Apples, Swan Diving and Wifi Passwords

Ananya Desai

27th July 2020

Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven’t written for a while. The wifi guys came and installed a new modem so I might write more sporadically than ever because I can finally watch Netflix again. It’s nothing personal.

I ate an apple today. A whole apple. It wasn’t very sweet, it was almost rancid, but I ate it anyway. Dadi gave it to me and I couldn’t say no. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t very hungry. I’d just received my third rejection this week and I wasn’t really hungry. I certainly did not want to eat an apple, but I ate it anyway.

The past few months have been horrendous. I’ve been unemployed, I’m back home after an unsuccessful attempt at securing a distinction and a job in London and my parents won’t admit it, but I think they’ve come to realise that I’m the black sheep of the family. They don’t say it or show it, but I can tell that they feel it. I certainly feel it. The other day I was trying to write an essay and I said I wish I had a whiteboard to help me think and the next thing you know, Papa bought me one. He also bought me a three-in-one scanner and printer. I don’t know what the third function is, but I suppose it must be important because the printer is priced in a way that produces a round figure when divided by three. He said he thought I should have my own scanner and printer because I needed one. I suppose he was referring to the fact that I keep sending him emails with PDFs, asking him to print stuff from his office.
They’ve been really nice. Mumma, Papa and Dadi. I think reading about Sushant Singh Rajput has pinched their worst nightmares. They’re afraid I’ll get sick again and might want to free-fall from my terrace without someone there to catch me.
My sister has been awfully nice to me as well. She calls me more often than she’s ever done. I think Mumma and Papa told her they’re worried about me. I wish they wouldn’t worry; that only makes me feel worse.

I’m a lot better now, even though I feel upset about what happened three years ago. I’m a lot better. I did yoga as Mumma suggested and I took up writing you daily like Aunty Rachel suggested when I visited her in London.
I miss Aunty Rachel. I remember the day we weeded her garden. It was sunny for a change and the sun was overhead and I was wearing a sweater. I didn’t have any summery clothes at the time. I’d only come prepared for the winters. I’d never anticipated the fact that I’d get accustomed to the climate and 20 degrees would become scorching heat as opposed to the 45 degrees that I was accustomed to as summer back home.
We were scrunched on all fours and I was attacking a particularly stubborn plant when Aunty Rachel got pricked by a nasty nettle. I looked at the swelling lump on her forearm and the leaf that had caused it. It didn’t look deadly at all. One could’ve mistaken it for a regular pretty leaf and left it at that - a suiting metaphor for what happened three years ago, but I won’t talk about it now. I’ve made my peace with it.

Anyway, I went to pick Mumma up from school today. She had to change the battery in her wristwatch. We stopped at a store, but it was closed, much like most stores these days that are drowning and declaring bankruptcy on account of the pandemic. So, then I drove her to another store nearby. I parked and followed her inside just in time to hear the sales advisor charge her 350 bucks for the new battery. I was so angry at what they were charging that I wanted to scream at her. That’s exorbitant for a battery. I asked her if she wanted to go elsewhere and some place cheaper where they didn’t sell designer watches and would charge her half the price. She refused saying they’d probably tamper and destroy her watch and it was too precious and expensive to take that risk. That wristwatch was a present from my sister. She’d bought the ‘His & Hers’ set for Mumma and Papa’s 25th anniversary. That was ten years ago. She bought them Seikos ten years ago. Well, it’s been ten years since and I can’t buy them that, I don’t even know if I ever will be able to. I want to give my parents expensive gifts, but instead, I’m scribbling away in a notebook that I bought from the pocket money Papa gave me yesterday. He has been giving me eight-thousand rupees for the last three months on every last Monday of the month. Mind you, I passed the age of receiving pocket money ten years ago and am well into the marriageable age now. But I don’t think I’ll ever marry. I don’t think any man will want a frigid woman who is afraid of sex. But I won’t talk about that now. It’s been three years. I’ve made my peace with it.

I had a burger for dinner. Mumma made aloo tikkis and called for burger buns. She asked specifically for buns without sesame seeds and what did the vendor send? Buns with sesame seeds. It annoyed her and that distressed me. She doesn’t like sesame seeds, but she’ll make honey sesame potatoes for me whenever I make the request. No, she doesn’t like honey sesame potatoes. She loves me though. I got into a fight with Dad over dinner. He asked me to type in the wifi password into his phone and I asked him why he couldn’t do it himself. He got angry and started yelling. He said he does everything for me and ensures that all my needs are met and he “dies” trying to make me happy and I can’t even do something that insignificant for him? It’s not like he doesn’t know how to, he assures me. He’s literate enough, he assures me. It’s all about children doing whatever they’re asked to, he says. And then he threatened to cut the wifi off and then challenged me to try getting my own connection.
I wanted to yell back but I couldn’t. I wanted to get up and leave the table, but I couldn’t. I wanted to pack up my bags and leave, but I couldn’t. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I could move into a rented place, but the eight-thousand rupees that are my lifeline will stop and I don’t think even my uncle would rent me a room with ‘bills included’ at eight-thousand. I’ve been trying to get a job, but I haven’t been successful. I haven’t succeeded because I’m a failure and nobody’s hiring failures. They’re doing quite the opposite, really. I feel trapped. Trapped in a label, trapped in my present and past and trapped in an environment where life seems pretty bleak but every other alternative is just as depressing and frustrating.

