Kappu – Only Once
But is this appa? He looks like him… the thick beard, the uncombed hair, the shoeless feet. But he has changed too. He is walking straight, his shirt is not wet with liquor, but his face is still set like stone. When he comes near us, there is no smell of liquor or of milk packets either. Who is this man?
“I told you, Suma. I told you not to come near this building. Why did you come? It is not for us, Suma. Come, let us go. Please let us go,” he says. And there is sadness in his voice. Not anger, but sadness. I have not seen him like that since years.
“She wants to learn, uncle,” says Nalini, but my appa asks her to stop.
“She cannot learn here. She is not welcome. I know. I have seen. You cannot help her, girl. Stand aside.”
He reaches for my hand, and pulls me away.
“No. Maybe she will not learn from here, but she can from other places. There are…”
But even the madam cannot stop my father.
“No madam. Suma will not fit in anywhere. Please do not give her hope. There is not any.”
As he pulls me to the turning, I see the madam running behind us with Nalini, Malini and Prannoy.
“Please. Think about her. Talk with her. Listen to her. I will wait at the school for you. I hope you let her to try.”
But the whispers just die down as the distance between us grows.
When we enter our tent, appa looks at me and sitting down, tells me a story.
“Once, long back, your brother had thought he could learn too. Do you remember Sriram?”
I remember him. I cannot forget my anna if I want to also. I remember appa telling me he was gone to Salem, to earn money.
“Your brother got thrown out from a big white building. Many times he went back; I had told him not to, he did not listen. Once, a big scary man caught him and pushed him. He hit a tree. But Rama did not stop. He tried, till he became mad.”
I am crying now, but appa does not stop.
“I took him to doctor; spent all our money. You will not remember, Suma. You were too little. We had a small house before. But nothing could save Rama. When we thought he got better, he was not really. One day, he just left us. It killed your amma too. She fell ill, and went to your brother. Without money, and no one to give us any, we are here now.”
He is crying too.
“I do not want to lose you too, Suma. I only have you. Let us leave from here.”
I take his hand and hold it. We sit like that for some time.
“Appa, I want to learn. I will not go mad if I learn. See this,” I tell him, and show my yellowed pieces of paper to him. “It is nice, appa. I think madam and Nalini and Malini and Prannoy will help me. Let me try na, appa. Not from white building, but from anywhere.”
But appa is silent. He turns away and lies on the bed. I wait but he does not say anything. I lie down outside the tent, and go to sleep.
I get up when someone holds my hand. I see appa sitting next to me, looking at the burn on my hand. He is crying again.
“I did not drink yesterday. I only thought of what I had done,” he says. “Maybe I can let you try. It will make up this wrong I have done. I will try too. Do any work. Save the money for you. But…”
“You will not lose me, appa. I will never become like anna,” I tell him before he can say anything.
He pulls me and we go toward the long winding road.
Once madam and Nalini and Malini and Prannoy help me, I will learn soon.
Once I learn, I will help my appa soon. And he need not drink ever again.
Once I help my appa, we will get a house soon. Just the two of us.
Once we get a house…
But once, I have to learn. I only need help once. Then I can help myself too.
~ THE END ~
(© 17th April 2015)