The doorbell rang. I literally ran to open the door. My maid or rather my lifesaver was late by about quarter of an hour and I was hoping it was her. Instead I found a boy err a young man standing outside.
‘Yes’, I asked.
‘Soniya madam sent this’, he said.
Soniya is my far off cousin. I took the parcel which he offered.
I went inside and opened it, ‘Dear Raji, Here is the invite to Kavish’s(her son) wedding ceremonies. Yes, he is getting married. It all happened in a hurry and the wedding is next week. I am sorry because I could not come personally to invite you But DO come for all the ceremonies, Love Soniya’
The invite was in a box with some mithai and different invitations for all the ceremonies. It was obvious that it was going to be a lavish affair. I didn’t understand the need of all this grandeur when it was just two people coming together and deciding to spend their life together. Why waste essential resources or is it the economist in me thinking like that?
The bell rang. It was Mangala my maid.
‘Ah here you come, why so late’, I asked
She just mumbled something.
‘Mangala, what do you think about these lavish weddings. Look at the invite of Kavish’s wedding? Don’t you think all this is a waste’, I said.
She just stood.
‘What is your opinion’, I asked.
‘They have and so they spend, Bibiji’, she said, ‘People like us are just happy if our daughters get married’.
She sounded bitter.
What happened Mangala….are you planning to get Shobha married off’, I asked.
She looked at me sharply and then I noticed her red eyes.
‘She is 23 now Bibiji, isn’t it the right age’, she asked.
‘Don’t worry Mangala, we will find out a good match for her…’, said me.
‘And what if she has found a match for herself’,she said.
‘Oh then, it is fine. we will just go and meet the guy and his parents’, I said
‘And what if the parents belong to the upper class, will they accept her, Bibiji’, she said.
I was thoughtful. Meanwhile she went inside to do her chores.
Shobha had been a bright girl. And so I had sponsored her education. She was now an Engineer working for a reputed company.And though Mangala could sit at home now and do nothing, yet she used to come and work at my place. Was it because she loved me or because she felt indebted to me, I do not know.
I meanwhile got ready. Mangala after finishing her chores came and stood before me. ‘Yes, Mangala, do you need something’, I asked
‘Bibiji, from tomorrow I will not come for work. I will send someone else, don’t worry’, she said and left.
‘Mangala atleast take your wages’, I said
‘Its alright I will come another day,’she said.
I was disturbed. Mangala had become a family member. Especially after the demise of my husband, she had been my anchor.
I played with my food during dinner.
‘Mom, whats the matter?’ Sudhir, my son, asked.
‘Mangala will not be coming from tomorrow’, I said.
He kept his spoon down and asked, ‘Why?’
‘She didn’t give any specific reason but I suspect it is Shobha’, and I told him what Mangala had told me. ‘I think Mangala is disturbed because her daughter loves someone from the higher strata’.
‘She is bound to be. It is natural’, he said.
‘Come on Sudhir, we are not in the dark ages. Caste, economic differences, does it matter’, I asked.
‘Alright mom, if I want to marry Shobha, will you allow’, he asked.
I was stumped. ‘Would I?’ What will my friends think, what will my relatives think, what if…..
The next morning I went to Mangala’s house. It struck me that though Mangal had worked for me for the last 15 years or so, I had never been to her place.
The door was open. The house was modest but very neat. Mangala sat in a corner reading.
‘Mangala’, I said.
She saw me and rushed to receive me. She made me sit, gave me water and rushed to make my favorite masala tea.
‘Why Bibiji, why you came, you could have summoned me…..the new maid, isn’t she good,’ she asked.
‘She is good….but I can’t live without you….Come Mangala, come with me…..we are beyond employer and employee, isn’t it? We are like soul sisters, aren’t we?’, I said.
She sat with her head down.
‘Is it Shobha who asked you not to work. Are you afraid that her in-laws would not like it if they come to know that you work as a maid….’, I asked.
She shook her head. and then said, It is better if I don’t come, bibiji’, she said.
‘Why Mangala? I will come to speak to the boy’s parents. I will tell them that what a fine lady you are. How you have raised your daughter alone. How you threw your husband out because he wanted to kill your daughter…..’
‘The boy’s mother already knows all this bibiji’, she said with tears in her eyes.
‘So then what is the problem…. Okay, so she is not ready because Shobha is a maid’s daughter’, I asked.
‘Will you agree Bibiji, if you were in her place’, she said.
‘Why not? Shobha is so talented. She has a heart of gold….why will I not agree’, I said.
With tears in her eyes, she said. ‘Bibiji, Shobha and Sudhir love each other. I came to know that only yesterday. Now tell me, are you ready for this match’.
I was stunned. I just picked my purse and ran.
When Sudhir came home in the evening, I was waiting.
‘You found no other girl’, I said.
‘What do you mean’, he asked
‘Don’t pretend. I know everything. You found no one except our Maid’s daughter to fall in love with.’
‘Ma, you are such a hypocrite. You talk about equality, elimination of caste, about wasting precious resources etc etc and yet you don’t follow what you preach’, he said sarcastically.
‘Don’t worry. I have spoken for a transfer. Both me and Shobha will go to a new place and get married. You will be spared the shame. I knew you will never agree’, he said.
It is surprising how the people near you understand you more than you do yourself. Both Mangala and Sudhir knew that I would not agree. I had a sleepless night. Morning when I got up I noticed that Sudhir had already left for his work.
The house looked empty and devoid of color. Was I to spend the rest of my life like this.
Half an hour later I was outside Mangala’s door. she responded to my knock and invited me in. I noticed Sudhir and Shobha. I just stood in front of Mangala and said, ‘ i have come as a beggar today… will you give me your daughter’, I said,
After the initial shock, everyone was hugging everyone. ‘Ma, I had never envisaged that you will agree’, said Sudhir.
‘I thought it is better to be an outcast than being lonely’, I said and we hugged some more.