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"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Of Bais Gone By (A Saga) - Chapter 4

'Bahula tai', Contraptions, The Lalitaji-Surf Ad, Day-today staples from long ago.....
Herculean Tasks

Much to my shock and bewilderment, the entire neighborhood knew of Bahula’s exploits and modus operandi! But thankfully, no one was yet aware that she was in my employ. My glorious dreams of bragging to the snobs about my new find were quashed. Leave alone bragging, even mentioning that she worked at my place, would make me a fount of mirth and entertainment! My only solace was that, I was not alone in this quandary. Once updated and informed of the source of hysterics at the society gathering, Mrs Joshi had remarkably sobered down, and in fact managed a rather becoming bored look at the goings-on! On cue, I donned my own blasé mask. We consciously drifted away from the circle of humanity entrenched in besmirching other fellow-beings! I tried to draw along with me as many as I could tempt and lure with li’l Pink’s antics! While Mrs Joshi, doing her bit, adding vivid embellishments to the other pleasures of the festivities - the food stalls, enticed many more!
My new-found partner in misfortune, nudged me when she noticed Captain Dubey, passing by. She too had been gullible enough to be taken in by his suave marketing skills! I acknowledged the broad smile he bestowed me with a dark ‘Et tu, Brute?’ look! His smile died and he walked away rather confused at my baffling attitude.
I racked my brains as to how to deal with this fresh blow! I couldn’t digest how deviously 'The Dubeyji' had conned me into taking on this human cannon-ball of disaster! And to think that he was out there, strutting in my husband’s Reebok’s, targeting other hapless victims like me - of course kind of mollified the blow…I wouldn’t be the sole spectacle!
But what could I do now? Hunt out another maid afresh? Run through the entire rigmarole again?!

‘A real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out’  
After some brisk circulation and hobnobbing, Mrs Joshi confided that, through her vast network, she had thankfully found a substitute for the behemoth mountain of clay 'working' at our places! This new replacement was to start work at her place from tomorrow! And, she continued, that she was willing to share her find with me! Hallelujah!! I was saved by this altruistic,generous neighbor whose name had been frequently tarred with the brush of stinginess by Bahula during the course of her gossip updates! How unfair and untrue those tidbits of hers had proven to be!
Reporting back to base I shared news of the latest debacle to strike me, the lady in shining armor, and other minor headlines with a rather unsympathetic and disinterested spouse. He proposed we toss a coin to decide whether B.B (his pet name for Buxom Bahula) stayed or not! My withering look, didn't elucidate the desired response from him as he was busy playing peek-a-boo with li'l peanut! A pensive night contemplating various scenes executing my first experience at firing ensued, each more worrying and wretched than the other! 
The next morning, I opened the door casting Bahula a friendly look, having finally resolved to lay her off as gently as possible. Bahula her beaming self, grabbed the baby from me and holding her high, chanted, “Kidhal hai meli shoni polgi?”(Where’s my golden girl?) How do you tell her to heave-ho, buzz off, when she has the baby smiling adoringly at her and gurgling away in her arms? No, this was inhuman; my better-self cringed its mean intentions! Off with how people viewed, undermined and denigrated my bai! Just because she bumbled her way about her work, didn't imply she had to be bumped off! I had mentally committed to make her a permanent appendage of my stable, and I was beholden to that! (Recall-Sallu's commitment dialogue?) 
I would find a way to make this work!! Boldly going where no woman has gone before, I embarked on the ‘Reform Bahula’ agenda! The underdog/cow would score and the erstwhile mud-slingers would eat their own words!!
Hmm, very easy to pass such noble resolutions, I thought, now facing the dilemma on how to process words into action! I guessed my scientific background and analytical skills would have to be roped in to produce the desired changes in my bubble-headed Juno’s actions! Meticulous planning and intensive research gave birth to a Weekly Log chart of her various activities at my place. I was rather proud of my own ingenuity at formatting such a unique T.M.S (Time and Motion Study) chart! Each activity (Floor-cleaning, Laundry, Cooking, etc) she performed had its own chart. Each activity itself was split into multiple stages, graphically represented – by yours truly! For instance the Laundry chart ran thus : 

