‘Maid’ to order

I brought this, Kamla said pointing to her bag. I peered inside. It held a cucumber, two tomatoes and a beetroot. ‘Is it okay?’, She asked. Though I was fuming inside, I said, ‘Perfect……for a salad’.

I am a journalist. And while reviewing a rehabilitation center I  met Kamla. She was a victim of domestic violence. She had been beaten so wildly by her husband that she has lost one eye and her mental balance. The police had rescued her on a complaint of a neighbour on one of her husband’s beating sprees and she had been sent to the center. Now physically she was fine and the center did not know what to do with her.

I was in need of a maid. One who would cook, clean and provide companionship. I opted to take her on. Her husband was still in jail and there was no threat of him to come anytime and demand her presence. Her parents were in Jharkhand and neither were they interested to take her in their care. The center incharge was more than happy to hand Kamala over to me. it was fixed that I would pay Kamala a sum of Rs 1500 every month for her services. My meagre earnings did  not allow  me to give her more. I assured the incharge that I would open a Recurring deposit in her name and the amount would be paid into it.  And then took her home.

The past two weeks has not been easy for me or her. Though I keep assuring her that she is safe here with me. She is perpetually in fear. The whistle of the pressure cooker, the doorbell, the ringtone of my mobile, anything can arouse fear in her and now I am so irritated with her fears that I want to go and beat the hell out of the man who is the reason of these fears. and yes she fears men too…any man. She is afraid of the watchman, the courier boy, the delivery man et all. Now how on earth can I substitute all these men with women.

I am lost in my thoughts when the mobile rings. I pick it up to hear the editor, ‘ Raksha are you my assistant’.

‘Yes’,  I said wondering where the conversation is heading.

‘I sent a package to you, why didn’t you or your help open the door’, he says.

‘Boss, I just returned from the _____ assignment. …..’, I say.

‘What about your househelp’, he says and continues, ‘ Raksha don’t give me lame excuses. I had sent  you a draft which needs urgent editing, now be here in another 30 minutes and pick it up personally’ and slams the phone.

‘Kamla’, I call out trying to be as calm as possible.

She comes and stands before me.

‘When I was not at home, did the doorbell ring?’ I ask.

She nods a yes.

‘Why didn’t you open the door’, I ask

‘Didi, I saw through the peep-hole, it was a big bald man with big moustache and so I did not open the door’, she says.

Kamla, it is Jagdish, he is the peon from my office and he has been here so many times, then why didn’t you open the door’, I scream losing my patience.

She looks at me with tears in her eyes . I leave the matter then and there and rush to go to the office.

‘Maid problems?’ a voice calls when I shut the main door. I move around to see my neighbour Latika.

‘Yes Latika, but I will speak to you later. Right now I have to rush to my office’, I say and run.

Later I call her from office and explain my woes.

‘Listen, she says, ‘I am free in the afternoons, how about me coaching her.’

‘Coaching on what?’, I say.

‘Hmm…life skills, respecting others, recognising good and bad etc…’, she said.

Will you do that Latika….’ I say.

‘For you … I will’, she says.

And from then on the afternoon sessions start.

In some days, I see subtle changes. she is less afraid of using the pressure cooker, she picks the mobile, yes she is still afraid of  opening the door to strangers but I am confident that Latika’s coaching will cure her of this fear too.

‘Thanks a ton Latika, I see visible changes in Kamla now, I tell Latika when I meet her.

‘Oh, she is a lovely lady Raksha, she just needed some patience’, she says.

 

          ***************

Kamla is now a better person, a much confident woman too.  I can concentrate on my job and need not fear about leaving her alone at home. In addition I feel good that there is someone back at home. Yes, she is my family now.

I am relaxing in my balcony when Kamla comes and stands beside me. By her demeanor I can understand that she wants to tell something.

‘What is it, Kamla?’, I ask.

‘I will be quitting this place at the end of this month’, she says

‘Huh’, is all that I can say.

‘I am getting 500 more at the other place’, obviously she knows I can’t pay her more.

‘And yes give my RD passbook when I leave’, she adds.

