Most Important Person

Our home seemed to have lost its sweetness over the past two days and all because of me. Of course my admission comes only now and not even medieval torture instruments could have wrung it out of me in the time under discussion here! Anything out of place or a broken glass, or happening without my prior consent meant frowns, grumbles and in some cases a major eruption.

My husband lived in mortal fear of using the wrong towel to wipe cups or the wrong vessel to boil milk for tea. My daughter who normally needed several reminders to make her bed, clear her table or submit her lunch box for cleaning did all these jobs and more before I could even say good morning!

I hurried through the kitchen shouting orders for all at home. Besides my voice the only sounds were of banging vessels and slamming cupboard doors. I drove out for work brakes squealing. The reason for all this upheaval was the missing M.I.P in my life. Before you get visions of any issues with mutual fund Monthly Income Plan certificates let me get the record straight. I am referring to the Most Important Person: namely Shardakka our house help.

You see, she was on leave for a week and the onus of managing house chores fell on me. Naturally this phase coincided with the added work at my office too. You may well ask why did I not appoint a substitute? I hate new people walking all over my kingdom and have proudly declared that she (Shardakka) is not indispensable and ‘I Shall Manage’.

But day 1 itself took its toll and I was at the end of my patience. The garbage collector too disappeared and now I had to deal with overflowing garbage bins in addition to a sink piled high with dirty dishes. Overzealously I decided to clean fans and behind cupboards just to prove my capability. At the second fan itself, I bitterly regretted my decision and could not give up now and risk losing face. You see both my husband and daughter had advised me against this.

Murphy made his presence felt, as friends and relatives chose that weekend to drop by! More work, and everything had to be perfect which meant I was continuously with a backache and a huge list of pending jobs. I really wondered how Shardakka managed to get everything done so fast. That’s when I realized that she got right of way wherever she went in the house. Be it to sweep any room, deal with the wet clothes or vessels in the kitchen. My husband preferred to be out of the house when she went about restoring cleanliness and order every morning or else he had to move of each room the moment he settled down! This is another benefit of daily morning walks, which fitness experts never mention.

By evenings I was thoroughly drained out counting down days when she would be back again. My husband’s standard accusation is that I have never spoken to him as sweetly as I do to Shardakka, one that I hotly deny of course. She is never reprimanded for broken crockery or for unswept corners and cobwebs. Ditto for chopping vegetables instead of julienne or making soft dough for puris!

But don’t take my word for it; ask any self-respecting Indian home manager the state of a home without any help. The reassurance of having this M.I.P is as much as having a hefty bank balance! And don’t be misled by advertisements that make home cleaning or cooking look a breeze. None of us remotely resemble the beauty without a hair out of place when we have to wade through entangled clothes mass in the washing machine or wield the broom!

My backbreaking weeklong efforts paid off in familiarizing my family members with various temperamental cleaning apparatus and cleaning agents! By day 6, I could see the silver lining on the clouds as I almost sang my way through dusting the inexplicably large number of artifacts I had collected over the years. I grudgingly admitted that Shardakka too had family commitments, probably more so than mine. Her husband spent days in drunken stupor and four adult sons shamelessly depended on her. She needed the break and I would get mine the moment she returned to work! I can take on a busy work schedule simply because I can depend on her to manage my home front. I overlooked her shortcomings knowing both of us benefited from this association.

M.I.P./ V.I.P/ Symbiosis, either way, I answered the doorbell with a huge smile on Monday morning at 7 AM sharp only to find Shardakka’s husband saying she would return to work a couple of days later…

Published in Maharashtra Herald on 24 Nov 2007 and at:

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