I went to bed with a heavy heart. Then I thought about Arjun. There was something about him that soothed my aching heart.
The way he smiles.
The way he holds his right shoulder ala Mohan Lal style
His don’t care come what may, dare devil attitude.
I realized we had so much in common.
We both loved bike rides and I was beginning to enjoy speeding. (Anyway I will die one day. so why worry if it is going to be today or tomorrow).
We skipped most of the boring lectures.
I was about to think that we even loved same food and then I realized not really. I loved Marwari food, but he didn’t like Malayalee food. For him, his mother’s Spinach khadi was much more tastier than my mother’s moru curry!
Would I be able to cope living with a Marwari boy?
I didn’t give any chance for the skepticism to take roots.
What nonsense? How dare do I doubt when I finally had someone to love me?
Spinach Khadi was certainly better than plain old moru curry. Spinach is good for health. Rich source of folic acid, Iron and vitamin K! I convinced myself.
I closed my eyes and I could see Arjun’s lips.
I opened my eyes quickly.
This wasn’t working.
I needed to sleep.
But the woman in me, the one with wants was wide awake.
Dreaming of being held, being kissed, being wanted…
I almost felt like hitting Arjun’s head with a hammer. He had to turn my world upside down.
I smiled thinking about chasing him around the campus with a hammer.
Almost like how Amma used to chase me around the school threatening to hit me if I didn’t go back to my class.
I wondered why I didn’t want to go to school?
Was it because I couldn’t hear the teacher and there by didn’t understand what she was saying? Or was it because I couldn’t see what was written on the black board?
I felt it would be the latter because my deafness was probably because of adenoiditis that I had when I was 6 or 7.
‘no, it was because your mother had mumps’ sensible one spoke
I didn’t know.
All it took was one simple surgery. If my parents had followed the Doctor’s advice to get tonsillectomy done for me, I may not have lost my hearing.
They were afraid that I may not wake up after the surgery because someone else’s child had complications after tonsillectomy.
when I have my own children, I will not let them suffer like this. I promised myself.
Then I thought ‘Children’!
Malayalee Marwari children!

I got up, switched on the light and took the book from my bag and started to read.
Boring book was better than an over active brain.

I woke up hearing amma cursing
Nintey thantha electricity bill pay cheyyuvo? (Is your father going to pay the electricity bill?”
I opened my eyes and looked at her.
“Why didn’t you switch off the light?” Amma screamed
I was in no mood to fight, so I closed my eyes and pulled my blanket on top of my head. besides I was guilty of the crime she was accusing me of. I had slept off without turing off the light.
Amma pulled the blanket away from my face
“I am talking to you”
I refused to open my eyes and look at her.
ninney okkey valarthunna enney venam thallan( I should be whacked for raising incompetent kids like you)”
I contemplated getting up and giving her a whack on her head. After all that is what she was asking for, wasn’t she?
I could hear Amma taking out her anger on the pots and pans in the kitchen. Little while later I heard her footsteps going to the bed room. I opened my eyes slowly to see what Amma was up to.
She came out of the room holding the iron and I closed my eyes quickly.
“Move your feet” She ordered
I opened my eyes to see what was going on.
Amma used the socket near my bed and plugged the iron. Then she went back to her room and came out with her silk saree and blouse. The saree George bought for her from Mysore.
I thought of asking her
Aren’t you ashamed to wear that saree while being married to my father?
But I knew she would ask in turn ask me ‘Were you not ashamed when you wore this saree for your Pre-degree farewell party’.
Amma looked at me as though she knew what I was thinking.
“Hold the edge” She was holding the pallu out for me to hold.
I didn’t want to.
But I knew it wasn’t easy to iron a saree without an ironing board.
I got up and held the edge of the saree for her while she ironed the inside.
I hoped the iron would over heat and burn the saree.
I knew I was wrong to think like that.
I knew Appa never bought nice sarees for Amma.
But I was tired of not knowing what is right and wrong.

RIP Miriam Makeba

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.
Angel, I love you Angel.
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.
Angel, I love you Angel.
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,
And I, your young lover, what can I do.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you Angel.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you Angel.

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Money is troubling my soul
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Money is troubling my soul
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,
And I, your young lover, what can I do,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you angel.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you Angel.

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege.
Little bird, I dream of you little bird.
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege.
Little bird, I dream of you little bird.
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,
And I, your young lover, what can I do,
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you Angel.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
I would marry you Angel.

Lest we forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing,

fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

WW1. 9.7 million military casualties

WW2. 25 million military casualties

Remembering the fallen soldiers. They died, so we could live in peace.