I am sure that this schematic operations flow chart could easily have made big bucks, had it catered to an assembly line in some manufacturing plant! A hand-made project, no machines were used to create this one, it was deemed to be solely tested on humans - more specifically one LARGE human. The days of the week were represented by icons of different colours - Bahula despite her haphazard ways managed to remember days of the week wearing a particular colour saree for a particular day! Some great being at her home had successfully devised and implemented this remarkable technique to make her remember the day of the week!
These prodigious charts were duly pasted with a flourish on all requisite areas – bathroom doors, kitchen walls etc. All Bahula was required to do was, to go about her work in the designated sequence and mark the task done with a green crayon, handily placed. Nothing could be simpler I thought, as I eagerly waited to take her through this breakthrough plan.

Well, to be fair, Bahula gave her whole-hearted attention to the charts exclusively customized for her and listened very diligently as I explained it all. Her face scrunched in utmost concentration as she went through the various charts! What actually registered, remained to be seen!
Tucking her saree about her in her typical combat style she marched ahead to put the new battle plan into action. I smugly watched her look up the Chart no 1-Floor-cleaning and hunt out the broom. She swept up the whole house in a jiffy and went to look up the next task. Reminding her to mark a DONE with her green crayon against the broom icon, I slipped into my bedroom to delve into my new novel, with the comfortable feel-good of a fait accompli!  
Meanwhile, Bahula puzzling over Chart no 1-Floor-cleaning, chanced a look at Chart no 2 alongside – the Laundry chart. She felt drawn to that set of activities, so she decided to embark on them – Step 1- Soaking the clothes in soap water. While the water filled up the bucket, she went into the kitchen to drink some water herself. The Dish-wash Chart in the kitchen seemed even more tempting. So she had to have a go at it. Her loud booming voice humming over the clashing and clanging of vessels, reached my ears. 



Mentally I registered that she was in the kitchen…. already?! I didn’t see her wet-mop the floor after sweeping?! I was enjoying my book so much that I didn’t feel like dragging myself from the plot where the zombie girlfriend was trying to zombiefy the entire neighborhood so that the hero suspected nothing of her true identity! The creaky squeals from my antique coconut-scraper in the kitchen startled me a bit. The kitchen symphony presently stopped and all was quiet. After a good fifteen minutes of silence, I couldn’t take it anymore. 

I ventured a peek into the kitchen – half the vessels washed, remaining in the sink. The man-handled coconut scraper on the floor. In the bathroom – the tap running, bucket overflowing, soapy water all over. In the living-room, the mopping pail on one side and…there she was! She had pulled down one of The Charts and deposited some of her hoard of tambaaku (blasphemous!) on it and was rummaging her precious potli…..when I just lost it! 
“Tai what are you upto?” I screeched. “Did you finish all your work? Why did you pull down The Chart? Did you mark on The Chart? Where is your green crayon?” I fired at her in rapid succession!
Timidly, she answered, “ Tai, mereku sab samjha ekdum mast! Maine wo paila kagaj dekha, us pe likhne ko gayi, tabhi  baju wala kagaj dekha, toh socha  wo kaam chalu karu, phir keecheen me ek aur dekha,” giving me an appreciative look, “Kitna mast rangi-berangi chitra banaye tumne…mast!! Toh bhandi chalu kiya! Baju me nariyal dekha toh khisne ku bhaiti. Itne me mujhe yaad aaya….ara-ra-ra…..mera hirva penshil kuthe gela? Toh mai idhar aayi apni potli me dhoondhne ku! Pan abhi tum mereku bolo, me konta kaam karu?”(Translated as – Tai, I understood everything just great! I saw the first paper (The 1st Chart!) and was about to mark on it, when I spotted the second paper, so thought I will start that work, then saw another one in the kitchen, you have made such nice and colourful pictures! Started on the vessels in the kitchen. Saw the coconut lying alongside, started scraping it. Suddenly I remembered, where is my green crayon? Came here to search in my potli! But now you tell me, what work should I do?)

