Chinna stood near the well, well outside the gates of Ammachi’s kitchen, drawing buckets of water. The Municipal Corporation water had not filled the pipes that day; some burst near the slums. She passed on pales of water so Ammachi could boil it for her cooking, cribbing all along about how the slum dwellers were using her well. Chinna though unable to hear or speak, challenged by the senses, knew every comma and full stop Ammachi voiced, for years of life together.
She uttered not a word, only twisted her lips in disgust thinking with indignation of her employer’s, perhaps hypocrisy, perhaps fate. Limping, she stood at the door and handed my cousin Emmanuel the bucket of water 'to pass along to the old lady,' she seemed to say. Ammachi in turn gave Emmanuel a coconut to pass along to her lower caste help, her lifeline. “Ask her to grate it in the service kitchen please.”
Chinna did as she was told. My cousins and I squatted around Chinna to munch on fresh coconut as Ammachi cribbed away while making delicious fries with her expert, wedding-supervisory hands, from tales of yore. Our babbling Chinna lovingly let us dig in, though feigning anger when she perceived her employer’s stare from the kitchen. This was my earliest memory of my grandmother’s kitchen.
When the task was done, Chinna got up on her limp to hand over the plate to Ammachi. When I refused to pass the parcel, she raised her lip and arched her eyebrows towards the lady at the helm. That’s when I understood she was not allowed in the kitchen.
And, as I passed the plate to Emmanuel, the chosen one, Chinna realized that she was only as much an outcast as me, Ammachi’s daughter’s daughter.
© 2016 by Donna Abraham