ETWA | Ch3b: We All Fall Down

Photo by Ramakrishnan Nataraj on Unsplash

Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. My first attempt at writing a novel, this is being written 1000 words a day through November as part of #NaNoWriMo2020. Hope you will read along as I write. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page.  

Mama grew dramatic that very second. She fell to the floor turning in the general direction of the pooja room praying, “Bhagavathy, save my child!” I didn’t think much of Mama being dramatic. She was known to be. I turned to Papa.

“What is the meaning of this?” Papa asked, unsure of his own question. I’ve never known him to be unsure.

“Papa, I like girls”, I said lifting a giant rock off my lungs and letting the lightness of disclosure fill me. “I like girls”, I say a second time with confidence. 

“Not in this house, you don’t”, he said, lunging to hit me. I ducked and he missed. But it was more than I could imagine in my wildest thoughts. Papa, my hero, raising his hands to hit me. My eyes were smarting again. And my ears were ringing as if he had actually hit me.

“Give me your phone”, he said. I complied. No phone, no TV and no Internet from now on. After dinner, I will move your desktop out of your room. Anyway, you have study holidays from now. In the meantime, your mother and I will decide what to do with you. Go to your room now. 

“But Papa…”

“No, don’t call me that, you filthy…” Papa ate a bad word.

By now, Mama had lit all the lamps in the pooja room with an accompaniment of incense sticks. She was picking up her prayer bell when Papa held me by the hand and dragged me to her. He placed my right palm over her head. 

“Promise”, he began, “promise on your mother’s life that you will not do such things from now on.” I stood there, agarbatti fumes waterboarding my nostrils. I didn’t know how to get out of here or to make them stop. Were these my parents? Did I know them to be capable of such drama? 

“Wait! Before you promise”, Mama intervened, “tell me first, how long has this chuttikali been going on for? How long have you gone behind our backs faking bloody dance practice and what not to sleep around?”

I couldn’t believe the things I was hearing. Words like ‘bloody’ and ‘sleep around’ coming out of Mama’s mouth. I’ve never ever heard her speak like this before. I was not even allowed to say ‘damn’ at home.

“Answer me”, she shouted, chiming the bell over her shrill question. 

“A couple of months”, I broke Siam’s rule again.

“Eeeshwara!”, Papa facepalmed, sinking to the floor next to Mama.

“You must have told Zara about this, no? And the others?”, Papa asked suddenly, as if he had just remembered this detail.

I had seen enough of this tacky serial. “No”, I lied.

“Don’t lie”, Amma countered.

“I am not lying. I don’t always tell them everything,” I lied again.

It felt so strange to lie to my parents. I had no experience with this kind of trouble before. Any kind of trouble actually. No wonder Zassies thought I was a kiss ass. This was all new to me.

“Good”, Papa’s face showed an uptick for the first time this evening. “So no one other than you and her know about this?”

“Yes.” 

“Good.”

I just wanted this to end. 

“What will I tell your brother? He will definitely say that it’s my fault, my carelessness that this happened to you. Did you stop to think for a second how your brother would feel when you were fooling around with this nashicha…” Now it was Mama’s turn to swallow a mouthful of bad words. 

“Who will marry you now?” she let the water works take over. 

“Calm down, Sreeja. This is our fate, nothing can change it.”, Papa consoled her.

“Is she Malayali?”, Papa couldn’t but ask. “No Papa. She is Bangalorean.” Mama started another string of prayers.

“Yes, but originally from where?”, Papa was a man on a mission. “Born and raised here in Bangalore.”

“Hmm, what’s her full name?”, he wouldn’t relent. 

“Madhumita Swaminathan”

“Brahmin then.”

“Hmm”, I said, my first ‘correct answer’ of the evening.

Bingo! That response seemed to appease them enough to let me go.

“Freshen up and come back in 15 mins. We’ll have dinner early. We have to move that computer out of your room tonight. No more Internet for you.” Papa warned me, again. 

I was so listless as I sat on my bed that I didn’t notice Achams walk across the room to the door, until I heard her. 

“What’s the commotion there? Are you playing the Vanambadi serial on Asianet?” she called out to no one in particular.

“Alla Amma. It’s err… nothing” Papa fumbled.

“Don’t lie to me, mone. Was someone here crying then? I thought I heard some background music I recognised well. Like bells ringing. Must be the serial, no?”

“You must have imagined it Amma. The TV is not even on. Dinner will be ready soon. Why don’t you freshen up?”, Amma was quick to step in to pacify Achams. 

“Okay, I’ll be out in five minutes”, she said, shutting the door gently behind her offering me some much-needed privacy.

Achams walked past me to her chair by the window. I logged into Zassy and typed in the latest code of choice—emoji. Kissed Madhu at Juice Centre. No phone, computer. Much drama. Help.

💏@🍊📵💻🙄🚨헲

A second later, Siam responded. 🙊🤝👮⛖💪📞👄🍭

Don’t say anything. Don’t agree to anything. They’ll interrogate you, just don’t answer. We’ll find a way. Stay strong. I’ll let Madhu know, don’t worry.

I looked over at Achams who had gone back to reading, completely dismissing how she had just played my parents. She was the best.

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