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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


  1. What a "boisterous bai" ! Uproariously side splitting anecdote. The imagery is vivid. Your writing skills are right up there ! Waiting for the next part ��

  2. Yet another superb piece...witty and vivid in description and thoroughly enjoyable...!!! :) :)

  3. Yet another superb piece...witty and vivid in description and thoroughly enjoyable...!!! :) :)

  4. Amusing! Awaiting next blog post. Keep writing. Gandhali

  5. ROFL ! your Bai is a Wodehousarian character ! You write well & keep the reader's interest alive , write more !

  6. Hahaha..good one..eagerly await the next installment. :)

  7. Good one Kala. Waiting for the next post..

  8. Agree with Shobha! Very Wodehouse-ish!
    I hope you don't keep us waiting for a month now for the next part! :P

  9. Hi thanks for dropping by. Wodehouse inimitable. Honoured to be even compared. Thank you so much :)

  10. Most enjoyable read. Don't keep us in suspense and release the next one soon.

  11. Thank you so much. Your wish, my command. Coming soon.....chapter 4 ;)


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