Maid my day!

It began like any other day. The alarm rang at five and the snooze button was immediately activated. I got up thirty minutes later and shuffled to the kitchen. I poured boiling hot water into the coffee filter and boiled the milk. The aroma of coffee percolating in the filter penetrated through the fog in my head and I went about the business of making coffee. The first cup of coffee of the day is a ritual. You don’t gulp it down hurriedly. You sip at it delicately. You taste it. You savour it. And then you are ready to take on the day.
The next two hours went by in a fast forward mode.
Having said goodbye to early morning chores, I made my second cup of coffee and settled down on the couch with the newspaper for a good read. When the familiar doorbell did not sound at 9 o’ clock, I wasn’t too worried as Mala had been delayed quite often. I had nothing planned for the day, so I could wait.
An hour later I was not as cool.
I walked into the kitchen to assess the situation. The sink was piled high with dirty dishes, paralleled in intensity only by food scraps decorating the stove. I poured vim into the soap dish and set about my work.
The plates were bone dry and last evening’s dal coated them with a powdery layer. Oil clung on to the vessels and scraps of leftover vegetables were languishing in the plates. I cringed at the thought of Mala facing this mess every morning. How dirty and slovenly did she think we were! My mother’s words kept echoing in my ears. ‘Your maid is not to be treated to unsightly scenes. You have to clean your mess, rinse the vessels clean and then pile it. She must not handle dirty dishes. Treat her as you would a human being-with dignity and respect.’ As the smell of stale and spoilt food scraps assaulted my nostrils, shame overpowered me. I decided to turn over a new leaf. I would give my daughter a piece of my mind as she did not even open her lunch box in the sink. As I snapped it open, a medley of tomatoes and capsicum greeted me, evidently potatoes were the only vegetable my daughter thought edible. A dozen glasses stared up at me as I poured in a lifetime of energy into my work. And the spoons and forks were countless. Pickles, jam, cheese spread, butter were especially interfering and evidently thought too much of themselves, feeling wanted, lingering while not required. And I had been guilty of dumping carelessly, into the sink, the saucepan with tea leaves and rice grains stuck to the bottom of vessels. No wonder Mala took so long at the sink and I would find some particles of food still stuck to vessels and I had been very enthusiastic in pointing out her mistakes.
After forty five minutes of scrubbing and scouring the sink was relieved of its stinking burden and the kitchen counter gleamed. I polished the stove to a mirror and you could eat food off the kitchen counter.
I pottered about the rooms looking for dirty laundry and collected a load. Really it was abominable that my family left dirty clothes in different places, it was like going on a messy treasure hunt. I went through the pockets of trousers and jeans and found money, a half-eaten bar of chocolate, some used tissues, (ewwww) and a pen. As I was about to load the washing machine, the power went off. The ticker tape ran in front of my eyes ‘Power supply will be disrupted from eleven in the morning till five in the evening on Monday in areas of south Bangalore namely…’
To wash or not to wash …that was the question. I wasn’t as indecisive as Hamlet.
Good honest labour, that’s what it was. Collars, sleeves, hemlines scrubbed to glory. The therapeutic effects of kneeling, squatting, bending, stretching were felt as soon as my muscles were surprised to discover their very existence. At least a hundred calories I thought as I wrung the water out of the clothes, flapped them vigorously in the sun and hung them out to dry. I caught sight of my neighbor gaping at me from her window. I waved cheerfully and swapped stories of maid trouble with her.
I made myself a cup of chai. The fragrant brew did much to revive me and I slipped into a self-congratulatory mood. The sunlight streaming in through the window showed me particles of dust dancing. I had to vacuum. The familiar ticker tape ran itself in front of me again. I invaded the broom closet after years. I swept away to my heart’s content. I looked into forgotten spaces, nooks and crannies, coaxed the dust to let go, sometimes coerced it into submission.
I got down on my knees. No, not to pray, but, to scrub the floors. Lugging a huge bucket of soapy suds behind me I worked my way through each room, each moment that passed made me breathless, in a nice way. Not the uneasy breathlessness when you discover you cannot walk up a flight of steps without huffing and puffing. Honest work. Physical labour. Better than any visit to the gym. A sense of pride pervaded my being. It was my house, my floor, my walls, and I felt what God would probably have felt after the task of creation.
Lunch was a simple affair. Rice, sambar and curry. After I ate I washed my plate in the sink. I cleared all the dishes and did the washing up myself. No point in loading up dishes for poor Mala for the next day. If every household she worked in did that she would have a huge backlog of work to clear.
My afternoon siesta was a well-deserved one. My body ached pleasantly and I felt more alive than I had been in years.
When the family came back in the evening they would be in for a pleasant shock. For I was going to keep my list ready.


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