my landlord and his wife woke up. I hated to borrow anything and now even the newspaper was borrowed. I folded the paper properly and tiptoed down the stairs and kept the paper in front of the door step and walked back home. I could have asked the land lord for the paper later in the day, but Amma didn’t want them to know that we are financially broke. So like a thief I go downstairs each morning and take the paper and read it quickly and put it back.
Arjun was late. He was supposed to pick me up at 7 and it was already 7.30. now even if I take the bus, I would be late for the morning rounds. I should have never waited for Arjun. I was annoyed and angry and to make things worst, I remembered it was my first day of Surgical posting under Dr.V.D.N Head of the Department of Surgery. Only a student who wanted to spend few more years at the college would skip a posting under H.O.D.
The H.O.D’s have the power to pass or fail any student and skipping a round was akin to digging one’s own grave.
I quickly tried to think of an excuse for today’s absence. My grandfather had died many times since the beginning of my medical education, so I couldn’t use that excuse. My grandmother is still alive and I really couldn’t bring myself to say that she died. What about saying that my mother was ill? I looked at Amma who was sitting on my bed and trying to knit a scarf. What if she really fell ill because Karma decided to pay me back for lying? I knew Karma can’t touch me if i say my grandfather died, because he actually died few days before my birth
Aiyyah, now what was I going to do?
Another aspirin? Oh Gosh, Only I knew how much my body itched the last time I took Aspirin. And I remembered when I took it.
No I don’t want to think about it.
“Who are you knitting the scarf for?” I asked Amma quickly.
“no one in particular” Amma shrugged her shoulder
“But why are you using grey colour wool?’
“because I like grey colour”
“You like grey colour?”
That was something new. I never knew Amma liked grey colour. Actually come to think of it I had no idea what was Amma’s favourite colour.
Amma was knitting so quickly and I wondered why was she in so much hurry. It was only end of August and we only use scarf in Nov-December. Something didn’t make sense and I tried to figure out what was going on. Amma must have seen me staring at her.
“What are you looking at me for?”
“oh, I was just seeing how easy you do the stitches”
“hmm” Amma mumbled.
I thought perhaps Amma would ask me if I wanted to learn to knit.
Then I remembered Artaban.
It felt like someone was sitting on my lungs, because I just couldn’t breath. I got up, opened the living room door and walked out. And in the next moment I saw Arjun parking his bike in front of our gate.
“Where were you dumb head? You were supposed to be here 45 mints ago and I waited for you like an idiot. Did you know that today is my first day of surgical posting under Dr. V.D.N?”
Arjun looked stunned. I was beginning to feel guilty for yelling at him and I didn’t want to feel guilty. I wanted to be angry with him. He was late and he made me miss my rounds.
I went inside the house and quickly grabbed my bag and screamed
My voice echoed in the room. I wasn’t planning to scream so loud. I wanted to say proper goodbye to Amma, but I was still angry. I wasn’t sure why I was angry with Amma. but as I climbed down the stairs I found a reason to be angry with Amma.
George’s birthday was in a couple of weeks and his favourite colour was grey.
I woke up early in the morning and took a shower. Arjun was coming in the morning to fetch me to go back to college.
Arjun! Hmm! My feet was in a dancing mood, so was my heart.
I did an imaginary tango from the bathroom to my bed singing tra la la la. Suddenly conscious of my own actions, I looked around to see if Amma was awake and if she saw me dance?
Fortunately Amma was still asleep.
I felt so stupid.
But I was still a ‘happy’ stupid. There was something about falling in love that makes you do stupid things. Like getting up early in the morning to take a shower and then do a tango! I remembered I never did those things when I was going out with Beautiful Eyes. I shook my head hoping by doing so I can stop thinking about him. I wanted to stop thinking about him. I had to.
But I couldn’t.
I went to the kitchen and boiled water to make Nescafe. There was no milk and I never fancied drinking black coffee. I sat on top of the gas cylinder and looked at the cup in my hand. I really wanted a drink and I listened for the sound of the milk seller’s bicycle.
The coffee though without milk smelled so good and suddenly I remembered drinking black coffee with ghee and how much I loved that concoction. There was only one person in this whole wide world who knew how much I loved black coffee with ghee.
I wanted to go home. I wanted to lay down in her lap and tell her all my worries. I wanted her to help me choose my path. She was the only one who would understand what I was going through.
The sensible Nina knew Ammachi couldn’t choose the path for me. How could she, when she herself was stuck at a dead end.
I remembered the dialogue
‘How do you know he will come back’ and her reply ‘how do you know he won’t?’
I felt the urge to go home and shake Ammachi as hard as I can and tell her that I know he won’t, because that is how life is. I wanted to scream and get the message in to her.
I wanted to tell her,
Life is nothing but an endless circle of wanting something you know you can’t have. It is a Whirlpool of want that sucks you in and every now and then it would throw you out from the deep pool and show you what you are missing and then suck you right back in. You never escape. You walk to your own extinction knowing very well that you are wasting your time, but still you have hope.
I knew it all, didn’t I?
Here I was, going out with a guy who is not my soul mate and still hoping and waiting
for the tides to turn,
for the calmth after the storm,
for the rainbow,
for the clear blue sky.
Because somewhere deep in my heart there was a place only for beautiful eyes. But he didn’t know that. Did he?
I didn’t tell him either. Did I?
Sometimes, I read things that I feel make so much sense. I hate to write them down as I hate to organize the papers and filing them. So far I have been memorising my favourite quotes. It occurred to me that it is time I write them down.( growing old!)
Found this in the curve of time.( page42)
Andrew Shuttler’s credo.
“Look well of today – for it is the life of life. In its brief course lie all the variations and realities of your life- the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. For time is but a scene in the eternal drama. So , look well of today, and let that be your resolution as you awake each morning and salute the new Dawn. Each day is born by the recurring miracle of Dawn, and each night reveals the celestial harmony of the stars. Seek not death in error of your life, and pull not upon yourself destruction by the work of your hands.
Tomorrow is the first day of School.
Yaya will be in Grade 5, toothless in grade 3 and baby is going to grade 1. I no longer will have to do three trips to school each day as baby will be attending full time school.
I had the three of them all to myself for 2 whole months and I have yelled at them innumerable times, scolded them for silly things, complained countless times that my back is aching because of them (because they wanted to sleep with me in my bed during school holidays) didn’t keep my promise to take them to Victoria island for storm watching, and told them umpteen number of times ‘in a minute’ which usually was never done in a minute let alone in an hour, swore at the guy/gal who invented school holidays and worst of all I counted the days to Sep 2nd, so I could regain my sanity.
Tonight, as I watch my children sleeping peacefully in their bed, I feel guilty.. that perhaps I have squandered 2 months of precious time with them.
As usual I think If only….
As usual time keeps slipping out of my hand and the idiot that I am, I never notice.