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Sunday, 23 March 2008

A true story ... of hope and determination

This is a true story of a woman, Shalini, who would help me cope with my housework When I lived in Spain, what I hated most was doing the odd jobs at home like sweeping, swabbing, dusting or washing clothes. Therefore,when I returned back to India, I started to enjoy the comfort of a helper which is easily available in India' I appointed Shalini to help me clean my house. Shalini worked in my house with a salary of just Rs500. Having her help in the house was a blessing I enjoyed and I was kind of living in luxury. She worked in four different houses in my building, doing the same job, over and over again, and seven days a week. I would ask her to take a day off and she would refuse telling me that she would be bored at home. Every evening, she would come to my house and make me a cup of tea, and while she and I sipped the tea together, she would relate to me the stories of her life and her family. Shalini had no husband and her family had cheated her out of the family property and she had been forced to work as a housemaid, because she was not educated nor qualified to do any other work. She had one daughter, Rupa, whom she would take with her everywhere because she did not trust the neighbor for her daughter's safety. While she worked, Rupa would sit and watch her mother do cleaning and swabbing at other people's houses. One day, Shalini's employer suggested that she educate her daughter, because she felt that her daughter was very pretty and education would do her good. On the insistence of her employer, she enrolled Rupa in the municipal school. Rupa would be seen following Shalini with a book in her hand. Rupa would get help in her studies from the children in the building, all the used books, and clothes were passed on to her from Shalini's employers. Rupa started to enjoy the attention she was getting from all people in the neighborhood and she took more interest in her studies and was getting good result. Years passed, Rupa grew up, educated and graduated. Shalini would tell me the stories of how people had helped her financially to get her daughter educated and how proud she was of her pretty, educated daughter. One day, she told me that Rupa had got a good job, she didn't know where her daughter was working but she said that she had started working in some office which was open all night and she had comapany transport at her service. I guessed it must be some call centre. While her daughter lived in style, she was still travelling by bus and doing menial work. For next six months, she would tell me about her daughter earning good salary, and improving her standard of living. First came, radio with stereo, then telephone, 24 inch TV, sewing machine, furniture and then washing machine....and she told me that her daughter wanted her to stop working as house maid, as she was making enough money to support her. But Shalini was a proud woman and she didn't want to live on her daughter's expense, so she continued to work in four houses, doing the same drab work that she had been doing for 25 years. Her own clothes were washed in the washing machine at home, while she washed people's clothes at work. I would wonder if her daughter was proud of her mother for getting her educated or was she ashamed of her mother, doing the menial work and earning only ten percent of her daughter's salary. She was a very good maid; she worked hard and was very honest. Many other employers did not want her to leave them. They were afraid they would not be able to replace her and therefore they discouraged her for their own selfish comforts. They were happy that she was a self respecting woman who did not want to live on her aughter's expenses. I ask her to leave the job and rest at home and tried to explain to her that she deserved to live comfortably because she had made an effort to educate her daughter but she would not listen, telling me that she would be bored at home. Her daughter got married and forced her to stay with her and it was her son-in-law who finally cajoled her into leaving the job and start enjoying the comfort in her old age. I lost a good maid but I was happy that her efforts had paid off. She visits me sometimes, and I feel happy to see her proud smile and glow on her face when she lovingly talks about her daughter's success. Cross posted on another blog on 'Unchaai – Crying for Love’ at

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