She came, she saw, she conquered- quite literally! “How many members,” “two and sometimes three,” I had fumbled.  The feeling was same as to how I would feel sitting in the principal’s office for the admission of my son in a school at every new station my husband got posted to, trying to assert that I was a worthy parent and would do everything needed for the ‘extraordinary academic and extracurricular performance’ of my child.

Changing stations also meant finding a new help every one or two years and well, getting interviewed! Yes, you read it right. Now it’s the other way around. You can only find a helping hand if you pass the interview. Got my lessons refreshed after shifting to a new place, yet again!

“Aata kitna banana rahega, ek cup ki aadha, “well, mostly half cup but if there are guests, you might be required to make a cup or more,”, I blabbered. “Chaar chhutti in a month, whenever I wish,” by this time, pearls of sweat had started gleaming on my forehead.   “alright”, having heard stories that one could find god but not maid in this locality, I was left with little choice … “If a guest stays for more than two days, he/she will be counted as one extra member and you will have to pay for the whole month for that person and this house is too big, so portico washing only once a week, baaki time sookha jhaadu,”. I agreed. She rattled away some more terms and conditions. By this time, I had stopped even the pretension of ‘disagreement’ whatsoever there might have been. She pondered over for a while, weighing how much she would be able to manipulate me in the future. I waited with the bated breath. “theek hai, will start from tomorrow,” she finally spoke.

I was on cloud nine.  I felt like hugging her,  hugging my husband, my son, my neighbors and anyone who could care! Yes! My help had approved of me as her employer! I felt like taking her with me for the evening stroll- basically I wanted to flaunt my maid!

It has been about a year since. She is now comfortably ensconced in the system of my home, actually, she is the boss. No exaggeration. In a quirky way, it helped that my husband was posted in a field area- so I had one person less to justify my actions to (the other person is my son). Somehow, my husband feels that I am too malleable and get easily manipulated by this clan.

However, this peace gets disrupted time to time when he comes home on leave, television clearly being the bone of contention. To put things in perspective, let’s just say, ‘my husband on leave’ is the true answer to the question, “what’s a couch potato?” In his absence the remote is usually in my maid’s hands, myself being just an occasional viewer. And I have learnt to abide by her ‘rules’, especially when it comes to TV viewing at a certain time. She has a penchant for some daayan(witch) show these days. She somehow manages to finish her kitchen job precisely at the time when that serial starts airing. She comes with the broom in her hand, “has it started?” She enquires. And that means if the TV is off, switch it on, and if I am watching something else then change it to the channel where that show is coming.  She comes like a queen and watches her serial with her hands akimbo-her meditative viewing breaking only during the ad breaks or to ask some ‘earth-shattering’ questions like, “Usne toh Daayan ki choti kaat di, how is she going to get it back, or will it ever come back at all,” she asks with full seriousness. I just nod- with my eyes fixed on my lap-top screen.

Now, when my husband is around, I find myself in a tricky situation. ‘Guru Govind dou khare, kako laagu paaon’- Kabir’s famous lines- acquire an altogether different meaning for me! Who should have the right to watch the TV! And then I find my answer in the same couplet. “Balihari guru aapno, Govind diyo dikhaye”! The choice is clear, My help! If not for her, I wouldn’t be able to spend time with my husband! But then knowing my reputation in front of him, I choose not to tell him directly so. I strategize.

“Hey, outside its quite nice, would you like to have coffee in the garden,” I time my question. He falls for it and I call my maid, “Devi(some metaphor-ism at play here) tumahara serial aa gaya! The peace is restored for the day. Tomorrow shall be another day and another trick.

Secretly I am delighted that my ‘employer CV’ is getting enriched! Next time, in the next station, I can offer ‘television viewing with full HD’ too in the package to my prospective help, so that I pass with distinction in the interview!

 

Copyright © Aradhanamishra