Anita’s mother grabbed the phone from her hands.
‘Who are you talking to?’ she shouted, trying to unlock the screen.
‘I was just talking to a friend!’ Anita said.
‘Show me,’ her mother said.
‘Give me my phone back first,’ Anita said.
‘No. Tell me your password.’
‘I won’t tell you my password. Just give me the phone and I will show you,’ Anita protested.
‘You are getting ruder day by day! Is this what you were doing instead of studying?’
‘I was looking something up online mom!’
‘You just said you were talking to a friend. Don’t you dare lie to me!’
Anita’s eyes welled up with tears, but she just stared into her book.
‘Don’t pretend to be studying. I know you very well!’
‘It doesn’t seem to be that way,’ Anita muttered.
‘What did you say to me?’
Anita put her hands on her ears and stared into her book.
‘That’s it! You’re not getting this stupid phone back again! Shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.’
Anita’s mother slammed the door behind her and kept the phone on the dining table.
‘What happened Veena?’
Anita’s grandmother was sitting on the sofa outside watching TV.
‘This is between me and Anita!’ Veena said.
‘Who was she talking to?’ Anita’s grandmother asked.
‘I don’t know! Stupid girl, wasting her time!’
‘She is old enough now, Veena.’
‘Old enough, my foot! She is eighteen! That’s not old enough!’ Veena shouted.
‘Is it not?’
‘It’s not! All this boyfriend and relationship stupidity. This isn’t the age for it.’
‘I don’t think she is into all that.’
‘You don’t understand! I’ve heard about these stupid boys who talk to my friend’s daughters. They’re all useless!’
Veena turned on the stove, poured some water into a kettle and slammed it down.
‘Veena, listen,’ Anita’s grandmother continued, ‘Anita is old now. She will be nineteen soon. That’s the age you got married at, right?’
‘It’s not the same! She isn’t going to get married right now! Do you remember how stupid I was when I got married?’
‘She isn’t getting married right now Veena.’
Veena dropped tea leaves into the water and dimmed the stove and sat down at the dining table.
‘You don’t understand,’ she muttered.
‘Maybe I don’t. But I know that she would open up to you if you were a little more accepting.’
Anita opened the door and walked out. She picked up her phone and unlocked it in front of Veena.
‘Here mom,’ she said.
She gave Veena the phone.
‘What?’ Veena asked.
‘Here’s what I was doing.’
Anita shoved the phone into Veena’s hand.
Veena opened the chats. There were a lot of messages from different people. She spent a few minutes going through them.
‘You have a lot of friends,’ she said, handing the phone back to her.
‘I do. I have a lot of guy friends too. I talk to them, I hang out with them, and I think that’s a good thing.’
Veena got up and walked towards the stove.
‘Mom?’ she said.
Veena poured some sugar into the kettle and stared out of the kitchen window. Her daughter had grown up and she’d been too busy; too engrossed in other things to notice.
‘We don’t look at all our guy friends that way. But society does.’
‘It gets annoying when people of your generation cringe if a guy and a girl hug each other. But we’re just being friends. We care for each other, like friends,’ Anita said.
‘How can I be sure about that?’ Veena asked.
‘Aai, I’m old enough to understand if I develop feelings towards somebody. And if that happens, then I will tell you,’ she said.
The tea began boiling and Veena turned the stove off. She sighed and looked at her daughter’s concerned face. ‘I just care for you a lot, Anita.’
‘I know. I’m sorry I was rude.’
Veena picked up the strainer and poured the tea into three cups. Patting her daughter’s head, she handed over a cup to her.
‘Come, let’s have tea,’ she said.
14 Jul 2018