And goes away.

‘Kamla’, I say finding my voice.

Yes’, she says.

‘Where are you joining’, I say in a  faltering voice.

‘At Latika madams’ she says smilingly and  walks away.

 

A single drop

Have you noticed that how people change around you. I mean you change a job, you develop a new interest and suddenly you find the regulars around you disappear and a new set of people around you. You may say that those who left your company were not really your own etc etc but then it is fascinating to see this change and understand human psychology.

As humans it is difficult to accept others as they are. We are looking forever to categorize us and others.

Don’t we say, she is not my type. Or she is too behenji/ she is too forward in her thinking etc.

Why am I rambling all this?

Because I have been experiencing this ‘phenomena’ for some years now.

In an age where it is fashionable to say that I am agnostic or atheistic, I developed an interest in spirituality. And then I came to know that I do not belong. Some asked me, “why? what is there in it?’ And some said, ‘It is alright if you develop an interest but don’t get too involved’

But that is not possible with me. Imagine standing on the seaside and being told, no you can’t get wet.

I don’t blame anybody. If  they lost interest in me, it is a fact that I too lost interest in them. But then I am human, I have to feel a belongingness.

Recently in one o f the lectures, I heard this analogy which gave me a new direction; please read on:

There are three sets of devotees:

One, those who are like dewdrops on the petals of flowers. When the sun rises overhead, the dewdrops evaporate. Similarly such devotees, come, eat, listen. It takes a lot of time for them to absorb facts, most of the time whatever they learn evaporates and so it takes them a long time to change.

Second are those devotees who are like water droplets on lotus leaves. These devotees come; eat, listen and go. Nothing affects them. They will stay on as they are.

Then there are water droplets in oysters. They stay on for millions of years and transform into pearls.

So my wish is to be a droplet in an oyster. Let that water drop change into a pearl. Let my bhakti increase day by day. yes I will be isolated, yes I will be left alone but then finally one day, I will be ready to serve my Lord.

Amen to that.

Lakshmi

It has been five days since Lakshmi came to stay with her son and his family in the city and already she feels lost. The whole of her life she had spent in her village. No, no now it had become a town. But she was used to it. Of the slow pace, of clear winds and an open sky. Here even for a look of sun she had to dangle out of the window. The lights in the flat had to be kept on the whole day.

She would have continued staying in her house if she hadn’t fallen down from the stairs. She had only strained her ankle but then Vishal, her son had insisted that she came with him. ‘who will look after you amma?’, he had said. She had said that her friends would but then seeing that Vishal will not be at peace, she had complied.

But then she felt lost….. Both Vishal and his wife would leave for their respective offices. The children to school. The maid would do her work and leave. The whole day Lakshmi would be at a loss. It was no better in the evenings as the rest would be busy with their work. Vishal would come and speak to her a bit. His wife Aruna would speak leisurely only on weekends. And she didn’t blame her. Managing a home with a job was difficult.

Meena her grand-daughter taught her to start the computer and how to browse. Initially she started reading the news but then yesterday Meena showed her facebook.  And so today was happily spent looking at pictures. ‘Who are they, paati’, Meena asked.

‘I don’t know, I was seeing some pictures and then I read the comments. Then I clicked some name and saw their pictures. ‘, she smiled her toothless grin. ‘But I spent my morning happily’, she added.

Used to having everything fresh, Lakshmi could not eat food properly. The vegetables were bought once a week. And though they were bought fresh it somehow lost its taste once kept in the fridge.

Also Aruna would cook once in three days or so. Or whenever she had time. Now Lakshmi had problems with that. ‘Ayurveda says that food loses its properties after three hours of cooking’, she mumbled one day.

‘If that is so, then I will have to resign and stay at home’, Aruna said. Lakshmi just nodded a yes.

Days passed. Lakshmi was getting better and more bored. Slowly she gathered enough courage to go out in the evening. She found out that there were some like her. Like her meaning aged and bored.

But then there was a difference between them and her. They were either busy and bored  looking after their grand-kids or were busy and bored with their TV channels.