We are off to the mountains this weekend.. be back on Wednesday. Hope you all will have a jolly good weekend.

“Amma, did chechy really buy an Apartment?”
I didn’t think so, but I just wanted to know
“hmm” Amma mumbled.
‘hmm?’ “Is that an Yes or No?” I asked again
“oh ninneyum kondu thottu. ( am getting tired of you), Yes she bought an Apartment”
“What? When? Amma, why didn’t you tell me that Chechy bought an Apartment?”
Oh ninnodu paranjittu ippol enna nedana? (what do I gain by telling you?)” Amma spoke nonchalantly.
I wasn’t sure how to answer her. After all these years of her divide and rule philosophy what answer could I give to justify what she would gain by telling me that my own older sister has bought an apartment?
I was still so upset with Amma.
“You could have told me ma. She is my sister” I replied
bha! Sister. How do you even dare to call her sister? When was the last time you treated her like a sister? You only want her when you need something. Then you are full of panajra and paal ! (milk and honey).”
“What do you mean Amma? When did I act panjara and paal?”
lWhen you wanted sarees, you were nice to her. Remember?”
“What sarees?”
“Forgot already ah? Remember you needed sarees when you joined the medical college? Remember she bought all the sarees for you? You never remember think what everyone do for you Nina. You are such an ungrateful wretch”
“I didn’t ask Chechy to buy sarees for me”
“Oh Really? So what were you planning to wear when you go for your classes? Bra and panties? nee enna Pamela Anderson ano? (you think you are Pamela Anderson?)”
I didn’t reply.
When my mother acts obnoxiously rude, it is better to shut up.

I went and lay down on my bed.
I still couldn’t grapple the fact that Amma didn’t tell me.
Why? I wondered
Would it be because she thought I would be jealous?
Why would I be jealous if my sister bought an apartment? She is my sister for heaven’s sake. Why would I be jealous of her?
Why? Why didn’t Amma tell me?
Why was it such a big secret?
What would have happened if I had known?
Did she think that I would tell Appa? Why would Appa mind if his daughter bought an Apartment?

I thought of Amma’s coometn about Chehcy buying me new sarees.
I remembered the day Chechy came home from Mysore with few cotton sarees and told me they were for me. I knew she would have picked it up in Mysore because most of the shop owners there gave George a substantial discount.
I didn’t remember thanking my sister.
I do remember fighting with her saying I didn’t like any of the sarees. I didn’t want to wear a saree that was bought with George’s influence. I didn’t want anything to do with George. But I didn’t have any other sarees or salwars.
It did bother me the first few times I wore those sarees. But then I consoled myself by thinking that George didn’t make those saress and Amma certainly would have paid for those sarees.
Was I such a shameless creature? I was sure I was.
I felt so miserable thinking how low I have sunk.

But there was something else that was bothering me.
Chechy bought those sarees for me using George’s influence.
What payment did George expect/take from my sister, so she could buy me those sarees?

I felt so numb.

Then the numbness slowly turned to anger.
If there was one honest person in my family, then none of these would have happened.
Each and every one in my family had that choice to do the right thing.
Yet we simply kept on failing each other.
and I never bothered to think each time I wore those cotton sarees.
No honour among thieves. None at all.

