She is short, small eyes, nose pecked proudly in the most appropriate place on her fair face. Her rather stout figure is always neatly draped in a sari, its pallu, covering her head. Her walk I think makes her look like a football rolling on at a contented pace, except that footballs don't have to carry big heavy bagfuls.
And just one close look at her is what it takes for the myth of contentment conveyed by that leisurely pace, to go flying off high in the air, for on her face every little crease and wrinkle almost screams tellingly and yet with amazing silence, that only extreme patience can bring, of the struggles of her existence.
Circumstances that one goes through and the genes that one carries determine the kind of person one eventually becomes. And she comes across as fiercely independent, repulsively haughty and capriciously fastidious. I have no inclination to research her genes, but do have some knowledge of the hardships she has gone through. And the kind of difficulties she is facing.
She is my maid. And I have to put up with her finickiness every morning!
My mother and sister on their visits to my place put to test all their tact, intelligence and admonition to bring about some pleasantness in her ways, but surrender in disgust, and advice me to go in for a change while giving her up as a hopeless and incorrigible case. Indeed I have been offered seemingly better alternatives by neighbours and friends. Maids who make softer chappatis, who have a time-table and work according to it...and above all they are thoroughly professional.
My children also tell me that if I am continuing with this woman so as to help a poor woman who has enough self respect to earn a living rather than beg for it, there could definitely be other ways of compensating her.
So why have I chosen to put up with someone so absurdly irksome? Do I like to hear her continuous and invariably unpleasant chatter or do I prefer to have a maid who skips some or the other chore every second day?
No. Not at all.
And yet I can't bring myself to agree to turning her away...and so not without reason.
She may have her flaws. Don't we all have?
She may not be as good as the younger maids, not as agile and quick in her reflexes. Yet I am comfortable with her. I find that bunch of more adorned and apparently more disciplined "bais" hurrying from one job to another with complete ease and also finding time to gossip and have fun, a little repulsive and irritating.
Some time back my cervical spondylosis aggravated without any warning and I was in extreme pain. My sister stays in another city and my mother at her age is not expected to be going about washing utensils and cleaning the house. The children have their work and studies.
So what were my options while I suffered?
It was my maid who brought me hot breakfast without any of her annoying mannerism and tried to put me to as much ease as her abilities allowed. She does not follow a work time-table and she is not a robotic professional. Therefore, perhaps she was there for me when I needed help.
Is she my maid?
Or a little more than that?
I don't know.
But one thing is for sure...I would never ever want to have anyone else in her place.
With all her finickiness, she still is a pleasant sight every morning...!!!