I am neither busy nor boredwith anything, Lakshmi thought.

Aruna had a habit of cooking in bulk. At the end of the week. the excess would be thrown away. ‘You are throwing away Lord’s energy’, she mumbled one day.

‘The kids sometimes eat nicely sometimes they don’t. How will I know how much they will eat’, Aruna replied. Lakshmi would have very much liked it if Aruna cooked a little less and if there were shortages, she would have gladly cooked. But then modern ways…less oil, not much masala…no Lakshmi could not cook that way.

‘No time for exercise but enough time to sit on the internet. If they just moved a little, that would have been good. There would have been no need to be so careful while cooking’, she thought to herself. ‘They say no oil, no heavy food etc and then go to the restaurant and eat all oily stuff , huh’.

The family usually ate out on weekends. Lakshmi didn’t understand much about eating out. Neither did she understand much about what they were eating. These Mexican and Chinese and Continental were beyond her understanding.

And she was really fed up of all that food sitting in the fridge and so she thought of a plan…..

Lakshmi’s mood improved considerably. Aruna’s mood improved too thinking that her children were eating well.

Until there were tiny paw marks outside their door and complaints from the watchman.

Lakshmi everyday would take some food and then go and feed two of the stray dogs which used to loiter outside the gates. Little did she know that those puppies would love home food. They started following her home. Neighbours started objecting too citing that the puppies might attack their kids. There was a meeting and then Vishal was told strictly that his mother could not feed the puppies.

Lakshmi was given the ultimatum. She felt lost. Somehow she found solace in the dogs. After all they too were lonely.

‘Vishal can you take leave for some days and drop me at our village, my leg is fine now’, she said here.

‘Come on, mother just because we asked you not to feed the dogs, you don’t have to rebel like this’, he said.

‘Rebel? Why should I rebel. Don’t You understand I don’t belong here. You are busy with your work and internet. Your life style, I can’t follow. I have nothing to do here. I am better off at my house, where I have freedom to live as I want’.

As she smelled the fresh air from the windows of the train, Lakshmi felt happy. She was going back to her place. Her home and her garden, which she could tend as she pleased. Her friends with whom she could go on long walks. But best of all she would be with the cows, the hens, the dogs and the cats who lived nearby and whom she could feed as much as she wanted.

 

In search of Nimai

I saw Shreya looking at me from the doorway. I looked at her and smiled, she smiled too. She made a sign of ”aarti” and I mumbled a yes.

‘Alright children, time for aarti…so lets wind up the class’, I said. The children happily scampered away.

Only Little Nimai sat in his place repeating what had been taught to him. I sat down near him. ‘Nimai’, I said

He looked at me smiled and went on repeating.

‘Nimai’, I repeated, ‘Don’t you want to go for Narsimha Aarti’.

He raised his head and said, ‘Aarti?’.

I nodded.

He ran at the speed of lightning.

Thursdays are special days here in Bahrain and especially at the temple. Thursday evening there is a Bhagvatham class for adults. At the same time some volunteers take classes for children. They are told stories, taught some life skills, some activity and so on.

Nimai is a special needs child. He sits in the class if he is in the mood. But when he does so, he does with full attention. And though I try to remain neutral to all the children, over the weeks I have become very attached to Nimai. Maybe it is his transparency or his dedication, I do not know what but the fact is whenever I come to temple, I search for Nimai.

By the time I reach the main hall in the temple, the aarti is at the last stage. And then a voice raises, ‘Nitai Gaur Premanande’ and everyone join in with a ‘Hari Haribol’ and I smile a broad smile. Nimai may be always in his own world, but he never forgets to add in at the end.

*******

It has been two weeks and I haven’t seen Nimai. And I am upset. ‘Ananya’, Shreya says, ‘Why are you so upset? So many people come and go.’

‘Shreya, Nimai and his parents are very dedicated. They will not stop coming to the temple just like that’, I said teary eyed.

Although married for ten years we haven’t had a baby and it has now been proved that we will never have one. I love children and I try to maintain an emotional distance from them. Often mothers get disturbed when they see a childless woman getting attached to her  child. But Nimai? I did not understand why I was so fond of him. Was it because he knew to love without barriers or the fact that both of us will never be complete?

