My hand shakes a bit as I shape the batter on the sizzling tawa resulting in an imperfect heart. I try to fix it and end up making it misshapen. I dot the edges with ghee and feel frustration overwhelm me. The clock reads 8:16 AM. Six minutes before the bus will trundle past my house, turn around the corner and come to a stop where the kids will scramble to get in. I turn around and Ammu is still on the sofa, her torso bare. I am tempted to force her clothes on her, push the dosa down her throat and drag her to the bus stop. I do none of that. I flip the dosa and stand mute, the heat from the stove making my eyes water.
I hear her behind me. She is pulling on her socks, her face defiant. Pattu snuggles me from behind. “You are the best mom ever,” she says as if to compensate for Ammu. “No” I say and hug and kiss her before she leaves. I ignore Ammu and set the timer for 8:20, the absolute latest she needs to be out the home to catch the bus. She scarfs down one of the two dosas, rinses her hand, gives me a token hug and when I turn refuses to meet my eye as she mumbles sorry. I drag her to me, squish her against me and let her go. She runs, her purple scarf bouncing, out the garage door.
I wait a minute to gather myself and walk to the front door. I see her standing on the neighbors driveway waiting for me to appear. She appears to want to come back for a hug. “Run!” I urge and she does even as the bus turns onto our road. I cheer for her as she makes it in time.
I close the door behind me and walk back to the kitchen which feels stuffy. The artificial light, the smoke from the cooking, the weight of oil in the air. Ammu’s plate is on the island, the heart on it murmuring apologies. I break down.
We hurt. We heal. We are imperfect. Our love is imperfect. Its edges are ragged, parts of it lumpy. Yet it has come to symbolize everything that is true of our life together. I tear off a piece, dip it into the chutney and savor it. I feel my stomach settle, my breathing even and a smile creep into my face.