STRANGER –Part 2

When Anusha  checked her mail she found  twenty two emails in her inbox – from people she never knew were part of her mother’s life. Eighteen of them were from women and four from men. She wondered why her mother had never spoken to her about their existence?

Malli chitti had already informed her that at least three of Amma’s friends were coming for the memorial service. Anusha,  waited  in the verandah for them to arrive. They trooped in slowly one after the other in a matter of a couple of hours!

First there was a very chic and smart lady from Pune who introduced herself as  Saleha Merchant. Then there was Anita Kurup a serious looking professor from Ahmedabad wearing thick bifocals. And finally a plump and brightly dressed lady, Parminder Kaur from Delhi!

Malli chitti was seeing to their accommodation. She had booked them at a guest house nearby but Parminder ( who enveloped Anusha in a comforting hug telling her “Call me Pammi aunty”) said that they would rather stay with Anusha and her father.

Anusha was not sure about her father’s reaction to this. He did not welcome visitors , treating them often with suspicion. Besides, he came with a lot of prejudices about people from cultures that he was not familiar with. She was not sure how he would react to these ladies. But Pammi aunty was already making herself at home. Appa, was not in any condition to protest. So Anusha let it pass.

As the evening drew people started coming in for the memorial service. There were some neighbors, a few of her mother’s colleagues, some relatives and her mother’s friends. In all there were thirty of them.

The evening began with a prayer. Anusha  was hearing it for the very first time. It was in Hindi, a language that she was not very familiar with. Her mother’s friends sang as Malli chitti also joined in.

“It was our school prayer song” said Anita. “Ambi used to play the piano when we sang during morning assembly” she said.

Anusha was surprised! She did not know her mother could play a musical instrument. She had never ever seen a piano at her grand parents’ house in Thanjavur.

“Appa had to sell the piano we owned after he retired and moved to his ancestral home. It was too expensive to transport” said Mallika by way of explanation!

“She was a better singer than a pianist” said Pammi. “She used to win all the music competitions that she participated in”

Anusha could not believe this. She had never in her twenty eight years of life with her mother ever heard her even hum a line..!

The event continued through the evening.

There were some speeches, mainly from her mother’s office colleagues.

“She was a conscientious worker and sincere person” said her boss.

“ A very quiet person who always minded her own business” said a colleague.

“ A serious lady with a strong sense of duty. I admire the way she looked after her bed ridden mother in law for ten years” said a neighbor.

Anusha, nodded. Yes, she was familiar with these descriptions. They were more like the mother she had known and lost.

Slowly the visitors started leaving and finally it was just Saleha, Pammi, Anita and Mallika who were left behind. Anusha felt very lonely. She hoped they would not depart and leave her alone.

Saleha seemed to sense her fears. “Don’t worry Anu, we  are here until tomorrow evening” she said

Night had set in. Dinner was over nearly an hour ago. Anusha could not sleep. Appa had taken a sedative and was in deep sleep. She closed his bedroom door and slowly made her way into her room where the three ladies had been accommodated.

“Come on Anu, come here and join us” said Pammi beckoning her inside. She had an envelope with her filled with photographs.

“ Tell me can you recognize your mother?” asked Saleha with  smile. Anusha looked closely at the black and white snaps. They  were pictures of school girls in two plaits playing basket ball. Then there was a picture of a girl with a wide smile holding aloft a shield! “Is that Amma?” she asked tentatively as Saleha nodded.

“She was our house captain.  The very best that we had had in years!! We won all the shields under her leadership” said Anita.

“And what a brat she was!” said Pammi with a giggle. “Remember how she lead that boy from St. Paul’s on during the sports meet, before she complained to the principal that he was troubling her”.

“Yes and remember how hell broke loose as the Princi took it up with their school principal” added Saleha!

“ I remember all of you giggling together in Ambu’s room with the door closed whenever you came home. You never allowed me inside” said Malli chitti in a complaining tone.

“Oh, you were the kid sister who was all ears. Ambu was scared that you would tell her mother about our exploits” said Anita with a smile.

“Well I did manage to unearth your plan about bunking classes and going for a movie” said Malli chitti with a laugh!!

