Time and again, this story haunts me….long long time ago we
had a maid who had come all the way from dehat to help mom in her daily chores.
She was very weird. She wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t smile, wouldn’t go home and
best of all would not shirk from work at any cost.
As a child I would watch her with total wonder. She was
everything I wasn’t!! I talked till people told me to shut up, I didn’t smile
cause I always laughed and well what I can say about shirking from work.
So mum used to often give me her example as someone whom I
should follow! Yes my mum was also quite weird…she wanted a mere maid to be my
idol in childhood.  Moving on, my little
research project -to find out more about her, became quite a bit of a craze.
Whatever little free time I used to get was spent watching her. Literally
watching her. Like all researches mine too gave some weird findings. Out of all
the chores mum gave her she spent the most time on washing clothes. This often
became an object of mum’s wrath too. Mum felt this pushed her lunch timelines
and she often found herself cooking even when we had come back from school.
My intuition told me that this had more meaning to her
personality and this is where I needed to centre my “research” .I would try
doing goofy things around her to extract that one smile which would go on to be
my ice breaking moment. This always worked with others and still does.
Well all my efforts were in vain, coz she hardly even
noticed me. And just in case I felt she had, she would get up and leave. This
went on for sometime. It was almost a year before something very strange
One day mum found an ugly stain on my shirt. She quickly
decided that the shirt was a discard as the stain could not be removed. She
threw the shirt in the rags of the kitchen. My maid noticing this very
surreptitiously picked it up and put it in the clothes meant for washing.
Mum didn’t notice this…but I off course did. I went on to
follow her into the backyard. There I saw she took out the shirt and soaked it
in the bucket for washing. After about an hour, she started to clean it. But the
stain didn’t come out. She paused looked at the shirt and started to clean it
again. The stain didn’t come off after about five washes and two hours. Each
time her process was same. She soaked the shirt for about one hour and then
began to clean it. She went on to do this for a really long time, before mum
found her cleaning clothes and began to lecture her how lunch timelines were
being pushed. Mum told her to quit the clothes and come to kitchen. She didn’t
budge. I could see that mum’s anger was now reaching new heights, I quickly
intervened and managed to push mum back into the kitchen.
Alone she sat there, looking desolate and distressed. For
the first time in one year I saw emotions etched on her face. I knew back then
that if she would talk it would be now. I didn’t say a word, quietly went
picked my shirt and soaked it back into the bucket- indicating that she was
free to clean it all over again. We sat in perfect silence for about 15 minutes
before she began to cry. In between those incoherent words mixed with crying I
came to know her story.
She had got married really young, she was like me carefree
and bubbly. Her take on marriage was more what everyone else’s at that age is-
nothing. Her husband was a good man, who took good care of her. He could see
through her innocence and wanted to preserve it just like that. Her in laws
though were normal- cruel and vindictive. They could not stand her being happy.
Everyday they created an issue, created problems between her husband and her.
Her husband was slowly but surely beginning to feel the
pressure of handling a wife and parents. She being a child couldn’t see. So
what followed took her into total shock.
Her husband returned home one night- tired and exhausted. He
had just sat down for dinner, when his mother began to scream and shout like
everyday. Today her issue with my maid was that the shirt her husband was
wearing had not been cleaned properly. My maid in all her earnestness asked her
husband to remove the shirt so that she could clean it again. Aghast her
husband refused, but on constant requests he relented. She got down to the job
of cleaning the shirt. Her mother in law went on to draw a chair and watched
her clean. She went on to clean the shirt five times before her mother in law
was satisfied with the result.
Getting up she went on to clean utensils and finally go to
the room to sleep. The sight that met her was something she had never imagined
could be. Her husband had hung himself with one her sarees. He had left the
note that he couldn’t bare to be a part of this ordeal between his wife and
mother anymore.
The mother in law went on to cry to her hearts content for
the next five months. Screaming and telling everyone how he committed a suicide
because my maid had not cleaned his shirt properly. My maid didn’t say a word.
She didn’t cry. She didn’t explain. But the one thing she became overtly
particular was cleaning clothes. She would make sure that she never again left
an unclean shirt.
I was overwhelmed to say the least, I got up comforted her
and left for a walk. Whatever she had told me, enlightened me so much about
human nature that day. Our smallest of actions are deep rooted in biggest of
our life’s incidents.
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