You need not go to no school to study the lessons of life. You just need to keep yourself open with all your senses at work. When you are slowed down by some depressive thoughts, you often tend to look for motivations. Movies, biographies, self-help books or pouring yourself into some near ones. At other times, you just tend to divert your attention to some stuff that could take your mind away from trouble. Seldom do you try to understand and give time to your thoughts. Seldom are we able to shun away the negative being in us, bent upon gulping the positive side.
While luck is on my side, I happen to find an antidote in my house. I receive it from 10 am in the morning to 1 pm in the afternoon. It didn’t come in the form of a book, a television show or a diversion of any kind. It is what Indians take for granted and the west doesn’t have.
It is a person, alive and speaking. No, it isn’t my family, nor my brother, it is my maid. You often find Indian television portraying a stereotypical maid, sulking over the amount of money or work she is doing out of helplessness. She is often cited as a victim of underemployment, with long hours of hard work and little in return. However, my maid stands out from this prejudiced image.
As she rings the door bell, you sniff the positive vibes coming through, in her honest smile. She greets us all and begins talking. Talking! Not sulking. She always talks about what is good in other houses she works in. How she got delighted with a bowl full of kheer she had got in some house. How she has kept a fast today and went to the temple before coming for work. She begins talking to my dog and playing with her while she works. Even my dog could smell ‘the good’ smearing all over her being as she sits close to her while my maid is having tea. No matter how many times you tell her to sit on the furniture while having tea, she loves the floor, for its cool and she feels comfortable sitting on it.
She reminds me of a common phrase often cited, never really ‘accepted’ in India especially- koi kaam bada ya chota nahi hota (No work is small or great). She performs her task as if she got the best opportunity of her life. She sings while she works. When I remind her of the humid and hot weather outside, she says “Garmi ka kya hai, aj garmi hai kal barish hojaegi” (What is it about heat? Today it’s hot, tomorrow it might rain) which leaves me arrested. Keeping in mind the fact that while saying this I am in the most ‘comfortable’ and ‘cool’ surroundings and she is meant to work and walk long hours in this heat without any of the two.
She says she is always tensed over the well-being of her loved ones and this is the only time she is found frowning. Those that she works for, often get included in the category of her loved ones. She talks about a lady in that house and one in the other, whom she loves to work for. If anyone of them is ill or has been facing a bad day, she feels equally bad for them.
She delights over mangoes, no matter how the season has made them expensive, she buys them for it gives her joy and joy is what she lives for. A phrase almost always leaving her lips is “kya krna hai itna soch ke? Khao peo and acha kro, zindagi ka kya pata? Khush rehne se zindagi lambi hoti hai aur me abhi marna nhi chahti” (Why should I think so much? Eat well, drink well and do good. Life is unpredictable and being happy makes it long, and I don’t want to die any sooner).
And she leaves me thinking, what makes her so motivated. I even asked her once “kya khaa kea ate ho aap subah subah?” (What do you have for breakfast in the morning?) And she tells me “ek cup lal chai aur do roti, baki chai pee leti hu kaam krte hue bs” (One cup of black tea and 2 chapattis’. Otherwise, I do have tea while working sometimes). And I am unable to decide is it the tea or the chapatti that performs the magic?
In this rainy season, when rains often appear as an obstruction to work, she seldom believes that. Even while she walks kilometres on foot, she doesn’t fear that rain might leave her wet and unable to work comfortably. She enjoys the sight of rain and converts it into a reason to work with joy and with ease because the next house would not resent her being late because the reason would be rain! When I accidentally step on the wet floor she wiped minutes ago and apologize, she reacts unexpectedly. She says “Koi baat nahi, ganda to hoga hi jitna bhi saaf krlo, nahi to me kal kya kaam krugi? Koi baat nahi dobara lga deti hu ek bar” (It’s okay, it has to be dirty anyway, otherwise what work would I be doing tomorrow. It’s okay, I will wipe once more.)
No matter how hard you try to talk negative to her, she would use her magic wand and turn them into positive thoughts. When you wake up at 10 in the morning and feel you wanted to sleep more, she delights in the fact that she slept for long hours today. While she had to wake up at 4 in the morning today she got late and woke up at 7. She feels happy for those extra hours of sleep. Preparing her house since 4 am in the morning and working till 9 pm, never leaves her tired. All she wants is a cup of tea just so to keep her spirits full of energy while she works.
She has got nothing I don’t have while I have got plenty, she doesn’t have. And still, I feel so poor when she talks to me. She lives in a jhuggi, with one room where 5 people live and kitchen included. She works even when her husband assures her, she doesn’t have to. It is her delight to keep her body and mind in a sound shape with work. Often when I seem to have an intellectual or rather any kind of reasoned conversation with a member of my family, she is often found learning and keeping her point of view. She is overjoyed to be able to learn something new every day. She always has an answer for any question you might ask her. If not for a maid, she would have been a successful person all because of her will to learn, reason and absorb. I take her as a teacher of life. I often find myself so small in front of her when she says “Mujhe nahi pasand ye kehna ke mere paas ye nahi hai wo nahi hai, jo hai acha hai, jo nahi hai uske bare mein nhi sochti mein” (I don’t like saying I don’t have this or that. Whatever I have is good and I don’t waste time thinking what I don’t have). How I search for a glimpse of misery I could find on her face but she never allows me to indulge in any sadistic pleasure. Sometimes I find her inhuman because of that.
When the clock ticks 12:50 pm, my mood has already been lifted and she has performed her daily duty. And with this, she says, ‘bye bye’ in a happy tone and promises to give me my haemoglobin booster tomorrow and how I fear her absence at 10 am in the morning, tomorrow.