ETWA|Ch10b: 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.

“Amma, I told you last time also, it’s a very normal thing. It is not something she chose to do. That is the way she is. People say that about me no? That I am not like Selviakka. I am too tall to get married. But what can I do about it?” Semmalar asked drying her hands and rolling out the bedding on the floor where her mother and her slept. Her appa slept on the cot which doubled as seating during the day in their one room house.

“You don’t worry, Chinna. Don’t listen to anybody. I am getting money together. We will find you someone who is taller than you.” Vimala said, stroking Semmalar’s head to reassure her. 

“Well, this is just like that. It’s not something you can change. Anything her parents do other than let her be will only make her life worse”, Semmalar explained.

“Easy to say. Her parents are very worried about her future. She is a good kid. She learnt all this from the TV I think. She watches all these English movies with naked women and kissing. No shame”, Vimala shook her head in disapproval.

“True. Maybe those movies taught her that it’s okay to be who she is. But you cannot change the feeling itself, Amma. It’s as odd as saying that a woman should marry a man. Have you ever wondered why? You for instance, what use is a man to you? He drinks away all our earnings and beats you. Other than that, what purpose does he serve?”, Semmalar asked outright.

“You won’t understand. He is the father of my children. There is no respect for single mothers in our society. But also, this is not right. Man and woman are supposed to be together. How will these people have children?”, Vimala was genuinely concerned.

“They are women. So technically they can give birth. But do you know India’s population? Maybe she doesn’t need to have children. Not everyone needs to have children, you know”, Semmalar knew she was pushing it.

“I can’t win with you, ma. I simply cannot. I couldn’t care less if other people don’t have children but I sure hope you are going to have a chubby boy baby”, she said, just as they heard Anban serenading the street with a Rajini classic, Athanda ithanda arunachalam naanthanda.

They quickly turned off the lights and pretended to be asleep to avoid provoking him. As she lay there praying that she wouldn’t get hit today, she thought once again of what Semmalar had told her the last time they spoke about Ammu. “Amma, think of her as a person. Without the sex. That is her personal matter. Think of her as a 17 year old child whose parents are making her life difficult. Just try Amma. Maybe you are the only one who can see that.” 

It’s certainly not easy for Vimala to think of Ammu as a normal person. But she had told Semmalar she would try. She heard Anban climbing up the stairs to their house making her hypervigilant. Semmalar got up slowly, heading to the back door. But then there was silence. They stayed there, in a midnight mime for a good 15 mins. Once they heard him snoring, they realised that he had fallen asleep by the door. Vimala said a silent prayer of thanks and hugged her daughter close.

“Amma, think of her as a person. Without the sex. That is her personal matter. Think of her as a 17 year old child whose parents are making her life difficult. Just try Amma. Maybe you are the only one who can see that.” 

These thoughts stuck with her until she woke up one day with a sense of purpose. She walked into door number 204 that morning, determined to make the little girl’s life easier. She made Sam her favourite hot chocolate drink and took it to her room.

Sam was stepping out of the bathroom. Her eyes were swollen and red. 

“Why ma, you watched some film in there aa? Why are you crying?” Vimala said jovially. Vimala noticed that Sam’s cheeks were swollen as if she had been slapped.

“I am not crying”, said Sam, as her eyes filled up. She was so grateful that Vimala had noticed. She was feeling more and more invisible with every passing day.

“Dont worry ma, here. I made you your favourite. You can’t say no!” Vimala said placing the drink on the table with a flourish.

“Thank you, Vimala”, Sam said with a dim smile. “I was beginning to feel that no one cares about me anymore”, she confessed.

“What are you saying? I care, ma. Everyone cares. Only, they are a little worried about your future. They will find a solution soon. Don’t worry so much”, Vimala said exuding confidnce.

“Vimala…”, came the call from the omniscient Sreeja. “What is that?” asked Sreeja pointing at the empty glass in Vimala’s hand.

“I made some hot chocolate for Ammu. She was crying so I thought…”, Vimala fumbled.

“Hmm…”, Sreeja cut her off with a gesture to mean ‘enough’.

Vimala followed her into the kitchen with the glass, grabbed the broom from the work area and made herself scarce. Once cleaning was done, she found Sreeja and broached the subject carefully.

“Madam, Ammu was crying in the room.” 

“Hmm…” said Sreeja, not taking the bait.

“God only created her also madam. He must have a plan for her”, Vimala said vaguely.

“Yesterday, didn’t you clean the pressure cooker properly? When I took it out this morning, it was sticky”, Sreeja said ignoring her comments.

“Sorry madam. I will wash it again. And I will be more careful from now on”, Vimala agreed unconditionally. 

“She has her big exams coming up also. Let her study in peace madam. She will have a bright future.” Vimala tried once more. 

“That’s enough, Vimala. I don’t pay you to poke your nose into my business. Just stick to your job”, Sreeja cut her off.

Vimala knew that that was a hard stop for the official channel of communication. This conversation was dead in the water. She was lucky to get out of this with her job intact. She needed to think of a more discreet way to make her point. She made a note to take the next day off just to teach this woman a lesson.

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Next Chapter | Ch 11a: A Well-meaning Misstep

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