We are from Kolkata. Here in Mumbai it’s just the three of us, husband, kid and me. No, there’s a fourth member too. She is Ranjana, my maid, or domestic help, who looks after our household. I have often wondered what her life was like. For this Women’s Day I decided to take a peek into her life.
I: What’s your full name?
She: (smiling coyly) Ranjana Shinde.
I: Are you from Mumbai?
She: No. We are from a village near Pune. But I have been staying in Mumbai for many years now. But the place where we stay is filthy and smelly. Back home everything is so fresh.
I: That’s so unhygienic!
She: (shrugging her shoulders) What can I do? No one will listen to our complaints.
I: And what happens when the rains come?
She: What will happen? Its gets water logged and filth floats into all our homes.
Seeing a note of irritation creep into her voice I change the topic.
I: Who all are there in your village home?
She: My father. He is almost bedridden. Recently my mother also had a heart operation. A lot of money was spent. But my husband refused to let me contribute financially. Even my mother in law did not support me.
I heard her voice start to become shaky. But I knew she wanted to say more.
She: My husband has even taken away my cell phone. He says that I shouldn’t be speaking to my family anymore. He says a lot of money is being wasted on them. My mother in law also accused me of sending money secretly to my mother.
I: Why did she say that?
She: You know I have two sons. My husband has lost his job. So he sits at home and throws tantrums. I am the only working member for a family of five. Most of what I earn is spent on ration and the kids’ schooling. So at times I keep away Rs.100 so that I can buy them chocolates.
I could feel a tear in my eye.
I: They like chocolates?
She: (she finally looked at me and smiled. Her eyes had suddenly lit up) They love chocolates. They also love Maggi (instant noodles). I tell them not to eat it but they don’t listen.
I: So how old are they?
She: One is six and the other is twelve.
I: My God! You don’t look more than twenty-five. When did you have these kids?
She: (laughing) I was married off when I was thirteen and had my first child a year later. You know, sometimes I wish I had a daughter.
I: Why didn’t you try again?
She: I couldn’t. My husband made me go through with the operation so that I would never conceive again.