Today morning the house-help came for work wearing a brand new gold bangle and a ring. I didn’t notice. I need tea in the morning before I start noticing anything, unless it is a spectacular sunrise, to which I give my immediate attention as the sky is liable to change colors at a moment’s notice. So, yeah, I didn’t notice her acquisitions straightaway, being busy making tea for her, and myself.
“See this?” she asked me, showing me her bangle adorned wrist and then the ring on her finger. “I got it yesterday.” she added with a huge smile. “Do you like it?” She asked, and answering her own question said, “No, you wouldn’t know much about ornaments. You don’t wear any!”
While the monologue was on, I wondered idly whether she had got a lottery (Just kidding!) or if one of her sons had been generous (most unlikely!). It was apparently neither. Continuing her monologue, she explained to me about a loan she got via some government scheme or other for the financially backward people. ‘Whoa!’ I thought, ‘And you go and spend it on gold?’ But she had her reasons. “Cash would get over, but gold will remain with me.” I merely nodded, one eye on the boiling tea ready to be poured out.
She wasn’t done, though.
“I had two bangles, one from each daughter-in-law, you know!” she said, “but I had to pawn them when money was short. Later I had to sell them off when one of the sons wanted to buy some land.”
There you have it. Whether cash or gold, ultimately children take it away from parents like her. But her train of thoughts had now switched to a different route. “Don’t you have the tradition of welcoming the daughter-in-law home with a lamp, and then she gifts you a gold bangle?” I smiled, shaking my head. She knew already that I had dispensed with such rituals since she had been working for me two years back too. So I knew this was merely a fishing expedition for answers to questions she had, same as others who have worked for me had too:
Why does she walk around wearing capris and tees at home? She never wears a sari. No kajal in her eyes, no bindi on her forehead, no gold bangles on her wrists, no gold chain around her neck, *gulp* no mangalsutr even! Not even when she goes out. To top it all, every now and then she goes and gets a crew cut worse than army recruits!
I can read them like a book. A couple of times I have been asked if I belong to some other religion (‘because you never go to the temple!’). How can I make anyone understand the exhilarating feeling of liberation one feels once one stops conforming? 🙂
©Shail Mohan 2018