I was out of work because two of my employers had shifted to some other cities. I had put up a word with the watchman to let me know if any new families moved into these houses. My boundaries were restricted to the Krishna Colony. I was not allowed to work beyond that area. The other maids wouldn’t approve of that. There was an untold understanding, all of us were poor and one would become an out-caste if one sabotaged the livelihood of other maids.
On one Thursday I was summoned to meet the Sharma Family. Thursday, I figured it was a blessing from Sai Baba. The last couple of tens carefully preserved in the loose end of my saree would have lasted for couple more days, I needed this job. I washed my face and tied my hair neatly and reached the building where the Sharma’s lived. I was apprehensive. It is very difficult to be a maid in these big houses, their strength and money scares me. I feel so vulnerable. Within us maid we all knew it is better to work for families with kids than for bachelors and newly weds. So, when my doorbell was answered by a ten year old relief comforted my tense body. The girl was sweet. In the first few seconds I could guess she was a well mannered child. She spoke to me with respect. “Aunty, please wait. I’ll call mommy.” Rich kids sometimes be very harsh, I now had a positive feeling about the lady of the house. A tall, very fair and gorgeous lady walked out of the kitchen, and called me in. The house was littered with cardboard boxes and wrappers. The mother and child spoke to each other in Hindi. They didn’t belong to this area of the country. “Please sit”
I noted that she gestured towards the mat that covered one corner of the living room. To my surprise she sat down next me,” Will you have tea? I need to drink it before I can do anything. My head is paining. Hands are aching. Why doesn’t the lift work in this building?” I soon forgot all the calculations I was making regarding the salary, the woman spoke to with ease and a familiarity I was starting to like. “No.” She brought the tea anyway and I sipped the hot ginger tea. I noticed my glass was different than hers. But it didn’t matter, we were drinking the same tea and I wasn’t offered a left over. “I need you to help me with setting up the house. That is first. And, I need you to help me with the dishes, clothes and cleaning the house. But there is one more problem. I am working. So you will have to come at around 6:30 in the morning. Is that fine?” I noted everything she said but she had left out the one piece of information I badly needed to know- how much is she going pay? “I can come at 6:30, I don’t have an issue. I should be able to get done by 8.00. Ma’am, I will accept the standard salary in this colony- 100 for dishes, 150 for clothes and 150 for cleaning.” It was a done deal and I began with washing the tea cups.
One question nagged me, where was her husband? It was none of my business but she seemed too nice a lady to be di-vorzed. Isn’t that what they call it when the man and woman in these big families separate? Months passed and morning tea and breakfast with the lady and her daughter became my routine. The other maids were so jealous, because I got food, hot food and my employer usually sat down and ate with me. On lucky days she would pass on some wonderful clothes that I would fold and keep aside to wear them on special occasions. I was soon hired to come during the evenings as well to help her with the cooking, and we chatted about movies and serials. I was growing more and more attached to her little family and it pained me, that they hid a lot of grief beneath their smiles.
To be continued....