Liza and I were standing in the balcony and drinking our morning coffee. Normally there would be a lot going on in our street during major festivals. I was a bit puzzled to notice that nothing extra ordinary was happening. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that today is Vinayaka Chathurthi.
“How is the cow doing?” I pointed to the house on the right side.
The cow in the house was something I had never seen until we started staying in Austin town. The family that lived across our house was raising a cow as part of their family. Most likely as an investment. There was always a demand for milk in Bangalore!
The house itself was built on a 30 by 15 site. And I have seen at least 4 kids, their parents and their grandparents living in that tiny house along with the cow!
“You didn’t know?” Liza asked
“Someone complained about the cow to the Municipality and now they have to pay fine”
“Fine for what?”
“You can’t keep a cow in a residential area” Amma spoke.
Amma was standing near the door and was looking at both of us. Then she came and stood next to us and watched the road in front of our house.
“That old man passed away last Tuesday” Amma pointed to the right side of the house
“Which old man?” I asked
“oh that one, the one who always took his grand children to school in the morning”
There were so many kids in our neighbourhood.
“Which one ma?”
“Oh ninneyum kondu thottu! look that house there, the one with black gate”
I looked to where my mother was pointing. I saw the house with the black gate, but I honestly couldn’t remember the old man who stayed there.
“You should have seen the crowd who came to attend the funeral ! You should have seen how much the old man’s son and daughter in law cried! As though crying will make the dead come back to life”
I thought of telling Amma that crying was a normal reaction.
“You know, when I die, I don’t want you to display my body for everyone to come and see and cry. you should cremate me right away”
“Cremate? Why?” I was surprised to hear my mother’s request.
“pinney? Cremation costs less money. I don’t want my daughters to fight and argue as to who should pay for my funeral. I was told that there is a Hindu temple and they cremate the bodies of unknown, unwanted people. So you don’t even have to worry about my funeral. Just take my body there and tell them that you found my body in the street! understand?”
I was so angry with Amma. How dare she think that she would be a burden to us? How dare she hurt my feelings like this? Cremate her body? Then where would I go to pay my respects on all souls day?
‘Right, the respect you don’t show her now, you want to give when she is dead and gone? Hypocrite!’ Sensible one spoke.
I had so many reasons I could have given her for all the times I had been mean to Amma. But those were excuses, nothing but excuses. I knew that.
I knew I should respect Amma. She gave birth to me and she deserved that much. I promised myself that I would treat her well.
“Do you know which temple offer free cremation ma?” Liza asked
I stared at her, hoping she would shut up. I didn’t want to talk about cremation any more.
“athu! ormayilla, I had read it in Deccan Herald some time ago“ Amma was stammering.
“Next time ma you need to remember all that. At least write it down in you diary You can’t expect us to go around and asking all the temple walas if you provide free cremation.”
Amma didn’t say a word and I saw Amma going back inside the house and I knew Liza hurt her feelings
“Why did you do that?” I scolded her
“You know you hurt her feelings”
“Oh Nina! Don’t you get it? Amma was trying her drama queen stunt!”
“She wants us to feel sorry for her, so she says things like this to make you feel sorry”
If what my sister said was true, then my mother really succeeded in manipulating me, for I did feel sorry for her.
“Of course! Do you think she really wants to be cremated? it is all drama! The best thing to do is to agree with her and now she is the one who feels sorry, because she really thinks we are going to cremate her!”
“How do you know all these?”
“because I am SMART!” Liza grinned
“you shut up”
“I said first, so you shut up”
We stared at each other for what felt like eternity. When we were young by now we would have pulled each other’s hair or at least kicked each other. The fact that we were not fighting physically clearly showed one thing.
That we finally grew up.
I had plenty of work to do today. First I had to tidy up the house before Anitha came for the visit.
Shalyam! Why did she want to visit my house of all the houses in Bangalore? I could have used the time to read something, instead now I have to clean the whole damn house.
I went back inside the house. Amma was sitting on my bed was doing some cross stitch.
“What are you stitching?” I asked Amma
“Oh, a cushion cover”
I looked at the pattern. Amma had got it from some orphanage run by catholic nuns in Thiruavalla. I remember her going all the way there because only they had the pattern she wanted.
“Didn’t you already make few cushion covers of this pattern?”
I remembered Amma making them when I was little and we used to use those cushions when we were staying in Kottayam. I hadn’t seen those cushions since we came to Bangalore. “What happened to those cushions ma?”
“oh it must be in the cupboard”
“oh Nina, I can’t remember. it will be there somewhere”
“You mean the ones you gave to Maria?” Liza came inside the house and was looking at Amma
“You gave those cushion covers to Maria? Why Amma?”
My blood was boiling. Everything was for Maria. Every damn thing was for Maria. Nothing for me.
“You know she likes to collect things like this” Amma tried to pacify me
“What about me Amma? Don’t I ever get anything that you made?”
“of course you will get. Who do you think I am making this for?”
“Really, you are stitching it for me?”
“Of course. I want to make a set of cushion covers for you. You can keep it in your clinic, you know for the patients to sit on!”
“Thank you Amma” I felt so pleased. I went back to the kitchen to wash my coffee cup and Liza followed me
“You idiot, you fell for her drama again. You think she is making that cross stitch for you? Maria already got 5 and she is making the 6th one for her.”
“No, she is making it for me”
“Want to bet? One burger and chocolate fudge ice cream at Corner house”
“Deal” I agreed.
I wanted to believe that my mother is not partial to Maria. I wanted her to open her eyes and see what Maria is doing. But I knew in my heart that I better save the money for the burger and ice cream.