Why I should choose a subject of my first blog from the most humble vocation of a maid servant perplexes many. The innate need to learn from any class, any age, and any field is very strong in my senses. The fact that any experience of a person can teach you something benevolent is evident from my true to life character “chayya” This lady happened to land at my place when I urgently needed help, an unplanned family celebration. My first instinct was to repel from this short hardly 4 feet, dark, stout woman, with darting eyes. Neither a racist, nor a person to judge someone by face value, but something about her gave me a distrustful feeling. The work she did for me that day, sent me reeling and made me repel her more for the uncleanliness. I immediately handed her the wage and asked her to leave for good. But there she was begging me to atleast keep her daughter, as they needed the job. Next day walks in “Shobha”, Chayya’s daughter, hardly 15 year old, apt with her job, miraculously clean, quiet girl, minding her own business, drastically opposite character to her mother. She was like a boon to me. I immediately felt that God had heard my prayers. As I was one lady with too many things on my hands. I had thoroughly spoilt my kids, pampered my hubby, to a point where I became a single handed maid, secretary, psychologist, teacher, mother, scavenger, cook, apprentice(without any pay) to my husband in business, laundry woman, not in any particular order. I didn’t know where to begin and when to end all my thankless jobs. Not complaining, but what began as an act of love from my side, soon turned obligatory and thankless work leaving my hands full that’s all.
I took so much to Shobha and she reciprocated evenly, that I managed to tolerate her mother, who cleaned vessels for me, while Shobha did rest of the job. Leaving me to do only cooking(something I enjoy doing) and reading-writing(my favorite pass-time). These worked for me a good 3 years, till I joined my hubby in his business crisis. Pssssssst.. am his trump card, you know, called upon whenever there’s a steep abyss(humph!!).That’s as far as I could ever get in my career. Well that ended their duties, as my luxury time was over and they could never manage to come early. After this I caught Shobha’s mother dissuading other maids to work for me. Now I knew why I disliked this sly of a woman in the first instance. However I put a stop to all her mean tactics by reporting to her existing employer, asking her to just warn her and not sack her from the job, for who knew better than me, that Chayya needed work more than anybody. This kind of analysing puts me in a fickle minded bracket, but trust me I read the need behind her mean attitude. This lady has a 4 year old son, Shobha being the elder 15 year old daughter. Turns out that Chayya’s husband is a drunkard and a wife beater(quite common in the slums here). When she worked with me Chayya often picked some wages in advance from me saying she had to buy “Lolypok”, (Chicken Lollypop) that’s how she pronounced it always, making me laugh and correct her, but she stuck to her “Lolypok”. Pardon my generalisation, but most Indian mothers, from any class, tend to be slightly(understating to avoid furore) partial towards their Sons over daughters. They are trained to do that, because their mothers did, or whole of the family did, even educated women do it subconsciously, So I brushed it aside as a Mother-Son gig, this every weekend “lolypok” Treat.
Then slowly over each morning Tea, which I usually share with my maids, as no-one in my house is up early. This is the time these people shared their woes and joys with me. This 4 year old child, the “Lollypok” freak, was under treatment of eye-cancer. This he contracted in his right eye, which had to be operated, removed and a glassy one fitted. I was horrified when I heard this. This little Crafty woman turned heroic to me without any doubt. From her meagre salary of INR 4,000/- per month, her daughter’s, hers and all the other houses that she worked for, all clubbed together, INR 4000/-. a month. This lady managed to save each month, buy chicken lolly for her son, treat him for cancer and run her home. She took help from the local politicians to get free treatment at TATA memorial Hospital,Mumbai (specializing in treating cancer patients),. She went to Church regularly(putting me to shame), at times to pray for her son, but most importantly, because this Non-catholic organisation gave recommendations for free medicines to the poor. She took her son for a regular check-up to Mumbai(250kms from where she lived). This required a day’s holiday from her job, travel by bus in wee hours of the morning, so she could return the same day and resume her duties the next day. After reaching Mumbai, she had to walk with her son raised and sitting on her side, and daughter in tow. The long queue at the hospital, the different tests, the different counters to attend to make everything discounted or free, as affording these medicines is not possible even for a six figured salaried person without turning him into a pauper. Whether she and her daughter could eat something the whole day or not, but her little prince had to have all three meals. Thanks to the so many charitable organisations, about which I came to know through her, for arranging and serving a meal to all the poor children there. Then this lady is back on job the next morning after returning late night from a tedious previous day schedule. She is back with her crafty measures to get things done. Aggressively fighting with her relative,neighbours, employers, vendors, and every one who passes by. You know she isn’t fighting you, she’s fighting LIFE!!
She is fighting life, fighting for her son’s life, stressing for a stress-free life for her son. The slyness, the craftiness are all her tools. She is a Mother, a responsible mother, who didn’t abandon her child(like many weak mothers) or didn’t abandon her life(like many weak and lost people), She fought for her survival, she understood the law “Survival of the fittest” without reading a single text. She made her son fit… Fit for survival. She knew her rights, she used her talents, she used some crafty measures. But all forgiven, am sure, all forgiven, a tribute to a struggling mother and a poor Indian woman, who refuses to take “No” for an answer. Tell the lecturers and motivation speakers, this is a woman who didn’$ need to be taught or boosted. The experiences that life threw at her, did the job. What I could do, or I did, or failed to do for her is quite a small fraction, rather I may be a very small fraction in her part of life, whom she had no reasons to remember and I had no means to forget her. Or I didn’t choose to forget. Learnt from her. Kept her in a small corner of my mind, to bring her up whenever life took me on a down-hill…..From Crest to Abyss.