I feel like Christine from Lady Bird. I want to make a lot of money and write a cheque to my Papa for every penny that I owe him and be clear of the debt it took to raise me. The international degree itself set him back by quite a lot, but I’m sure he saw it as an investment. He thought that his daughter, who had finally gotten her act together, would land a job in London and mint pounds and pay him back. Not the sum, but in kind. Well, I want to buy him and my Mumma Rolexes just so that they don’t think I’m the black sheep of the family. Sheep. That word functions both as a singular and a plural. That’s confusing. My being the ‘black sheep’ of the family is both grammatically correct and incorrect at the same time. That’s messed up.

So, anyway. We fought and then I went back to my room and slammed the door and threw myself on the bed. I was really looking forward to sleeping tonight cause Mumma ordered new pillows for me and Amazon finally delivered them. I’ve been sleeping on really bad ones since I returned from London because they aren’t of the firmness that I've become accustomed to since London. I’m not looking forward to sleeping anymore. I’ve clouded my muddled brain with negative thoughts and I don’t want to sleep reeking with negativity, because every time I do I dream about what happened three years ago. But I’m not going to talk about it anymore.
The last person I talked about it to was Lilly. She’d called me a few weeks ago, all upset and said that she was walking back home from Picadilly Circus when a man pinched her bum and said he wanted to shag her. She was really upset. She’d cried. It was the first time I’d heard her cry. She told me she called me because I was the only one who could understand and help her feel better. I didn’t know what to tell her. No matter what I did or said she wasn’t going to feel better. Ever. So, that’s what I told her.

So I had thrown myself on my bed, thinking all those negative thoughts when I heard Papa tell Mumma that my attitude and behaviour would cost me in the future and that it already had and that I didn’t have any friends. That’s so not true. I have Lilly and Sally and Ethan and John and Helena and Angelica and Liam and sure they’re all in London, but they exist. They’re my friends. I have them.
We try talking as and when we can but the time difference makes it really hard considering I’m four and a half hours ahead of them. I wanted to call one of them and tell them what had happened tonight but I thought better of it. That’s not how women of marriageable age behave. I was a teenager in every other way - the pocket money, the Papa buying me all the goodies, the unemployment and the attitude problem, but I denied myself the embarrassment of having my friends think I was a teenager by calling them and whining about my supposedly horrid life. They wouldn’t be empathetic. They’d be annoyed that I wasn’t being grateful for what I had. They would be right, of course. I have a roof over my head and I eat free meals and get pocket money. It’s like I’m being paid to exist. So, if my Papa tells me to type in the wifi password into his phone, I shouldn’t say no. I should smile and do it for him. The next time he makes a joke about me being an idiot, I should laugh. The next time he tells me I am nothing without him, I should agree and fall at his feet cause it’s true. I am nothing without him.

They won’t try to marry me off because they know that I’m frigid and no man will want a frigid wife. There aren’t any advertisements wanting frigid women on matrimonial sites. I’ve checked.
They say they don’t want to force me and that they want me to marry when I’m ready, but I know they know that I know they’re lying to me. They won’t admit it because they want to forget what happened three years ago and they certainly want me to forget it.

Mumma came to talk to me later, while I had thrown myself on my bed having all those negative thoughts. She took my feet and placed them on her lap and massaged them gently with her soft fingers. She told me to make amends and improve my attitude and be nicer to Papa. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say but I didn’t want her to leave either so I changed the subject and told her about the rejection. I wanted sympathy. She sighed and told me to keep trying. I wanted her to say something more but I didn’t want her to critique my attitude or me in any other way, so I said nothing. She got up and said she wanted to go upstairs and go to bed and hugged me. I didn’t want her to leave but I could see that she wanted to so I let her.

Once I was alone I thought about how she’d come to me and asked me for the wifi password and I’d watched her type in the wrong one and offered to type it in correctly, but she refused my help, tried again and succeeded. I thought about how I thanked her for the pillows and she didn’t respond with any variation of ‘you’re welcome’ but just smiled because she didn’t need to tell me I was welcome just like I didn’t need to thank her.
I thanked Papa for the three-in-one printer and the whiteboard as soon as he got them, but when we got into a fight later that day he brought up the fact that he does so much for me mentioning the whiteboard and the three-in-one printer and when I said I was grateful for that he said I wasn’t. He wants me to be grateful and that makes me less grateful, but not ungrateful. But I know he loves me, probably more than he should, which is why he wants me to love him more than I should, but I love as much as I can.

I just wish he’d admit that I am the black sheep and the frigid unmarriable ungrateful daughter who he’d wasted all his savings on instead of doing so much for me and telling me I was ungrateful. It would make me want to swan dive from the tenth floor a lot less. I wanted to swan dive today, but then I was scared of reaching heaven where God would take one look at my CV and realise that I was the black sheep frigid unmarriable ungrateful daughter and not know what to do with me because I hadn’t done anything bad to deserve hell but nothing worthy to deserve heaven either and I’d be trapped in limbo for eternity. So, I’m not going to swan dive until I’ve earned a spot in heaven, which itself could take a lifetime so I suppose I’m stuck here for now.

I’m going to go now. Dadi has cut me another apple. I guess it’s because I didn’t finish my burger after Papa and I got into that fight. I don’t want to eat an apple but she’s cut it for me, so I guess I’ll eat it anyway.


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