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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Wo(man) Friday

How leisurely and long and taxing can a holiday be..of course this holiday isn,t the normal kind..here the husband leaves for work and the wife doesn,t..stays at home with a two and half year old and misses her ' man friday' ( the name given by one of my friends) terribly... her dearest ' Archana di' ..the best gift from mother-in-law ever.. :P. The broad minded me decided to give my ' Archanadi ' a break and have a taste of ' reality'.. reality bites..Be with the fussy eater toddler full 24*7 to the point of getting all wrecked up and the sound of ' maaa' doesn,t delight as much as it used to when I would come home from office for lunch and the enlightened smile followed by the sweetness of ' maaa'..Here the babble and bratism continues non stop to the extent I long to flee to work.

How contradictory can life be..how it can bring two persons totally unrelated  from different strata of society share a same house a same room and yes I hated it sometimes ,the same bed. I remember Archanadi,s entry into our lives.. I have heard of her months before she came with us to Delhi from my mother in  law.. her ardent desire to send Archanadi with us to look after the newly born Ninni..I have also heard myriad tales about her laziness , mood swings but mother in law would always justify ' You see, she is abanoned by her husband.. no kids.. you have to giver her that.' By that time I have learnt to nod in affirmative to all my mother in law,s sentences because of the huge fiascos I have created by virtue of my loud mouth ( my husband calls it lack of sensitivity though)..and this reminds me how much mad I may get at my mother in law sometimes..I have to giver her that..she has a witty sense of humour when she is not worried about her son, husband,daughter,son in law ,grand daughters ..and a sense of pragmatism which eludes women like my mother.. she also commented
' Archana would be a show piece..workwise zero but nice to have type'. After laughing it off appreciating her witty one liners..I had to wonder what would I do with a show piece struggling at that time frantically with job and baby...

The initial days..when she came with us to Delhi..grumbling complaining in Rajdhani Express while me and husband tried to put a rein to our growing irritations exchanging glances which inavariantly meant " Look at her.. full AC and three time meals..full rest..has she ever seen so comfort in her life"..yet she kept mumbling "What is this.. just sitting idle... can,t sit for so long..so tiresome.. " I tried to be at my humble best  with a curt  " Take rest..enjoy the AC" .Then on a calmer frame of mind..I remembered her village, we went once to meet her parents before we brought her with us ( it sounds like asking for her hands.. guess it was exactly that) the green tea gardens, lifeline of my state..so called muddy dusty roads then a small village endowed with lush green assets and their small house they call  ' home'. Her siblings awaiting our arrival, her younger sister hardly ten has painted her lips red, her grandma completely overboard with enthusiasm..her brother fanning  with handfan.. yes Benjamin Franklin and Edison have not yet made it into her village.. so may be the fully AC train could not be as striking for her as it was for us.. us who knew the joys and tortures of travelling in Indian Railways sleeper class..us who knew of the ordeal to hold on to the reserved seats..while a host of passsengers pushing their way for  a place to sit.. For her the world ended at Silchar the nearest town from her village and a bus or a shared Tata sumo did it for her...so the grumblings may be.

With all grumblings she settled down with us..began to take care of Ninni..yes she would not clean potty and try to look in a different way when I rushed about with potty washing cleaning..Me and my husband began fighting in English so as to escape her horizon of comprehension..(In the process we became very fluent and articulate in spoken English while trying to lend meaning to each trivial non trivial issues..:D) Yes I continued to get irritated at her because of her impeccable lackadaisical attitude, gulping two or more bengali films a day and at her being a real showpiece compared to my efficient part time maid.
Archanadi went to Allahabad with me when I had to go for a four months course and I fumed red and green as she used to sleep till 9 in morning as I rushed for class and would find her taking cozy afternoon siesta with Ninni as I came back from class....sigh!!But then in a few days she picked up who,s manager who,s junior executive who,s ATC..and yes these were the things I had began to share..sleeping in the same bed in hostel room with Ninni between us..and doze off or get immersed in reading when it was her turn  to whine..husband..brutal..violent..her village..her parents.. Our next venture was my training in Kolkata for another couple of months.. I struggled for a place to stay with Ninni and Archanadi and we shifted from one to another make shift arrangements. By that time Archanadi has picked up some hindi words from Delhi and Allahabad but the acid test  was to express herself in the  raw east bengali dialect incomprehendable to the prim and proper Kolkata bangla.But then Kolkata gave her enough paan and betel nut to chew for which she longed  in Delhi and though Allahabad solved the problem to some extent..nothing like Kolkata where it was so close to home..

Then finally I shifted my base to Barapani for a year..thanks to my job..and there she was now convergent in little hindi linguistically, little chinese little south Indian cooking while retaining her typical cooking style she imbibed from my mother in law and to it some days her village dishes which I began to love..A lot of me has gone into her..she makes good pastas with mayonnaise, sometimes we watch the same soaps..sometimes she plays games in Ninni's laptop. Sometimes she wil tell me ' You have to take a decision' or ' control' my cravings for spicy food and my mother if present will raise eyes as far as she can... " Look at her language.." I try to supress smile.She has learnt to reply in Bengali to my Malayali colleague,s broken english, communicate Bengali recipes to the Malayali with broken Hindi and may be who knows lots of her have gone into me..I try to watch her watering her plants outside my quarter her little potato onion and garlic plants, sometimes listen to her how jaggery is made out of sugarcane..how a cow gives birth  how much milk a cow can render in a day ,whether there is enough for her babies or we human being snatch it all.. and she goes on..' have you ever tasted pakodas with onion flower' as I stare blank and she smiles I know I would taste something new from her kitchen.
Though my pragmatic husband and mother in law warned me repeatedly not to grant her leave..what if she does not come back..finds her husband..it isn,t that I am not scared as I and my daughter wait for her return..may be in an effort to feel great and magnamious I granted her leave myself (as my husband always points out I love to have the feeling that I am ' great' sort) or may be I trust her..I know she would come back. I know of several stories of maids ditching..will she...I dont know..and if she goes back to her husband...I know my whole life will fall apart.. job ..Ninni..posting in that terrible place..and all the accusations.." you did this..indulged her..(in Bengali  placed her above your head)..now bear it" I can hear my husband in anticipation.

But she would come back..raise my daughter as her own for a meagre sum of money, nod her appreciation at a  new outfit I try..cook up delicaies for my parents and colleagues..yet be happy..in my world taking or mistaking it to be her own..chewing her betel nut..or would she remember her own world in her village..parents siblings relatives..her 'real' world which does not pay.
Huh life is tough.. tough and complex.

P.S. She had been staying with me for last five years and our love hate relation continues..