Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How long does it take?

I have a helper who comes very early in the morning to help with my household chores. She is promptly at the door, at a wee hour, and tirelessly works for as long as she can, before darting off to her full-time employment elsewhere in the neighborhood. Every once in a while, when I have partied late, or sat too long in front of my computer at night--mostly sucked in by online scrabble, I go to bed, hoping that she will skip coming the following morning. I want to sleep till late that morning. Hoping, I sleep with my alarm still on, just in case. Well, my hopes of the luxury of sleep are obviously way too weak than the need to work and earn for the helper. Every minute she is inside my house, is money made by her. And she knows, as well as I do, that she needs that money. She needs it to send her two kids to school, for them to make even a marginally better life than she made of hers. She needs it because she and her husband are both very ashamed and very helpless about the fact that he is not being able to get any decent job at all. She needs it for all the reasons that basic needs need to be met, to enable every human being to live an honest and responsible life.

....And I appreciate her for everything. For being punctual, for keeping her word, for doing what she does, in a manner that satisfies me. For never grumbling about the assortment of tasks I hand out to her each time, or about the inadequacy of my tools I expect her to work with. She manages, she smiles, and she works. I know she hails from a cold place, and I imagine her to fancy a hot cup of tea just as much as I do. So occasionally when its too cold outside, and when she is busy scrubbing my bathroom floor, or sweeping through the living room, I prepare some hot ginger tea--for the two of us. And I expect her to finish the tasks on my list, and then even sit and sip some tea--not necessarily with me, but somewhere in the house, where she sits and rests and refreshes with the goodness of the warmth of the beverage. What--is she a super-human? Does time stop as she works? No, it doesn't. So, one out of ten times, she will sit as I had expected, but most likely she will pour the tea in a thermocol cup and carry it with her as she exits hurriedly, to be on time at her next appointment. I know I make tea to make myself feel good about 'kindness'....than for her.

Today, however, she did not even have time to pour the tea for herself, and she left without it. I almost ran behind her as she was getting into the elevator, reminding her of the chai, and despite a totally rained out, fogged out, dull, grey morning that it is here, she refused the cuppa goodness, because there was no time for it. She only said, "no thanks didi--its fine"----with her usual smile---her premature crow's feet becoming more prominent as she smiled, she waved and disappeared into the descending elevator.

I came back to a pot full of two cups of tea, to a very clean, sparkling house--everything arranged exactly where it should be, dustbins emptied, and to a morning full of a sudden coldness. Remorse grips me for I know I could have hurried just a tad bit and poured the tea for her. Those few seconds from me, would have supplied her a portable joy, even if very small. But no, my list of to-dos is knowingly, unknowingly, always longer than the time she has for me. How then do I expect her to savor tea----she never explicitly negotiated for a tea-break, and I know, that she would rather have her wage timer ticking than sipping tea as and when I make it for her--which as I said, is not always. I didn't even realize how conveniently I had slipped into the role of the text book 'capitalist' and she the 'worker'? It doesn't take long for power to seep in, wherever it can--does it?

I have poured my share of the tea in my porcelain cup----I have promised to the self to not consume more than a cup in the morning. So her share will literally go down the drain. All that milk, tea-leaves, and sugar...all that for which she needs money to buy, will just go, as she goes to get her other timer ticking. My 'kindness' can just flow into a drain today--its raining outside anyways.

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