Sunday 10 June 2012

Short Story 2012 Longlist, Rashmi Menon

Muthashi’s Mysorepak

Amini was restless and couldn’t hide her impatience. What was taking her father so long, she irritatingly wondered? Her school had closed for summer and Amini could wait to spend the two long months with her beloved muthashi (grandmother). Amini had been counting days, right from the time the last vacation ended. 

Although she was seven, Amini did not mind leaving her parents and spending the vacation alone with her muthashi. Besides, having her grandmother all to herself, she would be treated with delicacies and all her favourite dishes would be prepared. In short,  Amini could have and do whatever she wanted, away from the watchful and often scolding eyes of her parents and her nosy, hard-to-get-away-from brother. "Absolute bliss," Amini thought.

Muthashi stayed in a town that took four hours to reach in a bus. The initial plan was to drop Amini after two weeks but Amini pestered her father to drop her the same weekend. Her father finally resigned to her tantrums and it was decided that they would take the evening bus. Amini had planted herself next to the window since afternoon. Her father was supposed to come early from office. Her mother hardly came in these trips to the grandmother’s place.

While waiting for her father, Amini guessed the delicacies muthashi would have made for her.  “Mysore pak will definitely be there. She always makes it when I come,” Amini thought happily. Oh, what fun she would have with muthashi. Amini also had planned a list of things that she was going to show muthashi like the new watercolours she bought, her drawings (but of, course), report card that stated she would go to third grade, and her small trophy for coming first in a running race. She had packed them in the bag without amma’s knowledge. She mentally check listed anything that she might have missed. Her thoughts than wandered to what gifts muthashi might have kept for her. Last year, muthashi had surprised her with a kitchen set so beautiful that she saw her friends Tanya and Manjushree wanting it. The sound of the doorbell interrupted her train of thoughts. Running towards the door, she could hear amma asking her to slow down, but she had already opened the door before amma could finish the sentence. It was her father and she squealed with delight. In return, her father gave her a big smile and hugged her. Although Amini loved her mother, she was partial to her father. He would tuck her in the bed and would always play with her.

She missed her father when he was about to leave from muthashi’s house but the sadness only lasted for a few hours for muthashi always had something interesting up her sleeves to occupy Amini’s attention. She went to her bedroom again to check whether everything was ready. She was wearing her shoes, when she heard talking to each other. She could sense that they were arguing. Of late, this had been happening a lot. She went to her brother Vishnu’s crib. He was only three and was busy with his toys. Seeing her all dressed up, Vishnu gave her an enquiring look but Amini kissed his cheeks and told him goodbye. As she was turned, he started wailing and that put a stop to her parent’s argument. Amma came to console him.

It was time to leave. They had to catch the bus at 7. Amini’s father picked up her bag and gave her a backpack to carry. The backpack contained his clothes for the weekend. He planted a kiss on Vishnu’s head and told Amini to come down after saying goodbye to her mother. She kissed and hugged her mother, who told her to be a good girl. As she waved her had to say buy, she saw tears stream down amma’s eyes. She couldn’t understand why amma was crying. After all she had gone to stay with muthashi alone last year too.

Inside the bus, the TV was playing some Hindi movie that Amini could not see from her seat. She wanted to see the movie but acha ordered her to sleep. Besides, the seats were so high that even if she wanted she could not watch the movie and it was no fun listening to the dialogues. For some time Amini watched the shops zip by and eventually sleep crept upon her.

“Ammu kutty! It’s is time to get up.”  Amini opened her eyes and saw old muthashi’s face. “Muthashiiiiiiiii...,” Ammini screamed and gave her a bear hug. Muthashi took her to the bathroom and got her to brush her teeth and wash her face. She then sat at the dining table, awaiting freshly made idli and coconut chutney. Her father was already sipping tea and reading the morning paper. Although amma also made the same breakfast, it tasted a lot tastier in muthashi’s house, she believed. After breakfast, muthashi showed her a tin dabba full of square shaped you want to eat for lunch,” she said. Amini took two mysore paks and greedily munched on them. Her father gave her an angry look but she didn’t care. He was in muthashi’s territory and if he scolded her, muthashi would scold him back. Ha--- The entire dabba was hers to finish, since muthashi couldn’t have any sweets due to diabetes.

Unlike amma, muthashi listens to everything Amini said. Muthashi also told her fascinating stories at night. She would caress Amini’s hair and tell stories about Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vikram-Vaithal and so on. She was awed by muthashi’s stock of stories, which never got exhausted. Sometimes, she would make Muthashi repeat the same stories and even make corrections when muthashi started mixing stories. She knew that muthashi was feeling sleepy but Amini did not mind the goof-ups.  She would caress the loose, soft wrinkled flesh on muthashi’s hand and diligently listen to the stories till they finish. In the afternoons, muthashi would tell her a story while making feeding her rice and sambar, which she would make into small balls and place it in Amini’s small palm. She would then take a snooze and Amini would carry the wooden stool, place it in front of the chest of wooden drawers next to the kitchen and hunt for hidden treasures – a broken pin, a stone studded ring, pen, brass spoon. All these long forgotten junk were her treasure and she cherished them and stored them in a cloth bag, which she hid in her cupboard. Muthashi’s house was like a museum and no matter how many times Amini had seen the old, relic things in her house, it never failed to fascinate her.
As the summer ended, Amini dreaded going back. She told muthashi to tell her parents that she did not want to come and that she would study in a school close to muthashi’s house. But muthashi would just smile and tell her ‘we will see about it’. She had once cried too at the thought of leaving muthashi.

Finally, when her father came to pick her up, he looked tired. Amma and Vishnu had not come with him, even though Amma had told her she would. After getting refreshments for him, muthashi said, “Ammu kutty, why don’t you go out and play. We have something to talk, which you will not understand.”

Amini was curious but she could not disobey muthashi. After an hour when she returned, she saw her bags in the living room. “But we are going tomorrow. Why are the bags kept here now?” she asked her father. “We have to go now Amini. Muthashi will help you get ready,” her father said without looking at her.

 “I don’t want to go. I am not going. Ask muthashi, I told her too. I like it here,” she said adamantly. But she could see that acha was not taking no for an answer. She decided to throw her tantrum but this time, instead of giving in, her father scolded her and told her to get ready quickly. Tears streaked her cheeks, while she looked at muthashi. Muthashi looked equally miserable. Amini hugged her tight and screamed that she was not leaving. But muthashi was steering her towards to bedroom to change. Muthashi told her that she would come and visit her soon but Amini knew it was a lie. As Amini left the house, being pulled by her father, she looked back and saw muthashi standing at the door step, wiping her eyes.

The buzzing of the telephone brought Amini back from the memory lane. She had been waiting for the call. “Hi dad! How long will you take?” she asked. She was nervous but at the same time her heart was filled with joy. She was going to meet muthashi. It had been thirteen years since Amini had met her and she was excited. Amini’s mother had taken custody her and Vishnu. Her mother was not happy with Amini’s decision to meet her grandmother but Amini did not care. She had finished her graduation and was going abroad to pursue further studies and it was her only chance to see muthashi before god know’s when she returned back. As Amini waited for her father near the window impatiently, her mouth salivated at the thought of the mysore paks. But this time, Amini was going to surprise muthashi with the ones she made for her.

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