I heard the sound of an Auto stopping in front of our house and I rushed to the balcony to see if it was Liza.
I watched Anitha getting out of the Auto and looking around. Then she looked up and saw me.
“Hi Nina” She greeted
“Hi, come on in” I pointed to the side gate.
Before opening the main door, I ran to Amma’s room
“Amma, Anitha is here” I spoke
Athinu njan enna venam? ( Why do I care?)” She answered.
I didn’t have time to argue with Amma because Anitha was already at the door.
I opened the door and smiled at her.
“Come in”
Anitha walked in and looked around the living room. I wondered what she would be thinking when she notices our mismatched furniture.
Mattress bed on one side, folding chairs on the other side and another folding table as a dining table across the room.
There was also a side table. my mother’s creation!
Made out of a steel pan Amma insisted that Appa bring from Dubai( the only place where you can find such a large steel pan, which is the most essential pan in any Malayalee family because to make puttu, you need a large flat pan).
But Amma never used that pan to make puttu.
Instead she creatively converted it in to a corner table by custom ordering a metal rack to hold the pan.
She also wanted ‘four people’ to know our Gulf connection, so she kept a plastic vase full of fake ‘Gulf’ flowers! on the corner table.
Underneath the vase she had kept a doily she had crocheted, so ‘four people’ will know that she knew how to crochet!
Gosh what must Anitha be thinking?
“You have a nice house Nina” Anitha spoke
‘Yeah right’ I thought “Thanks” I offered my gratitude
“have a seat” I pointed to the folding chair and I went and sat down on the mattress bed. (I didn’t want Anitha to sit on the mattress bed. Sitting on top of four layers of foam mattress is an acquired skill)
“So where is everyone?” Anitha asked
I looked at Amma’s door hoping she would understand that I still have to go back to my college and face all my classmates on Monday.
I guess she didn’t understand that.
“My mom isn’t feeling well, so she is resting in her room. My sister had gone out to her friends place” ‘with Arjun’ Sensible one spoke.
I ignored her.
“What would you like to drink?”
“Oh nothing, I just had a milk shake”
“Come on Anitha. Coffee or tea? What would you like to have?” I got up to go to the kitchen.
“hmm, May be I will have coffee”
“Give me a few sec” I went to the kitchen and measured a cup of water to make coffee.
“Nina, do you have any albums that I can look while waiting?”
I went to Amma’s room. Amma saw me and closed her eyes quickly.
‘I hate you so much you dumb mother. I wish you would just die and get out of our life’ I cussed in my head.
I took the albums out. Then I remembered most of the photos have headless people in them. ( My oldest sister’s handiwork)
“I am sorry Anitha, all the albums are still in our house in Kerala. We didn’t bring most of our stuff to Bangalore”
“You have a house in Kerala?”
“Oh really! Who lives there?”
“My grandmother”
“She stays alone?”
“hmm” I mumbled.
I didn’t want to think about it. But I couldn’t shake the image of my grandmother sitting on the parapet and looking at the bus stop and waiting.
‘I am sorry Ammachi’ I whispered, hoping she would understand.
I heard someone running up the steps and I knew it was Liza.
I was so angry with her, yet I was relieved.
“Hello Anitha Chechy, how are you? Long time no see”
“I am fine Liza”
“So tell me how is everyone, How are your parents? How is your brother?”
Liza was taking to Anitha as though they have known each other all their life and I, who is her classmate didn’t even know she had a brother.
“Nina, Where is Amma?” She asked me when I came out with the coffee for Anitha
“In the room. She isn’t well”
“She isn’t well? Bull shit! let me get her”
Mariammo, Come get up. Anitha Chechy is here.” I watched Liza going in to Amma’s room and a few seconds later Amma and Liza came out.
“Sorry Anitha moley, I had been having a splitting head ache since I woke up this morning, but only now I managed to get some time to lay down. You know, you look at them, see how big they are. They still expect me to do everything for them”
” She” Amma pointed to me. “brings her dirty clothes from the hostel and won’t even put it in the washing machine. I have to do it for her”
Anitha looked at me as though I was the laziest person on earth. How was I to tell her that Amma won’t let me touch her washing machine because she thinks that I will ruin it.
“Did you make any coffee for me?” Amma asked
“No, you didn’t tell me you wanted coffee”
“You see, I must tell her that I need a cup of coffee. isn’t she supposed to know that? Do I still have to spoon feed her?”
Anitha shook her head sadly. How terrible!
I got up and walked to the kitchen.
I thought of adding a table spoon of salt instead of sugar in Amma’s coffee. But knowing my mother, I knew she would create another drama if I did that.
I made coffee for her and gave it to her. I watched her blowing the the coffee and taking a sip. I waited for her to criticise how bad my coffee was. Amma looked at me. Perhaps she noticed the fire in my eyes. She didn’t say anything.
“Where is Sally?” Anitha asked
“oh, she stays in the boarding school. You see, I have been staying away from my husband for so long because I didn’t want to send my children to boarding school when they were young. You know, it is very important children stay with their parents when they are little. But now that my children are older, I want to stay with my husband.
Nina can stay at the medical college and she can visit us in Dubai when she has holidays. Liza can stay in paying guest accommodation and I thought it was better that Sally stay in the boarding school now itself so she can get used to it”
I looked at my mother disbelievingly.
She wants to stay with Appa? When did that happen? I thought he was the worst husband on planet earth.
“So when are you going to Dubai Aunty?”
“I haven’t decided. I think I will go after Christmas”
Liza looked at me to see if I knew what Amma was talking about. I rolled my eyes.
“Where does your oldest sister stay?” Anitha asked
I didn’t know what to say.
“Oh She bought her own Apartment” Amma answered
“Wow, Where?” Anitha asked
“Rajaji Nagar” Amma answered “It is a beautiful Apartment, three huge bed rooms! I am thinking of asking my husband to buy three more apartment in the same building, so all of them can stay together and we, the old man and the old woman will stay with each of them for three months”
I didn’t even know my sister bought an apartment. How come Amma didn’t tell me that? Why am I the last one to know everything?
Anitha looked at the clock and then at me
“Nina, does Arjun stay nearby?” She asked so innocently
Finally! I knew Anitha wanted to come and see my place because she wanted my mother to know that I was going out with Arjun. At least 30 of classmate guys were from Bangalore and she only wanted to know where Arjun stays!
Before I could answer, Amma spoke. “He stays in Jayanagar. Very far from here. He was here this morning”
“oh” Anitha didn’t know what else to say.
Wasted your trip eh? I thought of asking her.
“I have to go now Aunty or I don’t want to go back to the hostel late” Anitha spoke
“Now you know where we stay, so anytime you feel home sick, come and visit us Ok” Amma spoke
I stared at Amma. But she ignored me
“Convey my regards to your parents, ok?” Amma spoke
“Sure Aunty, bye Aunty”
“Bye moley”
“Bye Nina”
“Bye” I mumbled
“Anitha chechy, I will walk with you to the Auto stand” Liza spoke.
“Oh no need Liza”
“It is ok Anitha chechy, Come, let us go” Liza held Anitha’s hand and I watched them walking down the steps.

