There on the table lay the admission letter from the most prestigious dance school in Thanjavur. My most cherished dream.
I held that envelope closely as tears rolled down my cheeks. They fell on the letters on the envelope and the ink spread out making the written word incomprehensible. Was it a sign? A gesture?
If Appa was here, he would have wiped them off saying, “Achu, these are precious pearls. My only asset. Don’t waste them over such silly matters.”
I miss him every day. I have missed him all along. Every single day of these past eight years. But today, I miss him the most. If he was there he would have handled all of this beautifully.
This has been my dream ever since I was in school. And it is almost about to come true.
I scored well in my boards. But my heart resided in the beads of those anklets that I worship deeply. My anklets.
But Amma…she never wanted me to wear them. She got furious whenever I danced. She has big dreams for me. Since the day the entrance results were out, she has been going around proudly announcing it to everyone from the milkman, to the vegetable vendor, to the temple priest to Nitya’s great grandmother. She has ensured that everybody in the village was aware of her daughter’s stunning performance.
She wants me to take admission in one of the most prestigious universities in India. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU) in Hyderabad. She has been working really hard to arrange the fees and to get the telephone numbers of distant relatives who can be my local guardian in that new city.
But I have some other plans for myself. How do I convey this to her? Will she understand? Will she be heartbroken? Will she blame me?
I have spent an entire week thinking about this. But today the rain has somehow brought a lot of clarity about what I want from life. It is time that I face it. It is time that she faces it.
I slowly got up and reached the doorway to her room. Just when I was about to step in I heard her talking to someone. I peeped in. She was on the phone. She was telling that she would reach on time like always. I was curious. I rushed quietly to the living room and picked up the receiver of the extension. I heard him say,
“Ambika, the customers are now fed up. They need variety. They don’t like plain, bland items. They need fresh products. Think about my offer. Bring her on. Abhirami must replace you. I’ll take her to her dream city Hyderabad. I promise.”
Amma’s gasps were audible from the other end. She begged him again and again. But he disconnected.
It was 10.30 p.m. and I was still walking up and down the length of my room unable to decipher what the conversation was all about.
And then I heard the horn of a car from outside our house. I was about to get out of my room when I saw a fully dressed Amma going out of the house. She was dressed in red instead of the white saree I have always seen her in ever since Appa’s death. She was wearing jasmine flowers on her hair. As she walked slowly, I could hear the sound of her anklets.
Amma returned by three in the morning. Just in time to avoid the early risers of the village. Her eyes were wet with tears. Her hands trembling. She entered her room and closed the door. I could not stop myself. I peeped in through the keyhole. Amma folded her hands and closed her eyes as she sat down on her knees. She broke down. “How can I let her get into this even for a night? I have suffered quietly for so long just to take care of her. Only so that she gets a good respectful life. And now how can I throw her in front of those lustful eyes? Tell me. How do I save her from all this?” She was speaking to Appa’s garlanded photo on the wall.
Dusk falls. I walked into my room. It is pouring. Must be His blessings. Or may be His tears.
The window is open. Tiny droplets of rain that are falling on the grills are getting splashed all around the room. Few of them manage to reach my hands that are shivering and my face that is engrossed in thoughts.
Should I or should I not?
Amma couldn’t stop her tears when she saw me dressed up just like her with my anklets on. She begged me not to do this. She kept repeating that she will find a way out. It was just for one night; I thought to myself as I entered the car that was waiting outside.