Nikki was in a hurry to unzip her purple suitcase. She did not pay heed to my words.

“Nikki Mol, what is the hurry? You are staying with me for at least a month this time, I hope.”

I smiled as I looked at my daughter, my only child. She is now my stem, my connection to the air of living that I have for the remaining years of my life.

“Amma, here you go!,” as she tossed at least 6 packs of what looked like, probably toothpaste, from across the bed towards her mother.

“But Mol, at this age, what will I do with foreign toothpaste? Do you not remember that I wear false teeth…?”

Before I could complete, she crossed over to me and reached for my soles. She almost cupped my shrinking feet in her long artistic and soft palms…the way I would do to her, when she was a baby.

I reacted. Tried to withdraw my feet in embarrassment and awkwardness. She did not let go.

Diabetes had robbed me of my eyesight to a large extent. To couple it, Nikita was in the prime of her youth and thus blessed with a swiftness and agility I could not match.

 Next, she dabbed some  cream on my soles. As I opened my mouth, she put her index finger on my lips, “Ssh…Amma, you know sensitive your sole is. I know how much it pains when you walk with those cracks. I have tried this cream on myself and it’s wonderful.” Nikki then hugged me so affectionately that I couldn’t  check my moist eyes and trembling voice.  I could only mumble faintly as to how much I missed her.

Tears rolled down my cheek as I remembered that fateful day which changed our lives. The doorbell rang continuously. I rushed from the kitchen and saw from the keyhole. It was Nikki’s father. He stood there, with one hand leaning against the wall and the other hand towards his chest.

“What happened? Did you forget to take something…err your watch, your phone?” I was taking as many guesses as possible.

“We have to go back to Cochin right away. Our flight is scheduled to depart in the evening. Has Niki returned from school?” …he looked around as if trying to find an answer to his question, himself.

I felt the ground giving way  under my feet. It took  sometime to adapt to the Gulf climate, so different from the one I was used to in Cochin. But the oil industry was going through a major slump. People around us were losing their jobs and returning back to homeland.

He now turned towards me, “Bindu…. the Company has laid off 150 employees with immediate effect.I don’t know how I can pay the installments of the loan we took for the car. The bank fellows might come looking for me…. I don’t want to go to jail.” His eyes moistened as he said the last sentence.

I was waiting for him to advice me on the next step.

He looked at me and understood.

“Quickly pack two suitcases. Make sure, you take Nikki’s favorite toy.” He added.

How could I pack 5 years of family life in 2 suitcases and proceed towards a new life which I had not an inkling of till an hour ago.

Within 2 hours, we had picked Nikki and were about to reach the airport. Nikki was puzzled with the array of events circumflexing her life then.

We had a small house in Cochin, very close to the spice market. We never could make as much money as most of our cousins did…simply because Nikki’s father was the sole breadwinner of our family and her grandparents were both ailing for a long time. My father-in-law was a victim of kidney failure and dialysis was an expensive choice that we made.

Nikki’s father left in the morning to explore new opportunities for employment. Within a week he was fortunate to get a decent job in the Printing Press. It was not a suitable substitute, but it at least ensured us two meals in a day and we could send Nikki to the nearby school.

Nikki is a daughter every parent should have.

She knew from the look in my eyes, if something was disturbing me. Based on the extent, which she also gauged from my behavior, she would approach me with her curiosity or simply come and hug me.

I had finished hanging the washed clothes on the clothesline, and sat on the steps of our house to take some momentary rest that day.

“Amma, what are those lines on your feet?” She tried to touch them.

I shirked.

She repeated her question, which was a rarity.

“Mol, they are cracks.”

“Why do you have them? (Silence) Will I also get them when I become as old as you?”

“I got them, because of moving around bare feet in the garden and backyard. And, no, you will not get them if you take care.” I replied with a smile.

“So how does one take care?”

“Err…by wearing slippers when one is walking on the soil or on pebbles and in extreme weather.You need to wear slippers if you are walking on some rough surface, for example.”

“Wait Amma, let me go and look for your slippers.” I held her hand and held her back.

Her next question shot before I could anticipate.

“What will I do, if the cracks are already there? “

Momentary silence.

“There is a cream for cracked soles available in shops. You need to apply it without forgetting, till they disappear.”

“Like magic, Amma?”

I replied with a smile, “Yes, Mol…just like magic.”

“Do you have it now? Maybe you should use it.”

“Well…mm. I left it in our earlier house. You know how we left things in a jiffy to come back here.”

“Amma??”

“What,Mol?”

“You carried all my toys, and you forgot to carry your sole cream?”

The doorbell rang. Nikki rushed to see who it was. I couldn’t help but admire the fine young woman, my Mol had grown up to be. She was now in charge of the Arts in the White House. Nikki had a penchant for arts right from a tender age.

How I wished her father was around now. He would have been so proud of our Mol

“Oh…it was some lady asking for an address.”

She took up from where we had left.

Nikki came and sat down near me. Just like before, she gently placed her head on my lap. I stroked her curly locks of brown hair, which she had inherited from me.

We spoke in silence.

“How much I miss you my Mol!”

“My heart aches for you too, Amma.”

“You grew up too fast.”

“Did I have a choice, Amma?”

“Come with me to Washington DC.” She said loudly this time.” Amma the weather is much better than Cochin. My house is well air conditioned. Your soles will not crack.”

I hug her.

She knows what that meant.

“Amma hug me tightly and smile…don’t stop smiling. (Pause) If I can’t take you with me, at least I can carry your smile.” She said as she used her long sleeves to divert her outburst of emotions.

“Mol, I want to wait here for your visit….so that I can look forward to the cream you will carry for my sole.”

The cracks left behind in my life, were smoothed out by her love for me. She tenderly healed me every time with her visit. My Nikki Mol, the cream for my soul.

 

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