Friday, April 8, 2011

Against all odds (A True life Story)

Soon after marriage, I moved into one of the apartments in the suburbs of Bangalore, in a place called Banashankari. In the first week itself the truth struck me that I would need a domestic help to be able to manage my spacious apartment. So off I went on a hunt for a maid servant.

Vanajakshi was introduced to me by the watchman of the apartment complex.

I opened the door in response to the bell and there she was standing sari clad, a tat pungent smelling from the overdose of powder she put, probably to give a good impression. “Hi Didi”… … I mumbled back a “Hi” since I was caught quite unexpected.. I foolishly said “Welcome!”. She was so frail and thin, that I immediately made her chai with lots of milk in it. I don’t know why, but I continued to do this through the 2.5 yrs she was with me thinking that the milk I gave her could make some difference!

 She enquired, “aap Kannada jantee hain?”. (Do you know Kannada?)

I said, “ nahin, mein Kerala se hoon, Kannada samach mein athi hein, lekin bol nahin sakte. Hindi mein bath karti hoon, theek hein?” (No, I am a Keralite. I understand Kannada, but cant speak. Let’s speak in Hindi. Alright?)

Vanaja: “Theek hein didi” (“Alright”)

I enquired: “ghar mein kaun kaun hein? Husband kya kaam kar raha hein?” (“Who are all there at home? What does your husband do?”)

Vanaja: “mere husband nahin hein didi. Wo 5 saal pehle apne aapko jalakar mar gaye”(“My husband is no more. He set himself ablaze 5 years back”)

What?!! I did not know how to react.

She continued in her typical hindi accent, “paise ke vaste kiya thhaa…tab se mein mere bachhe keliye chh naukri karte hoon… mere 3 bachhe hein.. mera ek beta bhee hein..vo mujhe bahut pyar karta hein.. aur patha hein didi, mere do ladkiyon ke shaadi keliye mein sona bhee ikattha karke rakhaan hein..apne aap” (“We had financial problems. From then, I ve been living just for my kids. I have 3 children. I have a son too! He loves me very much. Do u know Didi, I ve made Gold for the marriage of my two daughters…. All by myself!”)

I said, “acchaa kiya..” .. (“Good!..”)

Vanaja spoke 3 languages Kannada, Tamil and Hindi and did manage a few English words. She never saw the inside of a school but, she had an undying spirit to learn, live and a thirst to be loved. She used to get up everyday at 4:00 AM and finish off her cooking and washing so that she can start off with the house maid’s job. She used to go to 5 houses!

Here was a proud mother, a woman of substance, the one to whom the “Mrs. World” crown truly belongs!!!

The biggest tension in her life was her son’s 10th std exam. She used to send her two older kids for tuition and the teacher used to say they were doing good until her son failed for the 10th exam. I still remember the tears she had in her eyes when she came the day after the results were announced.  Her son’s failure to meet her expectations really weighed her down.

She used to tell me, “kaam karne ke liye mann echh nahin lagti didi” (“I don’t feel like working didi..! “)

Maybe its all these that made her look for something that would make her happier. She took credit to buy 2 autos and kept 2 drivers for it. Thus she became a business woman and at the same time a house maid.

She used to be so proud of the fact that inspite of starting a business, she still did not have to touch the gold which she had kept away for the marriage of her 2 daughters.

Fate again intervened in the form of the driver of one of her autos.

She used to tell me, “didi wo mera beta jaisa hein.. mujhe wo etna pyar karta hein didi.. mera beta bhi mujhe etna echh pyar nahin karte…uske ghar mein bhi ek sister hein, uski bhee shadi nahin huin hein abhi tak..” (“Didi he is like my son. He loves me so much, even more than my own son! He too has an unmarried sister u know…”)

Everyday she used to be so much more happier. She grew out of her once withdrawn self and began to enjoy life better in her new company.

One day she told me, “didi meine mere betee log keliye jo sona rakha dhaa vo sahib ke paas rakh ke wo auto vale ko paise de diyaa.. usko bahut problem hua thaa.. uske sister ke shaadi ke liye” (“ Didi I pawned the jewellery I had saved for my daughters, and gave that money to the driver. He had a lot of problems, he has to marry off his sister..”)

“kyon de diya vanaja? Ab kya karega? Wo kahan hein?” (“Why did you give that off Vanaja? What will you do?  Where is he then?”)

“pataa nahin didi.. wo call karegaa mujhe. Wo aisa wala  nahin hein.” (“Don’t know Didi. He will call. He is not that kind of a guy! “)

But I immediately could feel that though in a moment’s spur she extended her life’s savings to a guy not so well known to her, she repented it afterwards.

Vanaja’s woes were just starting.

The guy never called back. She would come and try from my land line and my cell phone to reach him. He picked up the first time she called but cut it as soon as he realised  its her. She cried and cried and cried.

The once happy face that came to my door every morning now turned into a very gloomy one. She stopped even looking at our faces, so withdrawn. Her life’s savings, her self respect, her whole courage to live was gone.