‘God helps those who help themselves’ – prompted itself, while I was controlling the teeth gritting process! Ok, now how do I apply that proverb to this situation? 
I calmly told her entertain the baby, while I went about restoring order in the places Lady Chaos had permeated ! 
I tried helping myself, sorting the problem my way, now Lord it’s your turn! (O Palanhare, nirgun aur nyaare, tumre bin hamra kaunu naahi…..)

That night I had a divine apparition in my sleep. It is strange to view your dreams in movie screen size with Dolby effects! Well, I guess the special guest appearance justified the need for such dream quality enhancements! It was Godess Durga in all her finery and absolutely bedazzling to behold, I felt humbled that she had deigned to visit my dream! I was also puzzled that this larger-than-life deity – uncannily resembled Bahula! She gave me a million dollar, mega-watt bright smile and opened her vermillion lips to ask me, “Meri potli kidhar he?”(Where's my little pouch?) and in a shimmering blur vanished!!
Yes, indeed the Gods had intervened and spoken! I had no trouble whatsoever interpreting this magnificient dream! I was to hold on to God’s own  potli…..Bahula tai - For the better or worse....(till death do us part?)....damning me till eternity?! We shall see...

Note: All characters in the Of Bais Gone by - Saga series are fictional. The situations however are inspired from real life. Any resemblance to any character, living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

Chapter 1 << Chapter 2 << Chapter 3 << Previous

Copyright © 2015 KALA RAVI

Monday, 19 October 2015

Of Bais Gone By (A Saga) - Chapter 3

Pic credit : Edited

Fitting the bill

Army-men always have a certain charisma about them. Upright-dapper stature, polished shoes, curt parleys and an unquenchable penchant for the spirits! At least that was how I always imagined them! Being a consummate civilian, I have never had the opportunity to acquaint myself with persons from the field of mortal combat!
Captain Dubey, Security Head of our society, was definitely a far cry from the macho G.I.JOE personas one associates with military personnel - albeit retired ones. Envisage a nondescript, balding, myopic sixty-something-year old with an ungainly, paunchy stance. Throw in a rabid fish-monger's tongue, flashy sneakers, a shikhã / choti tucked under the cap and voilà! You have - Le Capitaine The Dubeyji!! I never got around to delving into the history of his honorific, but like everyone else, blandly accepted it, in view of offending him and losing out on his valued services!! 
It was to him that I headed, in search of a suitable replacement to my last bai. As I unburdened my woes of not having a steady bai and the pathos back home with a new baby and all, Dubeyji patiently heard me through. Behind the thick glasses I could sense a shrewd mind at work. He whipped out his little diary and jabbed quick notes as he took me through a rapid fire questionnaire : 

Dubeyji : Time?
Me : (Doubtfully)....9.00 a.m? (You see 9.00 a.m is prime-maid-time, people are known to go to any lengths to get maids at this time)
Dubeyji : Language?
Me : Tamil?!! (Why does he want to know what language I speak?)
Dubeyji : No Mayddam , not yours, which language speaking bai would you like?
Me : (Impressed that I actually have a choice!!) Hindi or Marathi.
Dubeyji : Local ya imported ?
Me : (Blank look)
Dubeyji : (Patronisingly) Local matlab living nearby, more in demand, so higher salary, imported meaning, bai travelling in from the suburbs working at a lower salary.
Me: (Eyebrows shooting up in astonishment!) Local?
Dubeyji : Scope of work ?
Me : Cleaning Everything (beseechingly)
Dubeyji : (Looking pointedly) Last.....Salary matter, I will not interfere. Mayddamji  I will call you on the intercom as soon as I get the right match.
Me : (Overwhelmed) Thank you Dubeyji!
I returned home feeling relieved and somewhat over-awed by all this professionalism! I excitedly related the highlights of the recent tête-à-tête to the husband. "Well, he seems to be a thorough pro at this! Maybe he can train the dumb HR team in our office!!", was his reaction.
The next morning passed in a whirlwind cycle of intercom calls-door-bell ringing-interviewing prospective bais-feedback intercom calls. However none of the candidates sent in, struck a chord with my gut feeling. It was soon noon as I gloomily strung out umpteen nappies (Pre-Pampers Era) on the line, when the intercom buzzed again. The perseverant Dubeyji seemed rather upbeat when he called me this time, saying he had found the PERFECT ONE for me, and was being sent up right this instant!
I nervously fidgeted waiting for the latest applicant. I had mentally resolved to play the cool, detached suzerain (refer: Bai-Sanskaar), and not succumb to impulsive recruitments! I would most definitely insist on a One Month Trial period before I made things permanent.
This time around, Dubeyji himself accompanied her, which in itself spoke volumes for the candidate’s authenticity and significance! 
The said interviewee was built on the lines of the contenders of the SUMO WRESTLING FEDERATION, and not unjustifiably I wondered if she was applying for the right job! Dubeyji patronizingly introduced her as Bahula tai, local resident, fifteen years of blemish-free work experience, master-chef incarnate, and on the personal front, having a working husband (which she gloatingly acknowledged) and three school-going children. He added that she rarely took leaves, bar the mandated ones (all festivals, and monthly-offs) and by a stroke of luck had the 9.00a.m slot available! The pièce de résistance was when she casually piped in that she was an expert baby masseur. That was it!!! I was in hook, line and sinker!

