Monday, October 19, 2009

Of runaway brides and bright chameleons

Quite a lousy day at the office. Almost all the stories I edited were the feel-bad kind – crimes and suicides. Judging by the recent number of suicides in the city, especially by schoolchildren and college students, I wonder where we are headed! Not allowed to celebrate Diwali with his friends, a college student hanged himself to death on Sunday. His father, a police constable, had forbidden him from joining the Diwali celebrations with his friends because he had scored low marks in an exam.

They say that you don’t realise how bad things are unless it happens to you or to people you know closely. This morning, I woke up to the sound of loud chatter from the kitchen and the doorway. My mother, my wife, the friendly woman next door who would put many a hardnosed journalist to shame (such is her nose for news) and a cranky old servant were all discussing something; actually it all seemed too confusing, you know how it is when a few women get together. Anyway, the fact was that our maid was missing from her house. Apparently, if the gossip was to be believed (more often than not, it can be), she and her husband were not getting along. I overheard them saying there was a sister-in-law who was making the life of our maid miserable. Her husband had asked her to “get lost” and that was exactly she did. So, last evening, the family came here searching for her (I wasn’t around and so didn’t know) and left in a huff.

So far, there’s no news whether she’s returned home. Chances are she might have, because few mothers would leave two small children and go away for good. She must have done that to scare him, my wife stressed. It was almost as if she was implying that if I dared to try out anything silly with her, she would choose her path. Amen.

After Shiny Ahuja’s misadventures, you have to be even careful what you say about your maid. Also, remember, that in Chennai servant maids have now formed an association or union and have demanded minimum wages for a start. Back in Calcutta where I grew up, we had an old ayah who brought my lunch to school, scrubbed my head and face with a towel after the break to clear the beads of sweat, and who accompanied me to places near home where mom would not send me alone. As I grew into adolescence and began eyeing pretty young things and attractive middle-aged women, there was hardly any maid in the area worth looking at a second time. The only shocking incident was to find one early morning the driver of a neighbour snuggling near the terrace doorway with a woman who was not his wife but a maid somewhere. He was such a pest that nobody dared say anything. Finally, he and the maid began shacking up downstairs near the motor pump.

However, I do remember of a maid who turned young men on. She worked at my friend’s house and every time I went there, which was not too often, I would take a second look at what appeared to me then to be quite a voluptuous figure. I still remember one night after a drink or two a few of us had dropped by in my friend’s place late in the night and who would open the door, but the voluptuous one. She has half asleep and whether because of that or otherwise, it was difficult to tell, but she had her sari pallu so casually thrown around her that it did nothing to hide what it was supposed to. Her huge breasts were almost on the verge of breaking loose from one of the thinnest blouses I had seen. Fortunately, they didn’t and I survived to tell this tale. Of course, you can never say with women. For all that, if we had tried something silly, she could have dealt us a resounding slap. Who knows? Can you ever tell what exactly is a woman thinking?

Well, I must end with this tailpiece. A woman I got friendly with hardly three months ago, initially replied to my smses and would even take the initiative to call and keep in touch. Two or three weeks later, she just disappeared from the radar choosing not to reply at all. And then, there was a sort of bouncing back, only to disappear again. It was clear she was the front-seat driver, choosing to communicate when she wanted and keeping silent when that helped her. A few days ago, I told her that she was not quite the person I knew earlier. Her reply was really ‘cool’ – “Yes, I have changed,” she said, adding, “I keep changing all the time.” Huh, now would you call her a chameleon?

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