Parallel Lives

Bhavani sighed as she finished with a patient. It had been a long morning five patients back to back and now her back was aching, ‘oh Lord I need a physiotherapist myself’, she thought.
It had been roughly 25 months now since she came down to the Middle East as a physiotherapist in one of the renowned Hospitals. Four years back her husband Ganesh had had an accident and was now confined to a wheelchair. He used to work as a Sales representative earlier. The same company had given him a desk job now, but at a lesser salary. Of course they were kind enough to give him a job but the salary was just not enough for an expensive Bengaluru. Her widowed mother-in- law with her old age ailments stayed with them and her daughter Aditi was put in a good school. All that needed money and she had decided to come down here for a couple of years to support her family.
Salary was alright better than India that too non taxable, accommodation was provided; she just had to concentrate on her work. But the separation from her family was very difficult, especially from her growing daughter. She wanted to be with her during her adolescence years to guide her but…. True her m-i-l was there but still.
Her sister in law stayed close by and she was a big help. But as usually the case is; people think that being in Gulf means you are on a gold mine and every year she expected some trinket or the other. For Bhavani struggling to make ends meet it was difficult. She was afraid to say No to her lest she poisoned Ganesh’s mind against her or incurred her wrath on Aditi.
Then there was their house, quite an old house which her father in law had built. And now it needed repairs. An initial estimate was of 5 lakhs that too if only the bare necessities were looked into. Oh God, how will I manage? She had started taking private patients. As most people in the Gulf she too had split timings. Four hours in the morning, five in the evening. Afternoons were free. So she had developed a clientele of her own and to start off was charging Ten Dinars an hour. But still it was difficult.
Bhavani a patient for you’, called in the floor clerk with the file and she came out of her reverie.
A woman in an abaya came in with a frail woman alongside her; obviously her maid.
Hullooo Doctor, she is my maid Siya, she has got pain in her hands, I took her to the Orthopedic Doctor, he says, nothing wrong with her so I brought her to you, give her some exercise. Make her Ok’, she said in her Arabic-English. Bhavani had stopped informing people that she was not a Doctor only a physio.
On an initial look Bhavani could make out that she was under nourished and looking at the dark circles aound her eyes, she could make out that she was over worked too. ‘Sure madam, the session will take around an hour if you have some work you can finish off and then pick her up.’ She said. The lady liked this suggestion and went off.
Siya she asked gently do you know Hindi?’, she asked gently. Siya nodded her head and started sobbing. ‘ Why what happened’, asked Bhavani.
‘Nothing Doctor, it has been a long time since anybody spoke gently to me and I could not control my tears’
Hmm can you tell me your routine Siya,’ she enquired.
‘I get up in the morning around 5 Dr., and till midnight I have non stop work. For cooking there is another maid but cleaning the 5 bedrooms, majlis, hall, dining room is my job. Then handling the four kids and their work is also mine. Madams numerous works are also my department. I get exhausted Doctor.’
‘And do they give you enough to eat.’
‘Madam keeps an eagle eye and rations the food to us. I am 44 now Doctor and feeling weak. From some days I am not able to carry Madams son who is a bit heavy, so she got angry with me’ and she started sobbing again.
Siya we can complain to Labour ministry or to our embassy that you are being overworked you know.’
‘Oh no Doctor please don’t. I have a big family to support. My husband is a rickshaw driver, we have two kids. My In-laws stay with us. My brother in laws kids also stay with us as they are in a village and no good schools there. Madam is harsh but better than others at least she doesn’t beat me and then gives me nice tips and clothes during Eid. My daughters are wearing the clothes that Madam gives, please do not complain,’ she started pleading.
Bhavani sighed,’ are our lives any different? True I am a professional; she is not but beneath the surface we are kindred souls, both struggling against adverse conditions.’
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