“You were a pest!! If it hadn’t been for you, we could have easily managed to scale the wall and jump out of the school premises. As it is the watchman had very poor eye sight” said Pammi.

“And remember how she used to imitate our Hindi sir” ? asked Saleha with a giggle

Anusha listened open mouthed!! Was this her mother they were talking about?

She remembered an occasion way back in time when she had wanted to go for a movie with her friends but Amma had forbidden her. The reason she had given had been that Anusha had not studied enough for the Xth midterm exams. But Anu had been very bitter about it. She thought about how she had shouted at Amma saying” You just don’t want me to have a good time because you don’t have any friends and you don’t know how to have fun”

“Tell me more” said Anusha.

“ She was a crazy girl!! Absolutely besotted with Rajesh Khanna. For a while she was thinking of running away to Bombay and pleading with him to marry her” said Pammi with a laugh.

“ And remember those crank calls she used to get from a guy who called himself Rajesh” asked Malli chitti joining in the laughter.

“ Hey how do you know that? “ asked Saleha

“Well, I used to listen on the extension” said Mallika with a grin!

“ You really were a pest!! It was so difficult to shake you off! No wonder people called you Ambi’s tail” said Saleha throwing a pillow at Malli Chitti as she ducked!

Anusha watched in amazement. She could not imagine Malli Chitti as a child. To her, Malli chitti was her foster mother, the busy and capable doctor who still found time to spend for her niece taking her for outings that her mother had no time for.

“ I can’t imagine you are a doctor! I still remember how the ayahs in the kindergarten used to complain to Ambi whenever you used to wet your pants” said Anita with a smile.

“ Oh pleeese don’t embarrass me” said Malli chitti turning red!

“Remember how angry Ambi was when the Maths teacher called her in to complain that you were failing in all the tests..!” said Pammi with a grin.

“Yes, that is the problem of being the younger sister of someone as brilliant as Ambu. You could never live up to her brilliant reputation” she said with a sigh!

Anusha stared at her aunt in surprise! She had always thought that it was her aunt who was the brilliant one. Wasn’t her mother just a graduate and a clerk in a public sector bank? She had always felt embarrassed about this whenever she compared her mother to the highly educated mothers of her friends. She had discouraged her mother from visiting her school because she came by an auto rickshaw and not driven by a chauffeur in a car ! She had been proud of her father who was a leading lawyer and had often wondered why Amma had to have that stupid job in the bank when she could stay at home like some of the socialite mothers of her friends, dropping and picking her up from school.

“But if she was so brilliant why did she stop with graduation? She could have done her masters or even a Phd” asked Anusha

“Well..she did have plans Anu. But it is just that it did not materialize” said Pammi with a sigh.

Anusha felt that there was something that they were holding back.

“Weren’t you people together at college?” she persisted.

“Yes sweetheart, we were all together at college. Your mother was the cultural secretary of the students union. One of the best all rounder that I know of” said Anita with a smile.

“Hey didn’t she win that Indo Canadian scholarship? ” asked Pammi

“Yes, I remember that year, two students from the college had won it. Rare moment !! Yeah, Amby and Amin” said Saleha  suddenly looking guilty as though she had said something she should not have.

There  was a silence after that. A sort of impalpable tension seemed to fill the air. Anusha looked at the four faces around her. They were trying not to meet her eye.

She wondered what was it that was the matter.

“She should have gone to McGill University” said Malli Chitti softly. “It would have changed her life. She should not have allowed herself to be bullied by Appa”.

“ Tata bullied her?” asked Anusha in amazement. Her gentle grandfather who used to play with her and buy her goodies?

“ Yes Anu.. “ said Malli with a sigh “ Even Amma could not do anything about it”. Anusha watched the tears rolling down her aunt’s cheek!

Yes, there was definitely something that they were not telling her!

(to be continued)

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Harish
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 21:57:27

    Waiting for the next part!

    Reply

  2. KP
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 22:46:05

    That was a quick second part.You have ended on a right note of suspense.You must have already a plot.We are waiting.for the next

    Reply

  3. Aditi
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 13:45:54

    Waiting for the next part…brilliantly woven tale!!

    Reply

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