Having washed her face, she stands in front of the mirror, remembering the days when she would sleep till noon on summer and winter breaks. Her father would never let them to wake early. Now, she has to wake up as early as 5AM. She looks back at the bed where Deki is still sleeping. Switching off the light, she heads towards the kitchen where her mother has started boiling water and cooking rice for a few workers who eat breakfast here.
Her work is to get the flour ready for momo. Workers take momo in the lunch. Her mother stands at the gas stove, walking past her; she takes out a bowl out from the metallic rack. Keeping it down on the floor, she mixes flour with water. Her head aches, as she could not sleep well last night shocked by her mother’s words to marry that manager. After her mother left the room, she chatted with Chophel. He asked about the result. He consoled her talking about other ways of making a living. She felt good to have his support. Chatting with him for hours, she forgot about her mother’s words. She cannot tell him about that.
Dawn breaks. Time moves fast. Soon, the company workers start to move tro-and-fro. Breakfast is ready. Waiting for the morning customers, standing behind the counter Aum Wangmo calls, “Dema, where is Deki?”
Walking past her, she goes directly to the bedroom. Pushing the door, she goes directly to the bed where Deki is still sleeping. Nudging her shoulder, she wakes her up. Opening her eyes reluctantly, Deki looks at her.
“What time is it?”
Forcing her sleepy body off the bed, as Deki disappears into the bathroom, Dema walks back to the kitchen. Eyes reddened by onions, she bends and takes another onion from the bowl when her mother shouts from the counter, “Two rice.”
Standing up immediately, taking out two plates from the rack she fills them up. As she arranges the plates and cups on the tray, she expects Deki to walk in but there is no sign of her. Then, lifting the tray, she walks to the table, where two young men sit nearby the bukhari. Standing in front of them, she keeps the tray on the table. One of them looks at her directly and comments, “Aunty, who is she?”
Smiling at them, her mother replies, “My daughter, sir.”
Taking the tray, she walks back to the kitchen when the same man says, “So, you have two beautiful daughters?”
Deki is not in the kitchen. Morning customers fill up the room, some asking for tea and some fried rice. Her mother is frying rice when she looks at her, “Where is Deki?”
She walks to the bedroom and finds Deki sleeping. Waking her up, she goes back to the kitchen. On the way, the same man stops her. Looking at her, he says, “I am done.”
Walking to the counter, she stands there waiting for him to come and pay the bill. Walking towards the counter he takes out his wallet and pays the bill.
Looking at him, Dema says, “Sir, do you have credit?”
“If you have, you need to clear your dues,” says Dema, making a serious face.
Saying no words, he walks away as if frightened by her face, something which she is not supposed to do because it’s her mother’s advice to be good to customers. Going back to the kitchen, she gets back to her momo making. Then, Deki stands at the door, looking very clumsy.
Looking at her, mother says, “You are late.”
“Today, we are supposed to be going for shopping,” says Deki, looking at her mother, who slides the fried rice down on to the plate.
“Take this to Table 3.”
Walking inside, Deki takes the tray and heads towards the table. What has happened to her mother? She looks so lost in this canteen thing. Confused by this, Dema keeps making momo when Deki walks back.
“Mom, aren’t we going for shopping today?”
Looking back at her, her mother fires, “Can we talk about that later?”
Then, a man stands at the counter. Turning her face, Deki walks to the counter. Then, keeping the man standing at the counter, she walks back to kitchen and stands at the door.
“This man has credit but he is not willing to pay.”
On hearing this, Aum Wangmo walks out to the counter. Looking at the man, she says, “You have credit. Please!”
“It’s order from our manager not to pay our dues.”
“You can call him.”
Surprised by this man words, walking back to the kitchen she picks up her phone and calls the manager. Talking with him for a while, she hangs up the phone, face looking very sad.
Looking at her, Dema asks, “What is it mother?”
Standing at the by the gas stove, her mother asks, “What have you decided?”
“About the marriage?”
Keeping her head down, Dema does not say a word.
Keeping her knees on the floor, Aum Wangmo looks at her, “Dema, you need to understand something. This manager lent me money to start this canteen. I owe him 5 lakhs. If I cannot pay back, I will be jailed and you two will suffer. If he marries you, he does not want the money. If you don’t marry him, he will do anything to fulfil his desire.”
Story by: Phurpa Dorji (PJIKKS)
Chapter 3 Tomorrow @9PM