She has never heard of a holiday, nor will she. As I struggle to strike a balance between my professional and personal life, she comes as the most important inspiration ever. She knows every nook and corner of my house, what item is placed where and when was the last I used it. She doesn't complain about the chores put in front of her. No matter what has to be done, I know that she is only a phone call away.
She walks in every morning with neatly oiled hair lingering with the fragrance of the jasmine strung around her tiny plait. As I carelessly wave at her, busy tucked into my newspaper and coffee, she walks straight to the back yard where a heap of used clothes await her. Without a sigh or a comment she ties up her saree till her knees and plunges into her “work”. Among a huge pile it is easy to ignore one or two shirts. But her attention to detail and dedication don’t let her do it. Each piece of clothing is soaked separately so that colors don’t mix, they are then soaped, bleached (if whites), scrubbed and squeezed gently. Wiping her hands haphazardly on her saree, she carries the tub of washed clothes a floor up and neatly hangs them to dry on the terrace carefully clipping them so that they are not caught in the wrath of wind.
Next, she walks into the kitchen and directly approaches the sink. Not once cringing about the odour or the quantity of the vessels in front of her, she stands straight and finishes them one by one at one go, without bothering to take a break. I offered her a cup of tea, she grinned shyly and sits down on the floor drying her hands with her kitchen towel. She then fondly talks about her two daughters, one of whom is still an infant. She feeds her in the morning, puts her to sleep and comes in for the first shift of her work. Yes, that’s how she calls it and it is really hard to ignore the respect that comes from within for her as I hear her talk. The elder one is studying to become a lawyer, she says with a proud glint in her eye. As we are immersed in our conversation, her old battered phone rings. She apologizes and goes back to the backyard where she leaves her things. A quick conversation and she is back into the kitchen.
“Second shift is full.” She says happily. The smile on her face is no match to the sparking vessels she just scrubbed. Filled with awe and respect I walk up to my room to get ready to go and sit in an air-conditioned office to do my work.
As I tread the stairs, I hear her humming a song.