It took the strength of seven guards to get apa out of the car. She wasn’t struggling or anything, she was sitting still like ammi’s lampstand but even then, baba alone wasn’t powerful enough to pull her out. I started walking towards the assembly because I did not want to be known as the pagal girl’s sister. I mean, I respected apa and all that, likun, I had read enough Chicken Soup for the Soul books to know that whatever happens on the first day, stays for the rest of the school life.
I mixed in the crowd and went straight to my grade’s line. The morning prayer started, and I felt at peace. The sky was a shade of clear blue and the no one but the nun’s breathing near the mic could be heard. I didn’t know if ama stood among us or if baba had taken her home. The nun, or Sister as others called her, started making us count our blessings and talking about the birds and butterflies and grasshoppers. In my previous school, we just said the anthem and went to our classes but here, the assembly was one whole period.
Suddenly, rows of students away, laughter arose. It wasn’t like a normal hansi, but more of a sarcastic giggle and everyone’s attention turned to it. The girl who was partially sleeping whilst standing next to me fully arose too. For a brief moment, there were whispers but before they could commerce into chit-chat, the sister continued her speech. Just as the sister started again, another chuckle could be heard from the crowd.
“Child,” the nun said. “Are you mocking God’s blessings? Miss Silwat, see who is creating this drama at once!”
A teacher huddled between the students to catch the culprit. I wasn’t the once laughing of course, but I was still shivering because of the unfamiliar environment. To my utter surprise, when the students moved to sides, there stood apa fidgeting with her sash and licking her lower lip.
“Are you new, love?” the teacher asked apa. She was answered in silence.
The Sister dismissed us, trying not to make eye contact with apa, who, like massi Bina’s beti who lost her senses when she was slapped for running away with a man, was staring at the Sister and laughing uncontrollably. Earlier apa and I had made a pact to eat lunch together but now I was sure that I could never be seen sharing my anda roll with her.
The lectures were easy, and I understood all the concepts. In the second period, I met my class teacher, Mrs. Victor and I was told to introduce myself. I spoke about how I wanted to be an astronaut, about baba and amma but I did not even mention apa. We learned about decimals and I made a friend. Her name was Mariam and she cracked a joke about Cocomo and I almost forgot about apa. Before break time, Mrs. Victor told me to come out without my belongings. I followed her to what seemed at that point a waiting area. I was told that the principal wanted to see me. I asked her if I had done something wrong and she smiled at me in the politest manner and said that I had nothing to worry about. I liked Mrs. Victor.
I entered the room and saw that the same nun from the morning assembly was sitting on the chair. She greeted me warmly and asked about my day. Before I could speak, she asked me to close the door behind me.
“Rabia is your sister, is she not?”
I nodded at once.
“Well, Sijjal. Today at the assembly, she was acting in a rather peculiar manner. She is new, so we let it go. But it turns out that during her very first class, she slapped a fellow Christian for reciting a verse from the Bible. We here at the Convent respect every religion and such cases are not tolerated. She was sent home at once. Do you understand what I am saying?”
I gulped and nodded again. For the first time in my life, I wanted to kill apa. I wanted to barge back in my house and break the door like a C.I.D. episode and strangle her. I did not do that, but I did sob and told ammi kay apa ko mental hospital bhejain, ab meri izzat ka sawal hai.
“What are you saying, beta?”Amma said, cleaning the dishes. “Pehle haath dho kay khaana kha lo phir tahamul say baat karte hain. Rabia tou keh rahi hai kay uska din bohut acha guzra.”
I had my khichri and went upstairs. I wanted apa to be present during my conversation with ami.
Apa’s door was closed and I went inside without knocking.
“Oho, you tou scared me Sijjal.”
I looked at apa with suspiciousness. She was bilkul normal; she had taken off the uniform and her body wasn’t twitching as it had been in the morning.
“Why did you tell amma that you had a great day when you were kicked out, hain?”
Apa raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean? Haan, I was reluctant to go in and baba scolded me but after that, I really did have a great day. The teachers are good and the school is so baraa yaar.”
“Don’t change the topic,” I replied. “Assembly wala tamasha amma ko nahin btaya?”
Apa carried her undergarments to the washroom and I followed her.
“Ab bol nahin rahein, hain?”
“Of course, bataya,” she answered. “I told amma that the teachers there talk for hours in the assembly and uff, we have to stand for so long thanking the Lord!”
Apa was pretending jaise kuch huwa hi na ho. A part of me wanted to tell amma what had happened but then, in that moment seeing that apa was normal, I let the thought slide from my mind.
“Dekho,” she said, pointing at her pink penty. “Mujhe periods ho gae hain. Azeem kehte hain ab main bari ho gae houn.”
After a long time, I got to hear Azeem’s name from apa’s mouth. I didn’t know how to feel about it. I was just standing there looking at the faint traces of blood and surf, when I heard amma’s voice calling me downstairs.
Just outside apa’s room was the staircase and one could look at the neechay wala lounge easily from it. I stood there and yelled back, “Jee ama, main neechay nahin aa rahi hoon, yahan say hi bata dain.”
Amma appeared from behind the pillar with a bowl in her hands. “Abhi tak moun haath nahin dhoya? Aa kar kheer kha lo ab. Rabia nay kha bhi li.” I looked to my left and saw that apa was sitting downstairs on the rug, eating kheer.
At that moment, I felt my legs tremble. I turned around and saw that apa was in her bathroom smiling at me, still showing me her washed penty. Even without glasses, I was seeing dou dou… I lost consciousness.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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