A DATE WITH DOMESTIC HELP Shanthi speaking. I was abandoned during my infancy and from that day onwards, I had to fight many a battle to survive. Hence my nature became aggressive all the time and more belligerent. Might or right has become my way of life. In the name of coming to my succour, boys & men used me and all their seemingly benevolence act have originated from their brimming mind with lust. Despite impoverished, I grew stunning. I did variety of jobs from regular-ones to odd jobs like rag-picking, cheating many in the process. My career included acting and looking deceptive, helping petty thieves, squatting on road margins begging on week ends and on auspicious days near popular temples. This often had lead to my incarceration in police cell for a period of from few days to weeks. In one such incarceration, my wayward life came to a halt, when a police constable demonstrated his sincere and sustaining love toward me. He was alsoabandoned during his infancy. But he was lucky to land up in a Christian mission’s orphanage. He made it there to be honest, sincere and learnt the ropes quickly. But after joining state police department, he bade good bye to certain virtues. That resulted in his earning with both hands but was spending the money sensibly. Of course he was ready to splurge whenever I wished. For about three years and with two daughters, I had lived somewhat honourable comfortable family-lifewith him. Then one fine monsoon-evening, for some unknown reason, my constable husband was waylaid by gangsters and took him to a far off place and made him drunk; and coerced him to walk over a culvert wall. While he attempted walking, he fell deep into still-waters running below and kicked the bucket. Then my world got paralysed and I willy-nilly had to switch to my old-ways. With two growing daughters, I felt life became once again a terrible challenge. Many hawks were trying to devour me and my daughters. Even some police women wanted to pack me and my kids for clandestine trade and activities. As every mother naturally protective of their kids, I too evolved very many strategies to protect my kids and myself from the clutches of bad elements in the society. Some of them were friends of my constable husband; and some were government officials and local political workers. A priest of the temple at mylapore had suggested the only way to escape from the thugs would be to relocate myself away from the city. I moved to a suburb and cut off all my city contacts. I started working as a maid servant in well to do residents. Since building activity has increased, many women and their siblings have shifted from being maid servant to helpers in building construction work. This has caused great scarcity in domestic help and whoever was available commanded a hefty premium. So with good haggling, I got fat monthly salaries, rich food and soon could afford education at popular school for my kids. I am now in my forties still going strong. I joined as maid servant in a house. Their only son was mostly away on tour for a week or two and their daughter already married. I assessed that senior couple to be generous with food money and articles though the lady seemed to be strict. With my usual tricks and glib talk, I used to extract every now and then money, articles such as cook-wares,sarees, petticoats, pants and food and medicines, from the lady. Though I claim it is all for my house and use but as soon as I collect them I sell it. This way I was collecting discarded items from the places of work and convert them into cash by selling in the market. But the lady of the house- I call her as mämë- has learnt all my tricks and my mere telling something to her, she would have understood what was behind it. With few months of service, I was thorough with all aspects of their day to day work, movement and their family history and geography. From time to time, I happily shared with my friends all the gathered information about this house and the persons living here. Once while sweeping bed room in their ground floor, I found some currency notes lying on the floor in between the cot and the storewell. Mämë was supervising me from behind but she was at a distance. I wanted to pocket the money. The First I pushed the currency notes underneath the storewell and turned around, holding the chest and looking at mämë said I told I was feeling uncomfortable and asked her to fetch water. No one else was at home. When she went away for fetching water, I gathered all the currency notes and shoved it into my blouse and bra. When she returned with a glass of water, I acted as if I had felt great relief at the sight of glass of water. Mämë told me to stop the sweeping and go to home and rest. I showed up a deadpan face as if I was worried to leave the work and go. I came home and in privacy removed currency notes from my ATM on my person. I was damn pleased with myself because when counted the mint fresh rs.50 notes, it all added up to around rs.2000. Now I know how the notes have fallen down from the storewell and where the couple keep petty cash for day to day expenses. Someone was in a hurry, took money from a wad and some slipped on to the floor which could not be seen in the ill lit bed room lying between the closed storewell and the long side of the double cot. Another method by which month after month I used to get enriched from the places I work as maid servant is to make them buy for me against their monthly ration card items they do not consume like palm oil, rice,wheat and pulses. Subsequently when my monthly payment is made, i come out with sob story that the the employer forget or forego to account for moneys advanced already to me and/or moneys spent by them for procuring their ration items for me. Just to gain credibility and earn their sympathy or compassion, sometimes I do used to settle the account by promptly repaying the amount very next day! Once near the washing stone a thin golden neck chain was lying in small poodle of stagnant soap water. I stumbled upon it and picked it up and about to stuff into my ATM but as ill luck would have it, mämë happened to see it from a distance. She came running to me claiming it to be of her daughter and it got mixed up with her clothes while they were collected for hand-washing. I just without demur handed over the chain to her. How lucky I would have been if only I waited for some better moment to pick it up from soap water. Mämë in a celebratory mood gave a plateful - rava kessari – a sweet delicacy. During my regular survey of the interiors of places where I do he maid servant work including mämë’s house, I found the details of fastening of doors and grille in the ground floor, possible storage places of valuables etc and passed on the information to my two wheeler friend who in turn shared this information with his cronies and plan modus operandi for stealing valuables. I had a gut feeling that mämë’s house would be burgled one of these nights. As for me, I could guess the thief would be one of the three - my morning two wheeler friend or anyone from construction workers from the opposite site or Ramudu-the man living in the adjacent hut with his wife Luxmi. God help PROTECT mämë and her husband and their son and their belongings. _________________________ (A DATE WITH DOMESTIC HELP But today things changed for better. We handover the keys to domestic help and go for a day or two. They take care all of our belongings as if their own and no occasion for reminder to do a thing. God and many developmental activities by successive governments changed their habits and they turned over a new leaf. I am proud of them and their wards.