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I was at my daughter-in-law’s place a few days back, and one day I got talking with her house-help. Or rather, she got talking to me. She doesn’t know my language, nor do I know hers, but we can pass muster. Besides there was Hindi to see us through.

She started off by saying she had seen the L&M and our younger son on their last visit a few months back. After passing through the usual queries of whether he, the younger fella, was married or not and if he would stay with us when he finally did, the answer to both being ‘no’, she finally landed on the topic of their height.

‘They are all three so much taller than you!’ she observed. I smiled. Yes, they definitely are. At five feet nothing, I am pretty much a shorty. Not anywhere in their league.

‘I am the shortest in my home too,’ she said. ‘My brothers, are all taller than me. My husband too, of course. What’s more, my son and daughter, who are still in school, are so tall already that they have left me far behind.’

‘Ahh, but we have an advantage, you see.’ I replied. ‘Guess what I tell my husband and children? My head is always held high. I never ever have to bow down before any of them, or anyone else for that matter, whereas they have no option but to bow their head down to me…. because how else are they going to talk to me?!’

On hearing me, the woman paused in her work – she was mopping the floors – to stare at me in amazement. ‘That’s exactly what I tell my family too when they call me kulli,’ she exclaimed. By the way, shorties are kulli in my language too, so I got what she said. She was laughing hard by then. I followed suit.

There we were, two people separated by human-made barriers of social and financial status, language, state, education and whatnot. But at that moment, we were merely two women bonding over a similar experience in life across all so-called barriers. When she finished work that day and left she still had a huge (and pretty) smile lighting up her face.

© Shail Mohan 2019