is it just me?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
are all human problems universal? they probably are.....

Submitted: September 29, 2018

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Submitted: September 29, 2018



She stormed out of the house in a huff, slamming the door behind her. Glad that she had somewhere to go where she wouldn’t have to think about the latest fight in a series of stormy interludes. For the next five hours she would enter a world where she was in control of her life. She may have only been a maid or “household help” as the politically correct term now was, but she felt an independence that only a woman who earns her own income and knows that her family depends on her for this, can be. For the next three hours she would step into the world of her Didis.

Shakuntala worked in an upscale neighbourhood in Mumbai, with some of the most expensive real estate. Naturally gregarious and hardworking, Shakuntala was one of those rare individuals who displayed true emotional intelligence, a naturally empathy which made her understand her employers’ moods and bridge that delicate gap of friendliness and deference which made her the ideal maid and her “Didi’s” treated her more like a friend that the help. For a few hours a day she experienced the life of the “haves” in Mumbai, and without envying them their good fortune was able to participate in it.

For Tina, Shakuntala was possibly the only other person she might meet in the day. Recently divorced and working as a freelance copywriter from home, mild depression and a general desire to be left alone and not make the effort of conversation and the retelling of her life story had kept Tina indoors and shut off from even meeting her neighbours in the evening as they gathered in the park and playground with their children or dogs.  She would find herself often not leaving her apartment for days on end. Shakuntala became Tina’s window to the world. 

Tina heard Shakuntala’s key turn in the door and looked up from her laptop.

“Kya hua, itna gussa kyun!” Tina was ready to get back to work, but looked up again, as Shakuntala closed the door with a greater force than usual.

“What to tell you Didi!” Shakuntala needed no prompting to launch into the familiar tale… “After working in peoples’ houses cleaning and cooking for half the day, then go home and cook and clean there as well! And I don’t mind… I’ve managed to educate my children doing this work.” Shakuntala had really done well by her two boys, ensuring that they both went to English Medium Schools. One was just completing his engineering and the younger boy was already working in a domestic call center in Navi Mumbai.

“But then to have to listen to my husband grumbling that the clothes are not ironed, or the dal is missing some masala and that I care more about making sure my Didi’s houses are clean than whether my own house is clean or not is more than I can bear.” Shakuntala was one of the lucky (or not so lucky) few who had actually managed to have a “love marriage”, by luck and good fortune her husband’s caste and village were no barrier to their marriage and so she had been permitted to go through with the marriage. Her husband was a peon in a proprietorship firm and though he did earn a decent income (about Rs.8000/-), it was far less than Shakuntala was able to earn doing domestic work. Working in about 5 houses, with an average income of Rs. 3000 per house, she was making more than double what he was. With this she paid her rent and electricity bills, sent money to her son in college, bought the rations, sent money to her in-laws in the village and like all good Indian housewives, was still able to put some away for a rainy day.

But having a love marriage didn’t meant that she wasn’t subjected to the daily abuse that has historically been the lot of the Indian woman. Although, by virtue of the love she still felt for him and the liberty that this gave her, she didn’t take any of the abuse lyng down.

“I’m fed up…” Shakuntala continued… “He thinks I’m having an affair… who has time to have an affair. From six in the morning I get up and get his food, and my Appy’s food ready for tiffin, fill the water, make the chappatis, then I have to run here. I get done by 2 then run back home, wash the clothes and the dishes, have my lunch and lie down for an hour, then back here at 5 for another 2 hours, then go back home and make dinner so that the laad saab, and his son can have it ready when they get back. And will they lift one finger to help! No! But they are ready to raise their hands on you if you dare to open your mouth and give them back” Shakuntala’s normally happy disposition was replaced with a screaming virago upset with just the retelling of her story.

“I told him…., the day I give up everything and sit to look after your precious home, and there is no money to look after anything else! Then he’ll know!”

Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? 
The words fluttered and flew in the wind. 

Tina thought back to the past year and could remember the same scenes playing in her life. She had also had a “love marriage” to someone she thought was her best friend in the world. She was the modern liberated woman of modern India, with a booming career with one of the biggest media houses in India, living the high life. But over the years, the insidious patriarchy that has lived in India for so many generations came through… who had said… what’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh! No amount of travelling, exposure, sophistication and metrosexuality can dull the inherent entitlement of the Indian Male.

Tina couldn’t put her finger on when she began to notice it… but now thinking back she couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t there… the slight suspicions, the questions about her male friends, the comments about how much time she spent at work, how the house was not as clean as he would like it to be… why was the maid not in today… why isn’t there any food in the house.  In the beginning Tina put it down to the natural jealousy of new love and largely ignored it or shrugged it off jokingly, thinking in the manner of all those newly in love, that it would change. How and why, she didn’t know, but it would change…but it didn’t… if anything the intensity of his reactions got worse.

“I left the house this morning at the same time as you did and I’ve come back after you. Exactly when did you want me to check whether the maid had come to clean or that there were vegetables, if it bothered you so much, why didn’t you do it? I will take care of it on the weekend. Till then, order some Pizza or something.” The mild frustration, had long since given way to shouting matches with tempers flaring on both sides and self-righteous indignation leaving no room for ration thought or discussion. How often had Tina threatened the same thing that Shakuntala had done.

“If all you wanted was someone to sit home and keep your house clean and produce babies… why did you marry me, you should have had an arranged marriage… married some nice girl who your parents chose for you. I’d like to see what you would do, if I sat at home and only spent your money on kitty parties, and shopping and the parlour.”

But Tina wasn’t one to take shit for long. She’d shown him. Things had got too bad in Bangalore with him and one day she’d just left. Packed her bags and caught a flight to Mumbai without even a note. She was DONE!

That was 6 months ago. In the beginning she hadn’t had the time to be or feel anything. The practical aspects of picking her life up around her had kept her busy and exhausted so that even at night she slept the sleep of the dead. She’d crashed with a friend for a few weeks, while she found an apartment and got herself some freelancing contracts with old contacts from college. By the time she had bought all her furniture and settled in completely, 3 months had flown by and just as she thought she was free and ready to start living again… the depression set it. After the first adrenalin of moving began to fade, doubts began to settle in, more than 7 years of living in a relationship like that was bound to take a toll on her self-esteem. Tina had underestimated the role that having a high-powered job had played in stabilising her world. She missed that terribly in Mumbai. At first it had seemed like the most important thing to do was to get as far away as possible from everything. A clean break, a new start. But it was this very break, that suddenly left her isolated with no energy or inclination to rebuild the kind of world she had been used to.

“Chod do usko!” “leave him!” You don’t need his money, you’ve got enough of your own. Better still, throw him out. The house is in your name isn’t it.” To Tina the solution seemed apparent. What do you need with men.

“arey, nahi Didi… kaise batey kar rahe he?” what are  you saying… how can I throw him out. Where will he go. What will he eat?

“How does it matter to you?” by now Tina was on her soap box… “We can’t let men rule our lives like this in today’s day and age.”

“But Didi, I’m not like you. I can’t leave my husband… what will happen to my life, my family, my children? I’ll have money and I’ll be free to do whatever I want…. But what will I want then?”

Any anyway Didi… tell me something… Now that you’ve left him and are free…. Are you happy?

Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? 
The words fluttered and flew in the wind. 



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