Down memory lane I remember an auntie who would often walk into our home (my parental home), at odd hours of the day. Her husband was in the merchant navy, so she was usually by herself. Her twin boys, then of the age of eight or nine were a naughty twosome. They were known for playing cricket in the park adjacent and breaking the window panes of the houses adjoining. They would abuse loudly, the servants and maids in the house, which were aplenty. Their grades at school are best left to rest in peace. The teachers had a charter of complaints about them!
The afternoon was the time when we would all sit around in Mama’s room, doing our home-work or colouring or just playing the fool. Whether it was reading or writing, maths or science, English or Hindi, our mother would take keen interest in everything we did and it was just re-assuring to have her around. She was our ‘go-to-person’ for everything and we just took it for granted that because she was Mama, so she was always there.
One such afternoon, auntie walked in. My mom was a little hassled to see auntie, for this would encroach upon our homework time. I remember my mother asking her, “Aren’t your children home at this time? Don’t you supervise their homework?” She said, “Yes but their music instructor is over. Besides I have a very good maid. And in case they need anything, the driver is always in waiting.”
Over the years, I remember my mother’s irritated face whenever the lady would walk in and rant about how naughty her boys were. Every anecdote was punctuated by, “But I have a very good maid. And in case of any problem the driver is always in waiting.” It seems we heard this a hundred times over.
In our home where my mother would cook, wash, iron, teach and do everything possible under the Sun, there was no sign of a maid. We as innocent kids thought a maid was a ‘high and mighty lady’, who had the controlling prowess of an army major. In my childish mind’s eye, a maid was a large, burly woman who was in control of everything. She could put those brats across her knees and spank the daylights out of them!
Well, that was four odd decades ago.
Driving past that auntie’s house one day, I happened to spot her in a wheel chair. A lady attendant was wheeling her slowly. I stopped by to say, ‘Hello!’ to her. Her son was sitting in the garden under a gazebo, drinking beer, while the maid slowly wheeled the old lady up and down in the driveway.
Seeing me talking to auntie, the son walked up to me. We exchanged pleasantries. He told me that he was settled in Boston while his twin brother was in Leicester. Their father was no more. I said, “Oh! I’m so sorry to hear about uncle.” He said, “My brother and I visit here twice in a year. We talk to Ma over the weekend. During the week there is really no time. You know how busy life is abroad. All day there is no time to call.”
I said, “Oh! So auntie lives here alone?” “No, no,” he said emphatically, “We have a very good maid. And in case of any problem the driver is always in waiting.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” I murmured, trying to forge a smile. My step was a little unsteady as I took leave. Truly life does come around full circle.