Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nadine, Chapter Four

Young Nadine spent most of her baby, toddler and early childhood years in Manchala’s house and Kim’s produce store. Nadine came down with colic and bilious diarrhea. Kim had a magic potion.

“You have fat baby water?” Kim asked the chemist.

The chemist did not understand her.

Kim said, “The bottle has fat baby holding a snake.”

Together with the chemist, she looked for it.

“I have found it, you see, fat baby.”

The chemist realized it was Gripe water this Chinese woman speaking strange English was looking for. Kim brought the gripe water back and gave a teaspoon to Nadine. It worked like magic. The moment Nadine swallowed the gripe water, her howling stopped.

Kim laughed, “The people of Pukekohe don’t call me Chinese doc for nothing.”

Kim did not have any children of her own. She treated Nadine as the little girl she never had. Kim knitted cardigans, mittens and caps for Nadine. When she went to the shops, she bought pretty ribbons and braided Nadine’s long curly jet black hair. She treated her like a princess and bought her jelly beans and trinkets. When Nadine threw a tantrum, she was unfazed.

One day, Kim told Nadine, “We Chinese have a special custom, called Kai Ma. Kai Noi. Like an adopted mum and adopted daughter. I like you very much, I be your Chinese mother.”

Nadine replied, “Yes, I’d like that very much. I don’t like my mother. She doesn’t like me. Does this mean that I can come to live in your house?”

Kim said, “No, a Kai Noi doesn’t come to live with her Kai Ma. But we love each other very much. Besides, your Daddy will never allow it.”

Nadine was a scrawny little thing as she was a picky eater. In Manchala’s house, she ate dosai, chapattis, roti and samosas. In Kim’s house, she did not want to eat her Chinese food.

“I want samosa! I want samosa!” she yelled at the top of her voice.

Kim said, “Sorry love, I can’t make samosas, next time, I ask Manchala aunty to make some for you. Now be a good little girl and eat up.”

“I want to go to Manchala aunty now!!!!” and she flung the little bowl off the table. Rice grains scattered all over Kim’s clean kitchen floor.

Kim said, “Sorry love, Manchala aunty had to take Harishankar to school.”

Nadine would only eat plain steamed rice with her hand, and mess Kim’s kitchen but Kim did not reprimand her. Kim understood that Indians don’t use knives and forks or chopsticks, but eat with their hands. The first time Kim offered her a spoon, Nadine flung the spoon and screeched and howled at the top of her lungs.

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