Pic Credit: www
Dubeyji tapered off  his sales pitch when he realized his client (me) was sufficiently capitulating. With the benevolence of one who has fructified a new union, he benignly slipped away from the picture (not before I saw him casting longing looks at the husband’s Reeboks plonked near the door) to let us proceed with the closing round of number-crunching. I could scarcely believe my good fortune at landing such a big/mammoth trump, so dispensing with any remaining acts of being the cool, detached employer, I acceded to the figures quoted and urged her to join right away! I hesitantly mentioned my One Month Trial clause, which she sportingly agreed to.
Now, for a personality assessment of the new cadre let's start off with the positives…
Boisterous and buxom, Bahula (meaning: abundant/large/name of a mythical cow) insisted on being addressed as tai (elder sister), and addressing me as ‘akka’(again meaning elder sister) despite my protests! Her size belied her agility as she nimbly waltzed across the house with the broom! She was extremely eager to make herself indispensable to the household and insisted on doing chores not included the package - moving me to tears, after past experiences with Sarita! Be it folding clothes or watering the plants, she volunteered to do everything!  The baby loved her tel-malish accompanied by lusty renditions of latest Bollywood item-numbers!!
She was not overly fond of chai or nashta but rather appeased herself, ruminating on her paan-tambaku! Everday, she culminated her work with a ritual that I found exceedingly interesting! It began with her extracting a potli, stashed somewhere in her large being, meticulously preparing her tambaku by holding the dispensed quantity in one palm, pulverizing it with the other thumb, re-soundly clapping it to smithereens, daintily tucking it in the chuna-fied paan and then grandly stuffing it all deep into one side of the mouth! That done she contentedly proceeded to inform and update me on the latest gossip topics in circulation in our small society.
That was the Yang(+) part of her, now for the Yin(-)…
Having Bahula at work in a small place was akin to having a bull/cow in a china-shop! She rampaged the kitchen, smashing several pieces of my priced china in the act of cleaning them. When I came to understand that this was going to be her S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedure), I quietly shifted these victims to the loft for safe-keeping, replacing them with cheap crockery. Despite that, my husband kept complaining that he had to drink his coffee  in chipped mugs! Though agile, she was kind of blind around the corners, so perpetual collisions with her occurred during her floor-cleaning manoeuveres. It was a wonder, the baby didn’t get kicked like a football, owing to the fact that Bahula couldn’t see her own feet while walking! Her large heart was maladroitly supported by a totally absent-minded, feather-brain. Her intentions were definitely well-meaning I thought, when she left the tap running in the kitchen sink, while she went to string out the clothes on the line, water the plants twice over or never, keep the garbage-bin out and the garbage-in, helpfully add salt twice or none, soak the clothes in soap, and forget all about them, and so on. 
Then came her gossiping habit, she was generous in sharing her superior knowledge on this front, and gave me relentless updates on the meanness and stinginess of the Joshi’s downstairs where too she worked. Seeing me non-responsive (I was diligently trying to follow the clauses in Bai-Sanskaar) to these nuggets of info didn’t deter her in the slightest! Her raucous parrying however jarred on my nerves at times, especially when I was endeavoring to put the baby to sleep.
After a month’s observation, I reflected that the Yin-Yang balance was very fine. I had a very willing, amiable, heart in the right place, ready-to-go-to-the-front, kind of soldier here, but not having his head firmly screwed on his body, or for that matter, tongue latched onto the roof, was going to be a bit of a bother for the rest of the battalion!
Not having too many options in my basket, and considering that I had at least landed a child-friendly, unstinting maid for the right time-slot, with glowing recommendations from Dubeyji himself, I decided that I was finally going to have a steady Bai! Time to make things permanent I thought and mentally imagined signing on the dotted line…..I DO!
I shared this milestone good news with the husband, who wisely advised me to regularly replenish my stock of cheap crockery and also suggested a number of bizarre impractical ideas, like fitting her with side, rear-view mirrors, and a horn/beeper to minimize accidents! I wondered whether I could draw up a To-Do checklist for her to tick off after each activity she completed. Of course I would have to remind her to check the list! I considered investing in a good pair of headphones along with a Walkman (remember this gizmo?), to block out the unsavoury gossip. One has heard of Child-Proofing homes, but we were a step ahead, we were trying to Bai-Proof the home! Bahula was thus encompassed into our small world!
While such positive plans were afoot, I could not forget my benefactor, the harbinger of permanent, solid Bais – Captain Dubey! I decided to gift him the Reeboks, which in any case were seldom used by the husband! 
Captain Dubey was soon strutting around the compound showing off his latest footwear and genially volunteering to assist other unfortunate bai-bereft mistresses-of-home! 
 The society citizens, gathered in full force during community festive celebrations, and I always loved attending them. It was time for the festivities….I dolled up my baby for the special occasion, plonked her must-haves into the pram (since she refused to sit in it, I used it like a luggage-trolley), and proceeded to enjoy both the fiesta and the showing-off of my new baby! I also planned to be guarded about sharing info on my new help, wouldn't want people snitching my hard find from me! Of course, I would have to casually drop it over the course of conversation with the obnoxious Mrs Iyer that, life was so much more comfortable when one had a steady, permanent maid like mine (name withheld from her for security reasons!), since she took regular public jibes at me, claiming I changed maids on a monthly basis!!
Gushing friends, loquacious aunties and even reticent uncles made a bee-line to meet my pint-sized pink wonder and offer their coochie-coos and ale-le-le’s! I seized the moment to deposit li'l Pink with one of the matronly aunties, and soak in all the interesting tittle-tattle circulating! 