********

It was almost two months now since Nimai was not to be seen and I felt helpless. It was weekend and I just took my car and went. A couple of times I had dropped Nimai and his mother to their area because it had been late. So I took my car to that place and decided to search around. I just knew the area. Didn’t know which building or flat they lived in.

The best bet was the cold store. Usually the workers in cold store know who lives where. And so I went in. ‘Oh that boy’, the man at the counter said on my description of Nimai, ‘they left this place. Their employer shifted them to Askar as some construction is going on there’

‘Askar?’ I thought. Askar is a place quite far off and that meant that I would have to resume my search the next day.

I slept heartily that night. I awoke with hope, yes today was going to be a bright day.

I left in the evening at three. I would reach there by four thirty. That meant I had enough time till dusk to search for him. I knew where Nimai’s parents worked and had inquired where the people of that company were housed.

But it was not so easy. Askar was a desert literally. There were some hundred houses. Not a cold store or a tree in sight. Where would I search. And then I saw a large place. People were going in  and many were coming out. I asked one woman what was going on. ‘Oh that’, she said, ‘it is our prayer hall, go inside you will like it’, she said.

I removed my footwear, washed my feet and went in. It was a prayer hall alright. You could see all faiths there. On one side was Maa Durga, A Shivlinga stood in one corner. Sai Baba smiled at me while on one side A sardarji was quietly fanning the Guru Granth Sahib. I felt happy. I knew Nimai and his parents would surely come here.

It was 7 p.m. and I was dejected. Night was about to fall and I had to reach home before it became very dark.

I rose and came out, ‘Where could I search for Nimai now.

‘Mataji’, a voice boomed.

I raised my head. Nimai ran from the other end came to me and hugged me tight. I got down on my knees and we both hugged again and wept.

‘where had you disappeared Nimai’, I said, ‘I have missed you so much’

‘Sorry mataji’, his mother said, Our employer asked us to relocate overnight, I didn’t have your phone number to inform you. Nimai misses you so much’.

‘Do you Nimai’, I asked. He nodded shyly.

‘You know mataji, this is the first time he is showing attachment to someone other than us and we are so happy about that. It has been because of the love you have given him and your patience’, she said.

‘Nimai will you like to come for classes again’, I said.

He shook his head wildly in the affirmative.

‘But Mataji’, his mother said, ‘we live so far off and we don’t own a car, so how…….’

‘Don’t worry about all that’, I said, ‘If you have the will, everything can be arranged’.

I went back home with a spring in my steps, my search was over, Nimai would be back in school.

* fiction

 

The ‘braid’

Heard a very inspiring speech yesterday, which I just had to share with you all.

 

Have you observed the braids that girls/ women make?

The braid in Sanskrit is known as ‘veni’. Veni as in Triveni in Allahabad. Triveni is the confluence of three rivers-Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati which flows in from the underground.  Similarly the veni or the braid needs three bunches of hair to be tied but only two can be seen.

Usually in life we are obsessed with ourselves-I, me, myself. Then we are concerned with our immediate environment concerning ourselves like our family, our friends, the money we make etc. What is the third angle to this triangle, which is the third part of this braid which connects the two-the self and the environment?

 

 

Have you ever been in a chokor home. It was a square-shaped house with an empty space in the middle. Vastu has different places for different functions. There is Agni where the hearth should be, water where the well could be etc.

Have you seen ancient temples. It is built in the center with empty space around it. Exactly the opposite to houses. Why?

 

The space in the middle is supposed to be Brahman or the place where God resides. Also God is supposed to be in the middle of our lives and our lives is supposed to revolve around Him.

 

But slowly houses became smaller, God was moved from the center to a corner then from there to underneath the staircase then he was pushed to the garage and finally he was ousted.

When God is ousted from a place, kaal enters. (kaal means time here it means bad times) Kaal enters with his wife, “ayyo”. (as in the expression ayyo) and children-’quarrel’ and ‘hypocrisy’ and from then on there is no peace left.

