Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Samyukta aka Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. This is my first attempt at writing a novel. I started this project as part of #NaNoWriMo2020 before I fell off the wagon. Hope you will read along as I get back to writing it. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page. Subscribe to my writing here.
Trigger Warning: This chapter contains mentions of suicide methods. Reader discretion is advised.
The next morning, Achams busies herself in the kitchen making Sam’s favourite breakfast, vellayappam and potato stew. She makes the appams extra sweet, making its delicate, lacy edges turn golden just how Sam likes them. She ladles the fermented batter into the hot cast iron pan, swirls it around in the concave contraption, ignores the escaping air bubbles making hakoba prints towards the edges and steams it on low heat with a flat lid.
As she began making the appams, Achams had seen Sam head to the bathroom outside the house. “Come quickly if you want to eat them hot”, Achams shouts in the direction of the bathroom behind the kitchen. As the appams pile up she shouts again, “What’s taking you so long? Are you digging a pond to bathe in?” Achams asks in jest.
It’s still early in the morning and the workers cleaning the house have not yet arrived. Janu’s rhythmic sweeping of dry mango leaves in the yard adds to the morning calm. It’s time for the fishmonger to pass by the house. She can hear his ‘pooooi’ at a distance. Mumbling to herself that Sam could eat hot appams only if her fate permits, Achams turns off the stove and heads to the front gate to intersect him.
“Kanna, chemmeen undo?” She shouts at the passing motorbike waving a earless old wok at him, to catch his eye. Her call is so loud that it spooks both the fishmonger and the dead prawn she’s asking after. Named after Sree Krishnan, Kannan’s style is at odds with the messy business of selling fish. A middle-aged man with his hair parted neatly down the side like a school boy, Kannan’s forehead is marked with sandalwood paste—an indicator of his devotion to one or more Hindu gods. He wears an ironed faux-khadi shirt with its crease lines intact paired with a pristine white mundu.
“When did you get back? I thought you weren’t here. Do you have guests? Buying fish during mandalam season”, said Kannan as if continuing a conversation from the past. He parks his motorbike to the side of the road, beyond the gate. Cats who got the memo are assembling on the wall and crossing the street to be available for scraps.
“Ammu came back with me. She loves prawns. All this is possible only when the kids are here. Ayyappan will understand.” Achams indulges all his questions. She gives him specific instructions on what fish to deliver for the rest of the week. When she gets back with a wok full of prawns, the appams are on the table just how she left them.
“Ammu”, she bangs on the bathroom door. “What are you doing in there?” The door to this outdoor bathroom is built like a stall door with space above and below the door. Bathing in there, in the company of lecherous lizards and hairy legged oorambuli spiders is not for the feeble hearted. On getting no response, Achams grows suspicious. She peeps under the stall door to see Ammu lying on the floor.
“Ende Bhagavathy,” she cries out before trying to break down the door. Janu comes running as she hears the commotion. She’s holding the broom like a weapon in one hand. When she sees Achams banging against the door, she breaks it down without waiting to hear what’s going on. “Ayyo, I’ll bring her in. You call nandanchettan,” she says.
“Mone, come quickly. Ammu fell in the bathroom. She’s unconscious”, says Achams dialling his number. That’s what Achams thought till she headed back to the dining room where Janu showed her the kitchen knife Sam had used to slit her wrists. The women covered her in a dry sheet and sprinkled water on her face and tried to revive her. They held up the wounded arm to stem the bleeding and put pressure on the cut. They rubbed the palm and soles of her feet in order to warm her.
Just as they heard Nandan open the gate and drive up the driveway, they saw Sam’s eyes flutter. “Bhagavathy kaatholane”, Achams prayed for a safety net.
Achams got up to meet Nandan in the living room after instructing Janu to get Sam into some dry clothes. Nandan is Achams oldest child, Vineeth’s elder brother. He is the one who left IAS to teach in the local government school. She tells Nandan about the knife they found in the bathroom. “Let’s take her to the health centre to get her fixed up.” he says.
“No. At the PHC, they will register a police case, and because she’s a minor they will call her parents. That won’t do. She can’t have that right now. She told Vinu that she likes girls and they are making life difficult for her”, says Achams explaining the situation and thinking out loud at the same time..
Nandan looks at his mother unbelievingly. “It’s true. Someone they know saw her kissing a girl and they have been torturing her ever since. They took her to a fraud swami who looted them of some two lakhs. They stopped feeding her meat saying it causes hormonal imbalance. Now they are taking her to conversion therapy in three weeks. Let’s talk about this later.”
Nandan and Janu help Ammu into the car. Nandan calls a doctor friend to see how to proceed. He advises them to bring her over to his clinic. There he dresses the wound and puts her on a drip. He asks them to keep her under observation for the next two days.
Back at home, they let Ammu sleep it off. Nandan heads to work, promising to be back early in the evening and to stay over till she gets better.
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