The Diaries of Marya - Part 2

5 a.m.

That blasted alarm again. School starts at 8, but I have stuff to do. Growing up sucks! All the responsibilities that come with it suck! Everything sucks! I can't remember waking up happily in the morning. Ever. Well, that's not entirely true. I used to love waking up for school when I was in Sana'a. But then, I was a little girl, with just one, then two siblings and didn't have many responsibilities. Now that I've come of age, I have to care for at least one of my siblings. That's the rule in this house. Vappa and Umma sat me down and told me how they couldn't possibly care for all of us. And since I'm a big girl now, I have to help around the house. I guess the easiest one to care for is Maha. She goes to school, same as me and Umma has to look after the infants.

"I have to care for at least one of my siblings. That's the rule in this house."

I love my lessons in school. I love Biology. Math, not so much. But I'm not weak in Math like the other girls. Everyone assumes around here that girls are generally weaker in Math. But that's not true. I know more boys who fail in Math than girls. Anyway, I like English, because I'm good at it, Biology and Physics, because you just have to pay attention and everything makes sense. I like doing my homework because that is important and everyone in the house leaves me alone. I like calligraphy because my handwriting is the best in my class. I like drawing because I like colours. And best of all, I like bringing calligraphy and colours into my lessons. My notes are the neatest and prettiest in the class. And what my classmates don't know is how I have a separate set of notes at home with drawings and colours. They are beautiful. Colour coding always helps me remember things. That's my little secret and I'll never share it with my friends. That, and my stationery. I spend all my pocket money on stationery.

Homework and revision with my colours always take up the entire evening. I never get time for anything else. Thank God for that. Although, there's nothing much to do in my house. We don't have a TV. So if not for my school work, I'd have to take care of the kids or help with the cooking. A lot of time does go into prayers. The price I have to pay for all the busy evenings is waking up early. I guess this is convenient, though. I hope Maha's uniform is dry. I brush my teeth and get my uniform ready. Once I finish ironing mine, I'll have to iron hers. That's when I usually wake her up. It's so hard to get her out of bed! I usually excite her by showing her the uniform. She likes going to school, like me.

It's always better to bathe and dress her first. I learnt the hard way. That girl hates the water and is a handful when you try to give her a bath. We don't have a water heater so the water can get a little chilly at times. Especially if it rains. Kerala monsoons are horrible. Sheets of water just come pouring out of the sky, ruining your shoes, clothes and everything. And there's mud, puddles and dirt everywhere. Whenever it rains, I give Maha a break from her bathing routine. I don't bathe, myself. Of course, Vappa and Umma don't know about this.

By the time I get her out of the shower and dress her in her uniform, I can hear sounds from the kitchen. Vaapa must be fixing her breakfast and our lunches. I usually don't have time for breakfast by the time I get ready. In the meantime, Maha has her breakfast and Vaapa hands her our lunches. I'm usually a tad bit late by the time I get out, so I rush through her time table for the day and pack her school bag by the time she finishes breakfast. I also make her do her homework and tutor her for any upcoming tests because how she fares in class is also my responsibility. We always have to run to catch our bus. The last thing I want is for Vappa to get mad again for having to drop us all the way to school, when he could have gone back to bed.

Renting a house in the city is not that easy so we have a whole hour in the bus ahead of us before we reach school. I use this time to make Maha revise her lessons. Maybe if we lived in the city, I'd only have to wake up by 6. I carry the house keys with me all the time, just in case. So we lock ourselves out of the house when we leave for school and show ourselves in when we get back. I remember how Umma used to send me off to school every morning before Mumtaz was born. Now with the two toddlers, she barely gets any sleep at night and usually sleeps in till noon. That's not so bad, anyway. Vaapa is the better cook although he thinks it's the role of the woman to feed her family. They fight about that a lot. I guess he does it because he doesn't want Maha to starve at school. Her kindergarten teacher did complain initially that she was the only kid in class who never brought lunch and snacks. It's a rule in Kindergarten for the teacher to supervise what the kids have twice during their day at school. Who knew? Good for me, because I don't have to make my friends begrudgingly share their food with me anymore.

"because I don't have to make my friends begrudgingly share their food with me anymore."

Only one of my friends never had a problem sharing her food. I think I like her the best. Her lunch is usually breakfast packed all over again- dosa, idly, puri etc. I like the puris but she likes them too. I don't usually get to eat her puri masala. But she hates the rest of the stuff she brings to school. She's so tiny because she barely eats anything. And her mother wants to see her lunch box empty when she gets home. It was convenient for both of us when I'd finish her lunch and she'd return home with an empty lunch box. Now I get my own lunch so we all sit in a circle and share our food.

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You might also be interested in reading Part 1 of this collection.