ETWA|Ch19b: A Slit In Time

Photo by Salmen Bejaoui on Unsplash

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 Nandan returns, Achams takes him through the events of the day. “She’s been sleeping since morning. I woke her up at lunchtime and gave her some kanji. She barely ate. At tea time I forced her to eat two slices of bread dipped in milk. Paavam. In her sleep, she’s been mumbling, “don’t tell Papa”. She is very scared.

“Ennalum, conversion therapy, has he lost it?” Nandan asks, unable to process what Sam’s been through. “I’ll talk to him”, he says, whipping out his press-button mobile phone.

“Venda, we need to be careful how we handle this. Nothing should blow back on her. You wouldn’t believe how they were treating her. They accepted plants from their neighbour to ‘change the energy of the space’. If Vinu gets to know about today’s incident, they will definitely take her back there. We can’t let that happen. Let’s just hold onto this information for now. I will tell Ammu also. We’ll tell him but not right now.” Achams intervenes.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Amma. We have no business keeping such information from him.” Nandan tries to reason with her.

Just then Ammu walks in groggily, holding the wall for support. Janu rushes to her side to lead her to the dining table where the argument was in progress. 

“I know.” Achams continues turning to Janu who serves them tea before pulling up a chair to drink hers. “But do you have a better idea? I’ve bought her some time claiming that I saw Bhagavathy in my dream and that she said she’ll take care of Ammu.” she chuckles. 

Nandan chuckles with her. “Sometimes he is too easy to fool”, adds Janu. Remember how he tried to make our ganapathi vigraham drink milk after that ‘miracle’ in Delhi? Next day, I had to perform a gamaxin abhishekam to get rid of the ants covering the idol. Janu says, laughing at the memory.

“You were lying?” Sam stares at Achams. “Of course. Tell me when’s the last time you saw me go to a temple?” 

“But you went to the bull temple recently with Ratna.” Sam is confused.

“Did I? Or did I just leave the house with her while you stayed back?” Achams asks patiently.  

“But you observe all kinds of festivals and rituals—thalappoli, thiruvathira, ekadashi, vela.” 

“Oh yes, I do. I also do believe in Bhagavathy. But not as a figure who can be bribed to grant wishes. To me, she is someone to talk to. Someone who makes me believe that everything will be alright. Faith is like hygiene—your personal business. And I don’t need to go to a temple to do that.” Achams does not mince words.

Faith is like hygiene—your personal business.

“You are crazy”, Sam says with a weak smile. She agreed that telling her parents right now would not be the best move. They would explode if they found out what she had done. Even through her confusion and fear, she knew that involving her parents would backfire.

Sam felt her mind whipping up a strong whirlpool. She couldn’t think straight. Her thoughts were racing. Her heartbeat was elevated; palms clammy. She had phrase loops and sentences whirling around dangerously in her head. She would never fully realise the importance of what these two misfits were giving her. Space. They were giving her the space needed to calm down to be able to think for herself. In the coming days, they would put themselves on a collision course inorder to put some distance between her and the rest of the world.

All her life, she had lived a regimented life overseen by her parents. Her mother had been her first playmate and later chosen who she could be friends with. Literally hand picked them. Her father decided what worthy subjects she would concentrate on, which hobbies she would be interested in and what her future would look like. Her brother had told her which books to read, policed what clothes she wore and what gadgets she was allowed to have. When she upturned her world one fine day with a kiss, she had put a spanner in the works. In the natural order of things, she would have gone on to be a highly qualified, young stay-at-home mother dependent on her ambitious husband. The family would have made sure she did.

But here she was, having taken what her Papa had called ‘an unforgivable misstep’ and her grandmother and uncle were just letting her be. They were feeding her, talking to her, protecting her but just letting her be. They didn’t make her feel like she was committing a crime. They didn’t push her to be someone she couldn’t be. Could life be this simple?

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Next Chapter| Ch20a: Courage As Habit

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