Mrs Bindu Koshish, was regaling everyone with theatrical spoofs of her next-door neighbor, Mrs Bolbani a vicious and rather unpopular member of the society! I was in hysterics watching her almost perfect imitation of Mrs Bolbani’s nasal tone and sneering face as she screamed out to the security to send the dhobi over or shut up the howling canines two blocks away! People went crazy and egged her on to do some more acts. I enthusiastically awaited her next act, as she wrapped her dupatta about her like a saree and began. She thrust her tummy forward and waddled with the swaying gait of a heavy/ pregnant person all the while crassly chewing something. I wondered who could it be? She pretended to sweep the floor, suddenly drop the broom and proceed to wash vessels singing blush-worthy tunes! My smile suddenly froze over. It couldn’t be could it? She suddenly stopped her song, and rushed to hang out clothes. Everyone was howling away as she continued her act, now squatting down and stuffing something in her mouth in a manner that dispelled any doubts as to who she was impersonating!! Beside me, Mrs Joshi was guffawing like crazy! I debated whether she hadn’t guessed the inspiration behind the mimicry. I gently pulled her over and whispered to inform her about the same!

TO BE CONTINUED... Note: All characters in the Of Bais Gone by - Saga series are fictional. The situations however are inspired from real life. Any resemblance to any character, living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

Chapter 1 << Chapter 2 << Previous Next >> Chapter 4

Copyright © 2015 KALA RAVI