ETWA|Ch10a: Hide and Seek

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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.

When Vimala heads over to 201—Sudha’s house—that evening, she knows that Sudha will sniff out the details from her. Sudha has been on a hunting expedition since Sreeja spilled the beans to her. No amount of detail seemed to satisfy her. Vimala kept her head down and busied herself avoiding Sudha all evening. But right before she could leave, Sudha cornered her, saying,

“Here Vimala. I made Mysore pak today. Have some.” Sudha offering food was an invitation to chit chat. Vimala took the piece she was offered while Sudha dove right in. “What’s the latest next door?” she asked in a tone of faux friendliness.

Vimala hated being put on the spot like this. “Ammu is so much younger than Siddu, no? So they have pampered her a little bit. She is a good kid. But nothing compared to your Preethi here”, she said pointing to Sudha’s daughter’s room, hoping the nicety would get her off the hook..

“Oh Ammu could do no wrong up until now. What are they saying now?”, Sudha’s allegiances were clear. Vimala would not be leaving anytime soon. “They are very worried, madam”, Vimala knew that this was a vicious cycle. If she said what she really felt, tomorrow Sudha would tell on her to Sreeja.

“Of course, when I once told Sreeja that her daughter is becoming an adult, keep an eye on her, she came this close to saying mind your own business”, Sudha said gesturing with her hands. “Now see what happened?”

“Yes, yes”, Vimala agreed. “I told her the same thing about Ammu wearing shorts and watching bad things on TV. I even told her to look at your daughter madam, so well behaved.” Vimala elaborated in an attempt to end the conversation. 

“Oh, you did?”, Sudha said getting up and walking towards her daughter’s room in a hurry. “Preethi”, she called out mid stride. “Vimala, wash your hands and bring me a plate of camphor from the prayer room. And don’t forget the matchbox.” Sudha called out. 

Vimala did as she was told though she was furious inside. Sudha was going to ward off the evil eye by lighting camphor on fire and circling it around Preethi’s face before throwing it out of the house. Specifically, the evil eye that Vimala had brought upon Preethi by mentioning her good manners to her neighbour. And she was making the same Vimala bring her the ingredients. The good thing was that Vimala was free to leave once she brought her the paraphernalia because there was no way Sudha would perform the ritual in Vimala’s presence. Vimala politely made her way out of there and was still sizzling with anger when she gets home.

Sudha was going to ward off the evil eye by lighting camphor on fire and circling it around Preethi’s face before throwing it out of the house.

Her daughter, Semmalar who was a final year nursing student, was almost done with making dinner by the time Vimala got home. They sat down and ate dinner in a hurry. They had to get all the work out of the way before Semmalar’s father, Anban came home drunk. She prepped for the next day and was ready to slink away to her neighbour’s house if things got violent. She packed a pair of clothes and her books and left them by the back door. She got money from her mother for bus fare.

Vimala was adamant that she would protect her daughter from her husband. Before her older daughter Selvi got married, she used to protect Semmalar from getting hurt. The girls used to hide under the bed or behind the door as soon as he came home. But once, soon after Selvi’s wedding, Semmalar had intervened when Anban hit Vimala. And in his drunken stupor he had raised his hand on Semmalar. Since then Vimala made sure that Semmalar left the house when things got out of hand. 

It was not that much of a hassle. It was only on days when he came back home. On many days, he would be so drunk that he would forget his way home or sleep on the pavement. On other days when he managed to get home, he would be in no position to have a conversation. Those were the good days. The dangerous ones were when he had had just a couple of drinks. Those were usually towards the end of the month when he ran out of money. Then he would be in withdrawal and itching for a fight. 

All this scheduling had long become mechanical. Among all this, mother and daughter did make time for chit chat. First, they ate quickly and efficiently in silence. And once they were done, they began talking about their day while washing up. 

All this scheduling had long become mechanical. Among all this, mother and daughter did make time for chit chat.

“You look angry, Amma. What happened?” Semmalar began. 

“Ah yes, just as I was leaving, 201 madam did something nasty today. I was telling her about the other girl, who likes girls” she said, lowering her voice for the last phrase though they were alone at home.

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Next Chapter | Ch10b: Hide and Seek

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