I increased her salary to bring cheer, just a “thank you didi” was all she said and a faint smile that vanished before it came.

She filed a complaint in court against the guy whom she once loved more than her son. Her own son started to trouble her asking to give him more of her hard earned money. I remember the day she came to my house and broke down because her son called her ‘selfish’. This woman who lived her life for her 3 kids doesn’t deserve this! I wanted to hug her and say, things will be fine, I don’t know, what held me back… I could just pat her shoulders and say “Sab theek ho jayegaa..” (“Everything will be fine..”)

Her integrity never wavered even while she was going through the worst.

Vanaja never came out of her sadness…. I left Bangalore a year back.

I hope and pray that Vanajakshi would rise from her ashes like a phoenix and fly high just the way she was when I first met her!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This thought hits me hard on my face while am out searching for steel plates and glasses (the ones we use in India) in all possible Indian stores and retail stores nearby. When in India I tell my mom I would love to eat in one of those imported ‘Corelle’ plates. When in US, I am looking for the same old steel plate!

After coming here to US, I try and keep my house as Indian as possible. Desi party wear is the ‘in thing’ anytime! I hold on hard to all the clothes and vessels (have nt made the slightest effort to discard a broken Indian tea pot yet!) that I brought from India. My food is mostly kept Indian and buying veggies from the Indian store, though is not the cheapest option, is still given an upper hand, just to feel Indian.  We try and have a Samosa/ chaat atleast twice a month. Maggi Noodles is still a fall back option. No day passes without a mention of Dosa/ Idli. On special occasions I add coconut oil to food to get the taste of Kerala. Dishwasher is a secondary option. ‘Nivea’ cream still works!

I believe all NRIs who are in US will agree with me on more than one point I ve mentioned in the earlier paragraph; if they choose to tell the truth.

Still when the so called NRI shifts base to India for good, he takes utmost care in redesigning his house to feel like his ‘old house in US’. The bathroom will definitely have a bath tub and yes the floor will be carpeted/ wood. There should be a chandelier to give the western feeling. ‘Tropicana juice will get a safe corner space in the fridge. Imported Dishwasher and kitchen unit is a must (because one gets ‘used to this’ in US). The sofa and bed should be soft enough to dig one in! … and hey they are accustomed to western food and cannot take the dust on the roads.  The car should have AC and driving around with glasses rolled up is the only option.  Always on the look out for US made creams and lotions coz that’s what they are used to.

When will we be all happy and content with what we have NOW?

You might counter argue that we are looking for best of both the worlds… well that way too it is hypocrisy!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whacking the cupid good bye.. Possible?

Well I guess this blog is gonna be a pretty bold one.

I was at the mall in NY yesterday enjoying some healthy fruit smoothie and turkey roll in a corner food shop which was at a not-so-bustling part of the building. In the 1 hr we spent in the café (mainly to make sure that our baby gets her afternoon nap while we have our time together) I noticed many families, Singles, lovers, health freaks etc etc shop their treats. That’s when I noticed a young couple walk in with love in the air. They took a seat just outside the shop, ordered their drink and started off on a kissing spree.... Seeing this, I was left thinking about all that I have jotted down here.

My mind wandered to the very conservative country India where such open kissing in front of any shop would mean media attention and a possible Shiv Sena ‘thrashing’. So does that mean that they are successful in stopping people from expressing their emotions? Hell NO! Indians emote behind closed doors and take every chance to point fingers at the “western culture” which is taking their youngsters by storm. I feel they just make the place a little more dangerous for women to live in because they make a multitude of ‘women-craving-men’ who are on the look out for some way to entice any heeding (rape the un heeding!) female. The streets and buses of most Indian cities are filled with men who wait for a chance to “hit” on any female who is in “range”. I do not mean to say that all men are so, but a considerable no: are. I myself have been prey to eve teasing/ substandard behaviour/ lurid remarks from men. Girls are so scared to even speak out because mostly we caution them to cover themselves up to avoid such incidents in future (I wish just covering up could stop such useless flesh cravers!) and to zip up their mouths regarding whatever has happened so that the family and the girl can keep their respect in the society.

In US, eve teasing is so sparse and I ve not come across anything of that sort and nor my friends. People here are to themselves, if they kiss on the roads why bother? That’s their life! And I personally feel its better to let people be themselves in open rather than create untoward cravings and let that all break loose on some innocent lil girl.

We have been hearing stories of the rapes of so many lil girls who are only a few months old in many cases.  I hope and pray for those victims to be able to lead a normal life. Once scarred, that too so young, leading a normal life would be next to impossible. I feel such men should be hanged to death.

Someone might say statistically India is not so high on ‘rapes’. Stop before you start; it is just because Indian women fear to report the sexual offences for fear of being ostracized by near and dear and causing shame to the family.  Especially so in a country where the woman of the house is considered to be ‘Lakshmi’ (Goddess).

My fellow Indians let me say that, right now, the so called western culture does not look so bad because of what a few obnoxious souls have successfully twisted our culture to feel like. 

This has nothing to do with our beautiful country India and the true Indian culture.  Both are still beautiful and pure.