ETWA|Ch11a: A Well-meaning Misstep

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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.

“Yes, Amma. The shop that Vaithi sir’s nephew suggested is a little far from our house but it does have curry leaves. Yes, we made the trip last week. Yes, and peas parippu. No, I know. It’s different from kadala parippu. Yes, I got some last time. Yes, for making his favourite parippuvada. In English, I don’t know. I think it’s called split pea maybe. Hmm, what else? It’s getting colder here. Yes, yes. My coconut oil froze long back. I’m still using the packet Vaithi sir’s nephew brought us from home. I’ve put it in a wide jar so I can scoop it out like you do from your Bournvita glass jar. Yes, very convenient.” Chanchal said, being agreeable with her mother-in-law.

After three or four volleys of chit-chat, she politely suggested, “Is Ammu there? I dreamt of her last night. Probably because we are talking about her all the time here. Could I speak to her? I just wanted to hear her voice”, Chanchal brought out her ‘most polite’ tone.

“Ammu, are you on speaker?”. 

“No”, said Sam though Sreeja had made her put the phone on speaker.

“Good. I had to speak with Amma for nearly an hour to get to talk to you. I know she’s there so just talk about your exam prep, OK?” Chanchal was being careful.  

“I called to tell you that your brother and I don’t actually agree on how things should be. I didn’t mean any of the things I said the other day. Forget that whole solar system example and that spiel about how no-seventeen-year-old-could-make-it-in-this-world. I am with you—100%. In anything you want to do. I am sorry this is all very confusing for you. I want to help you through this time but it’s hard for me to contact you from here. I can’t support you publicly because Siddu will eat me alive. You know how it is. But don’t worry about anything anyone is saying. You just need to hang in there till you are 18. I have your back. I am here for anything you need. Not publicly. But you know”, Chanchal said in a passionate monologue. 

I have your back. I am here for anything you need. Not publicly. But you know

When they hung up Sreeja took her finger off her lips. Then as still and calm as the mid-afternoon on a workday, Sreeja spoke, “Don’t forget that she is in another country. There is nothing she can do for you from there. Don’t even think of acting on her advice.” The menace in her mother’s voice made Sam rue her sister in law’s unsolicited support. It had got her into even more trouble. 

Sam felt like she was floating in a large body of water; in an unending, bottomless limbo. She had had no contact with the outside world for over two weeks now. Her parents barely spoke to her or acknowledged her presence. They had changed the wifi password. If she had to go online, her mother would key in the password and then sit with her the whole while she accessed the Internet. There was no sign of her friends. She couldn’t access the Zassy group either. She heard in passing that they had come to the house to try and meet her but her parents had sent them away. It felt like she was drifting, unhinged. Who was that person who was in love with Madhu? That was someone else. Not her. But this person holed up in her room, studying, this is not her either. Neither of them, nor she knew how to disobey her parents. She felt helpless. 

On many nights when she managed to fall asleep, she dreamt of a horse running across a field. Suddenly she was on the horse, the wind in her hair, life embracing her. She closes her eyes to take in the exhilaration of the ride. She had felt it before. Where was that? As that thought derails her, she feels the horse come to a halt. The animal is getting confused, irritated. She opens her eyes to check. It’s pitch dark. It feels like she is in a tube, like a well. She looks up instinctively to see if they have fallen into a well. But there is no light to be seen, no end to this tube. She feels around for the walls of the tube but there are none. 

That’s when she feels her legs on the floor. What about the horse? Where’s the horse? She’s frantic now. She extends her arms now, in search of her ride. But she’s alone in this space. She faces ahead and takes steps out to meet the end of the tube. But the space, it’s walking with her! 

She sits down, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Time goes by but she still can’t see in the dark. Her thoughts are racing. Does anyone know that she is here? Will she die here? What is this miserable place? She’s breathing hard. Her head is spinning. Suddenly the floor she is sitting on gives way. She wakes up with a start, clutching her table. It’s dark outside. When did she sit down to study? When did she fall asleep?

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Next Chapter | Ch11b: A Well-meaning Misstep

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