Read Part-1 Here
There were days when I would catch her cry each time she hung up on a particular call. His voice was coarse and harsh, “She has no time to answer the calls and she is taking care of my girl?” I realized my mistake and passed on the phone to her. When she began to scream I excused myself so that she doesn’t feel too embarrassed. The next morning she pretended nothing happened. Or, as if it was very casual to fight. I hadn’t slept the last night. I kept thinking about her and about her child. I wanted to say a lot of things; I had prepared to speak about myself, about my marriage about my husband who too no longer stays with me. I wanted to tell her to be strong, to stop answering his calls- lodge a police complaint like I did. But, I remained silent- I was her maid and maids are not supposed to speak about families. I would see the little girl’s lips quiver with pain and tears welled up her eyes whenever this happened and the otherwise noisy house would drown in the silence of the haunted past. The abandoned cup of tea pushed below her bed, gave away signs of a long painful night. I could visualize her sitting with her back propped to the corner of the bed. Her knees closely drawn and hands cupping the hot tea, the only comforting warmth within her reach. As I made the bed on these days, I flipped the pillows to hide the tears marks; I felt too burdened with that knowledge. I pretended I saw nothing, noticed nothing. She pretended she didn’t know that I knew.
I tried to understand the situation from the snippets of information I had over heard by chance when the lady talked to her mother and in-laws. “I made a mistake. I understand. But you cannot take away my child! You get it? Not you, not him, not anyone!” What had she done? I wondered. She was very good. It was hard to imagine she would have faulted. She cared for her child more than anything and she was raising the daughter much better than anybody I have worked with. Sadly, we live in a society where people can talk about things they do not know and still not get their tongues chopped off. The other maids told me stuff about her which I knew weren’t true. Some thought she was widow, who still unabashedly flaunted her beauty and draped herself in bright colours. Some thought that men frequented her house and that is why her husband had left her alone- Not TRUE. I knew, it. She made an attempt to be lively, she is a good person by nature, I could tell but then - there was something the woman had wronged. Something she didn’t forgive herself for. She was in pain. When they asked me questions about her- “I just do my work. I find her to be good. I know nothing else.” That was my reply. I felt bad for her. What did they know about her to talk about her like that?
This work had become my stable source of income. I got two meals a day and respect? And more than anything, I connected to her. I saw through her. Don’t get into their personal business. Do your work and leave. Wasn’t that what every maid was once told? But that fateful day I crossed my line. As I walked closer to the house, the door was ajar; I heard the voice of man, a familiar voice. I hesitated to step in, maybe I should just leave, it was a family matter and they wouldn’t appreciate my presence. One final thought was to pull the door closer, neighbours weren’t too fond of her, and the fight might just give them a reason to push the lady out of the building. As I reached out for the door the little girl ran towards me, to my horror a moderately built man was overpowering the lady and his hand was strangling her neck. In a reflex, I lifted the little statue that stood on the table and hit it on his head. The man dropped unconscious. The daughter ran to her and the mother and child rolled into a ball in the corner. The lady never looked at me; I didn’t want to see her in such a weak position either. I called the police and gave my statement. The man was left with a warning as the lady had refused to file a case. However, he was bound by law not call at this house or get anywhere close to his once daughter and wife. When the tension faded, I was afraid- what if I would lose my job. People can act in weird ways. What if even she would? I dreaded to hear that one statement, “Who are you to do that?”
After about two weeks, she handed me a generous amount only to let me know, they were shifting to a new place. The society had seen enough and thought that she was nuisance. It is strange how the community can act so stupid collectively. Hadn’t the woman been through enough? I helped her pack her things. Each time I looked at her face which was still red by the scars from that ghastly day, I wanted to tell her, “whatever, you have done- forgive yourself. That man has done something worse than anything you would have done. Be strong. Be strong.” I held back my tears and didn’t let a word slip. As we sipped our last cup of tea, she suddenly blurted out,” I had stepped outside my marriage once. I thought I deserved to die.” I couldn’t stop myself anymore,” What is a woman to do when she lives with a man like that?”
Those were our last words. She just held my hand and hugged me like I was her sibling. “Aunty, Thank you” just these three words from the sweet child justified all the risk I took. She didn’t deserve to lose her mother. I kissed her goodbye. Soon after they left, I walked back to the watchman,” Let me know when some new family moves into that house.”