Young woman discovers life-changing family secret in first novel

I was going to see my grandfather for a question of inheritance. I fully intended to inherit my house, sparse and isolated that it was. I didn’t seem to be successful, but I was determined to give it a try.

The train was between the stations, somewhere in the middle of the silence of a small town. A comforting, clove-scented haze settled in my head as I lit the first cigarette of my trip to the coupe door.

My mother is not an easy woman. This long-standing struggle for my claim to the home on our ancestral land was necessitated by his need to donate things. Now she wanted to donate this house to an abandoned NGO.

Amma wasn’t like those irritating sluts you met on Twitter: well-meaning, politically correct, devious and cutting. Those who showed up for work were stoned or wrote things like “rest is revolution” and “taking care of yourself is working” on their social media.

She was not the type you would identify as a jholey-wali. Amma was from the old school; a sort of hardened commie, beaten in the streets, holding the flag. A union lawyer who took after her left-wing father.

She dressed like nothing special – a cotton saree, a brown pot on her forehead, a wedding chain, toerings, her hair oiled and braided. She lived out her ideals, didn’t dress for them as if they were anything other than life itself. I admired him and his work. But his ideals had started to encroach on every little comfort I could access. Now she was looking for the place I had called home since I was eighteen.

What kind of parents leave their city-raised teenage daughter alone in a mofussil town to take care of an old house that is being repaired? At that time, my brother was studying in Bangalore and my father traveled to small towns every week for work. Amma was needed in Chennai, she was busy, busy, busy. So I, all eighteen years old, was in charge of our old house in Chengalpattu.

At first I only crossed over on weekends, but soon after I graduated my parents tore down our ruined ancestral home and built a new one. maistry.

From a distance my house looks immaculate and funky. The first floor windows make up the eyes, and when you close one it looks like the house winks at you. The main door and the beam to the- above are those of the house. The balcony that crosses the middle has plants that I have never been good at tending.

When the new house was ready, Amma asked me to pack my bags and go back to Madras. She wanted to praise him. I didn’t do it because I was upset. How dare she use me as a sentry? If she thought I was old enough to oversee its construction, she must have known that I was old enough to make this house mine.

It’s not like she paid for the repairs or the new house, she didn’t even pay for my stay. My grandfather sponsored everything. So I stood still as the nights turned to weeks and then years. From time to time, my mother would recruit someone from the family to camp in Chengalpattu, to threaten, cuddle or blackmail me into leaving.

Amma had failed then. It will also fail now.

I have often wondered if she really was my mother. There are no pictures of her pregnant with me. I know, I watched.

This thought came to me because of my brother. When I was about seven, he started calling me Jujube Kumar. He said that I was from a village called Jujube, deep in a forest, where people lived in circular houses, and our mother bought me at the market in exchange for a few sprigs of curry leaves. She brought me home in a basket to be her pet, my brother said.

He pointed to my jaggery, furry brown arms and said, “See how dark you are,” then pointed to his own blonde arms and said, “See how I am like Amma, beautiful.” I would laugh, never giving him the satisfaction of a win. But deep inside me, seeds of doubt had started to appear, and I had performed tests on my mother over the years to see if she really had me. There was no Google, Internet or computer in our homes and our lives back then or I would have called his bluff right away.

When Amma fired me, that suspicion grew very strong. It was only after refusing to leave Chengalpattu’s house that she explained to me why she had sent me there. My father had used up his credit card and had no money to pay the bills. He had taken a long leave from his government job and started working for a multi-level marketing company, selling soap, toothpaste and hair oil.

The first month he wasn’t making any money he started using his credit card, and by the fifth month he was like an addict, slipping everywhere he went. Brawny, intimidating men, debt collectors, showed up at odd hours, Amma said, to collect credit card dues.

One of these men, she said, made an unsavory remark about girls and wives, and the types of “occupation” it is assumed they have to pursue to pay for. their bills instead of cheating on creditors. That nameless asshole had changed the course of my life, words can. He was the reason I was fired.

There were also other reasons why I was fleeing to Banaras from Chengalpattu. One of them was in my hands; an ink-stained yellow-brown letter my grandmother wrote in her youth to my thaatha. The romance he was referring to took me by surprise.

Why had I never asked the women in my family how and if they loved? We never talked to each other about love, we never thought about it. We lived as if love had nothing to do with all of us, all of us, daughters, wives, aunts, grandmothers and great aunts.

We lived in a world where everything, like marriage, was arranged to provoke the slightest confrontation between people. Yes, even leftists waving flags had arranged marriages within our family’s “community”. A family of Telugu and Tamil, indistinguishable from one another, speaking a language of their own that was neither here nor there, of migrants who roamed the land for hundreds of years, before the states of the Independent India does take on linguistic identities.

“Who are your in-laws?” you would be asked if you were going to invite a relative to your wedding. No one has used words like upper caste or Brahmin in our educated homes. It was always more subtle than that. You would have to give them the sub-caste or regions of origin of your potential ancestors. Velanadu, Mulakanadu, Palakkad, Thengalai, Vadagalai and others. Love marriages, especially with those outside the community, were rare, and invitations to such weddings were always preceded by braids and lengthy explanations from parents about their efforts. to prevent the marriage from taking place.

Extracted with permission from What we know about her, Krupa Ge, Background.


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About John McTaggart

John McTaggart

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