As I sat on a worn out grey sofa in the verandah outside my home- correction- house, I tried to concentrate on my calculus sums, but the same string of thoughts was buzzing through my head.
I had grown accustomed to it by now, but there is only so much a person can handle. There’s a limit to patience. I could hear distant barks of stray dogs, the cries of famished crows and the laughter of children nearby. The sweet, innocent laughter. Most of all,this one sound that I tried my utmost best to ignore pierced through my skin. My grandmothers cries. My previously sweet, calm grandmother who I had shared some fond memories with. But recently, things had gone for a change.
The shores of Kerala were flooded due to the terrible curse of the monsoons. This meant holidays for all schools, for at least a week. Meanwhile I was stuck here, witnessing my grandmother’s penury. The absolute repression that my entire family was subjected to. It stung me, it upset my heart. I couldn’t bear to see my grandmother like this. My mother’s brother and his wife were away at work, dedicatedly hard working parents who were ready to sacrifice anything for their children.
My cousins were four years and 10 years younger than me respectively. That was the reason for every argument, every tear shed and every ounce of money that was wasted.
My young cousin, my baby, what had happened to her? When did she become like this? Every day she would cry relentlessly till she got what she wanted. The absolute most useless things- that were not even inexpensive. She was allowed to get whatever she wanted and yet, she cried for more. She caused an inarticulate amount of distress to my poor grandmother who had over the years, raised three girls and two boys. But none of us had seen one like her,our youngest cousin. Now that old age had dawned upon her, she was weak, and incapable of doing so much work. What fascinates me is besides her illness, she continued to do all the house work- her primary aim being to feed everyone at home and bring them up healthily.
I cannot possibly describe what a pain she was. She killed my grandparents, slowly, mentally. She killed us all when we came to India to spend a little time with our “beloved family” during the vacations. Now, she was crying – my grandma;and ofcourse my cousin- she wanted a brand new bag from a faraway store- she was unsatisfied with the posh bag she had bought yesterday. My uncle estimated that about one Lakh rupees was spent on my cousin- buying stupid material things.
When I tried to speak to my aunt about this, she told me that they were so busy with their business that the little time that they got to spend with their own daughter, she didn’t want to waste by scolding. But it was a matter of discipline. I insisted that it had to be fixed.
Months later, I finally convinced them to send her to boarding school. This 7-year-old required some manners to be instilled in her. The day came, I drove from Kochi to Trivandrum, “St. George’s girl convent”. My cousin was crying, screeching, pleading. I ignored. I left her at the door with sister Theresa, who was the nun in charge of the convent. She held my sister tightly, as she tried to escape from her grasp. She didn’t want to go. “Didi,don’t leave me!”. For once I heard genuine desperation in her voice. Somehow I knew that besides everything she had wasted money on, this immaterial thing was what she wanted the most. I took one last glimpse at her,my heart almost melted. But then, I thought of how things would be at home now, and drove away as her cries faded away with the distance.