Everything around me was going in one direction, but I simply stuck out,like a sore thumb. I didn’t belong anywhere.
I didn’t belong in the medical college.
I didn’t belong in my own family.
I didn’t belong anywhere.
I was the lost ship in the ocean.

“There’s no sense in going further —
it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it —
broke my land and sowed my crop —
Built my barns and strung my fences
in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills
where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience,
rang interminable changes
In one everlasting Whisper
day and night repeated — so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges —
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you.
Rudyard Kipling
Sometimes I don’t even know what I am looking for!

It is awful when you are stuck at home because a classmate is supposed to come for a visit and the only book you have in your hand is the most boring book you have ever read.
The worst part is that the library closes on public holidays. There is no where else I can go and borrow a book.

My mother was still sulking in her room and my sister hadn’t come back home yet. I checked the clock. 5.30.
Almost 5 hours!
Probably with Arjun.
I shook my head vigorously, so I could stop thinking.
I felt stupid for thinking like that.
She is my sister for heaven’s sake.
He isn’t my boyfriend for pity’s sake.
But still, there was an ache some where deep in my heart.
An ache with no name.
An ache of not owning anything in my life.
I never had anything that is my own(possession) except my deafness. Did I?
I had to wear Chechy’s old clothes. use my neighbour’s text books and even had
to wear other people’s shoes.
My sisterly responsibility ensured that I had to share the pen Appa gave to me, even buy clothes for my sisters using the money given to me so I could have spend for myself.
I didn’t mind sharing.
I didn’t mind giving.
But I was tired of sharing and giving.
I wanted something for myself.
I wanted to be selfish and possess something that is my own, that I don’t have to share with my sisters.
Something to hold on.
Like how the mighty ship needs its tiny anchor.
Arjun was my anchor.
I needed him for a variety of reasons.
He was the only guy in the college who wasn’t afraid of taking to a ‘flirt/wanton/unchaste/slut’ woman like me and spoiling his reputation.
The only reason Rupesh and the rest of the North Indian gang guys talk to me is because I was Arjun’s friend..
I survive the alienation meted out to me by all the students only because Arjun talks to me.
I couldn’t afford to lose him.
I didn’t want to lose him to my own sister.
There were so many other boys in the world she could find.
Not Arjun.
I needed him.
I knew I didn’t love him. But that was not a problem. I could always be the woman he liked. I could always learn to love him.
I could. I knew I could.
Wearing long skirts, covering my head with duppatta, going to the temple, fasting before navaratri, making perfect round rotis … ..
I closed my eyes. so I won’t have to see any more images of the person I would be.
‘No Nina, you can’t do it. You will not survive losing your own identity’ Sensible one spoke
‘Shut up will you! What do you know? I can be a perfect Marwari girl’
‘You can. But you won’t be happy’
She didn’t know how it is to live a life with no one to love you.
She didn’t know how it feels does she?
If it involved that I have to wear a skirt and make perfect round rotis so I could be loved. So be it.
All I wanted was to be loved and I was willing to be that someone even I myself wouldn’t recognize, just so I could feel how it feels to be loved.