So for peace to exist in homes, for happiness to flourish in a home, there is need to keep God in the center of our lives. God is the third angle of the triangle, He is the third bunch in the braid of our life.

And to keep God in the center of our lives CHANT and make your life sublime.

Images courtesy Google

 

Envy and faith

Have you experienced friendships suddenly going sour; of mentors suddenly turning their backs? Happens doesn’t it?

The Bhagvad Gita says that there are six enemies of mankind-lust, anger, pride, greed, envy and illusion. And these six are the gates to hell.

Lets leave the other five and concentrate on envy. The most noblest of men have displayed sense of envy. Whether it be holy men, men in power or martyred men, yes all have displayed signs of envy.

Envy just a four letter word and yet so potent. There can be so many reasons for envy as such. Feeling of superiority; feeling of inferiority, lack of confidence in self, insecurity. The present age of consumerism adds more fuel to it. ‘He must be earning well, look at the gadgets he has’, ‘my, my he owns an Aston Martin’, ‘What? second holiday of this year!!’, there are enough reasons for envy. In many ways envy is good too, it propels you to do better. But many times it destroys too.

You may ask how.

Many a times mentors have destroyed their protegés careers just because they feel that their protegé may surpass them. We forget that there is place for everyone in this planet and one need not pull the other down.

There are some off shots too like fault-finding. Sometimes when we become insecure by some other person we tend to find faults. Sometimes not only finding faults but making it a point to convey the same to the other person. If that person is strong enough, he/she may take it all in stride or else his/her confidence goes on a toss. Result both the person and fault finder become unhappy.

So how do we escape from envy? By faith. Faith in oneself and the maker. It is important to keep on reminding oneself that each one is made so for a purpose. If I am creatively deficient, I am good in other things and I should capitalise on that, rather than being envious of those who are good in creativity. Faith in God that HE made me so because he had a purpose for me, helps a lot.

When I look back on myself a few years back I feel ashamed of what a nervous wreck I was. The slightest faults would unnerve me, a negative comment would ruffle me. I have become calmer now. Yes, I am not a good cook, yes, I am not artistic at least not with paint and brush, yes I will never be a world-renowned author but I know I have made a difference in people’s lives and that is important not only for me but also to the world at large.

How did this transformation take place? It was gradual. God was kind enough that I had good association. Good shiksha Gurus (teachers) who nurtured me in what I was good at and most important faith. Faith works wonders. Try it out!!

 

Whatever you do, whatever you try, just have faith in yourself and the one above and wait for the transformation.

 

Don’t brand me please

‘The ——– people (referring to a particular community) are all kanjoos’, X said.

‘How can you say that?’, I asked

‘Oh I have met a couple of them’, he replied.

‘I don’t think so because I have grown up with them and they are in no way kanjoos,’, I said.

‘Well there are exceptions’, Y said.

‘How can you say that, you cannot categorize anybody because of some cases’, I said, ‘how can we categorize that Gujjus are like this and Malyalees are like that. Even brothers in the same family are different so how can you categorize people based on their ancestry?’

Growing up in the north I always heard that Madrasis are like this and when I went south, I heard Northies are like that and seriously I am fed up. The blogworld is no better. We freely label people. Why? Because we enjoy doing that somehow we enjoy proving our superiority.

Now that we have become mobile we go and work in other places, we make our home there, we travel but still we have not stopped branding.

When we travel we look at sights and sounds but seriously do we ever try to learn about the customs and the culture about the place. Seldom isn’t it??

All that is for Phd students or for National Geographic channel or some travel show.  We, we are happy with the sights and sounds.

You may wonder why I am saying so? It is only when we try to understand the culture and traditions of others do we truly understand them.

Srila Prabhupada says that when you visit a dham(holy place) it is not just to wash away your sins but to associate with the saintly people there and in turn getting enriched with their association.

Similarly when we visit places it is not just to ‘look’ but also to understand.

The fact is that we all are part and parcels of the Almighty whole and as such we all lesser mortals are equal.  So how can a Northie be superior to a Southie or vice versa.