Living in the suburbs of Delhi, Mehak was married in an affluent family. Her husband had a builder & developer firm in the posh locality of Jor Bagh.
On a sunny Monday afternoon, a week before Diwali, Mehak’s domestic help left the work and they had to get another one from the bureau. It was the festive time and there were no fully trained maids available. Mehak had to finally settle for an untrained 19 years old, Niroj.
Niroj was a tall & dark woman with freckles on her face, she had rough hair that were tied in a low bun. Niroj came in wearing a faded yellow salwar kameez which was a little short for her and one could easily tell that it must have been given away to her.
Her bafflement could be easily sensed across the room, as she kept looking at the house in complete amazement.
Holding a small duffle bag in her hand, keeping it tight across her chest, she sat at the corner of the kitchen floor, while Mehak and her mother in law were talking to the agent, inquiring about her.
Niroj was taken to a small servant’s quarter that was made on the back corner of the terrace with a separate bathing and bedroom. She was instructed to always keep her nails trimmed which was even more required in her case, and hair tied in a bun.
Niroj was asked to wash the utensils after the dinner and she did it nicely, maybe because it was her first night and she wanted to be good at her work.
Niroj used to play with Mehak’s daughter, who was 4 years, in her free time but though not sure if she understood the play that well as she was still not very familiar with Hindi and preferred to talk in her native language.
Amaya, Mehak’s daughter, was a chubby greenish eyed girl with silky smooth hair that touched her shoulders. One day while crossing across her playroom Mehak saw Niroj cuddling and kissing Amaya. Mehak was baffled and in the fit of anger, she scolded Niroj and warned her not to do any such act, else she will be sent back.
Niroj couldn’t really understand where did she go wrong. Coming directly from a village of Jharkhand and never have worked before, she wasn’t aware of maintaining a distance from her masters. She was yet to understand the difference between their communities and the way she was supposed to behave.
It was the day of bhaidooj and Mehak had invited all the cousins for the tilak ceremony followed by lunch. It was a busy day for everybody especially house staff and maids. Some were assigned the duty of cleaning and arranging the table with crystal vases and fresh flowers. A few were busy cleaning the porch and the rest were busy cooking.
Mehak had ordered for few of delicacies, that were relished by her brother, from a restaurant and since it was a day to celebrate the brother and sister bond, she wanted to leave no stone unturned.
As the guests started pouring in, the sound of giggles & chats of the family could be heard till the garden area of the bungalow. Mehak was meeting her brother after a gap of 6 months. Mukul had been out of the town for a while and had come specially to meet his sister on the occasion.
The table was being set for lunch and Mehak was excited to feed her younger brother with all his favourite dishes. Her excitement was instantly taken over by utter shock when the lid of the bowl was taken off to reheat the food. The bowl that was full of idlis and vadas a moment ago, now merely had two or three. The silver foil of the baking tray was removed only to see the freshly baked bruschettas half-eaten. The other dishes too weren’t looking the same, as she had seen them before.
Mehak was shocked and had to tell the guests about what just happened. She felt embarrassed and had tears in her eyes. She instantly knew who could have done that but waited for her guests to leave before she could confront the guilty.
The camera recordings were checked to confirm the doubt before taking a step forward and like she predicted, It was Niroj; who had eaten the appetizers and other handy snacks while mopping the kitchen floor in the morning.
She was in a fit of anger and disgust when she saw Niroj stuffing her mouth as if she hadn’t eaten in days and then getting back to mopping with her poker face on, like nothing had happened.
It was a constant game of denial from Niroj’s end till the CCTV footage was presented in front of her while Mehak did not have words to express how disgusted she felt.
Niroj kept saying something in her native language which appeared as apologies but she was not excused, for this time it had caused sheer embarrassment to Mehak and her family.
Niroj was sent back. Although she did not want to leave.
The bureau agent was too rebuked for his carelessness of sending someone who had absolutely no etiquette.
Later that night, Mehak couldn’t help but wonder about what all happened. A thought crossed her mind and made her realise how tribal people still have the hungry eyes. Niroj had never seen kitchen full of scrumptious dishes. Probably never would even have heard the name of a few of them.
Niroji’s eyes and her haste to gobble the food down represented every poor that had slept hungry. Every individual who salivate with the aroma of food but cannot ever touch it. Niroj was representing millions of hungry women who come to the cities to fill their empty stomachs.
Beautifully written. I hope she forgave Niroj
Even if they never encounter each other again, a thought to empathize with poor and be cautious of treating them fairly is a great step towards humanity.