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My Laxmi bai


It is often considered a good practice (or best practice as they call it in industry parlance) in many cultures to invoke the almighty through his name. You see that more so in Hindu culture - you glorify the supreme by hailing the over thousand plus names of our gods and goddesses.

Inadvertently, I mutter and mumble 'Laxmi' the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity through most of my waking hours and sometimes (as I am told by the better half) in deep slumber. Unfortunately (or fortunately ), the divine namesake is my household maid of honour who has been a maiden for only the first twelve years of her life and has taken quite seriously her karmic duties of marriage and consequently reproduction.

She is a proud grandmother to more than a dozen children of her several children, each of whom have a day of the month at grandma's consuming at least one of her two paid leaves. The other is a routine 'recovery from fasting' holy day. The two offs following her pay day are inevitable.

Murphy's Law certainly needs no defiance. Bad hair days, sick children days, uninvited guests days and the gods are not in my favour. So much so that I now have an uncanny sense of intuition about her comings and goings. I have begun to guesstimate her absenteeism and secretly even decided to host guests on pay day! She wouldn't miss that for anything.

But like most relationships of our times, I share a like-hate bond with her. The angst and agony that builds up when she is absent slowly wears off when she appears the day after all ready to reveal a new perspective of life and its idiosyncrasies.

My largeness of heart is limited not just in full payment of her salary (with tips et al) but also in lending a patient ear to her many trials and tribulations. I gear up in advance (sparing extra time out of my schedule) for the day of her return after her long or not-so-long holidays.

I dare not ask her the reason of absence but she proactively fills me in. The rest of my family and even neighbours (in a similar boat or raft) marvel at my tolerance to hear out her justifications. 'Laxmi bai' (as we address her) has a new yarn to spin every time she dishonours my faith.

But a better sense of discretion prevails than to antagonise the rebellious 'Laxmibai'. I got a taste of her stoic courage when she was almost ready to wage war against me when I once threatened to expel her after a weeklong uninformed absence. Her jet black eyes (almost as beautiful as the famous queen herself) turned a fiery red and my precious china bore the brunt of her raging emotions. Tawny complexion, same physique and a similar temperament, I have often envisioned her sword in hand ready to wield.

A queer coincidence then that she claims her native as 'Jhansi'. Besides, her stories sometimes help me keep the everyday ennui of domestic life at bay. Affairs of her spouse's extended families are usually high on priority. A minor illness of every distant relative demands her immediate travel to a hamlet far away. Competing closely is children's health in immediate family. Probability of sickness goes higher as size of family goes larger. And then there are always the friends in need. Neighbour's pain is our gain. Like her valiant namesake she assumes social responsibility with equal importance. She is absconding today again. Bright orange markings on my calendar (based on a mutually agreed plan to trim her fat salary) indicate leaves for more than half this month. But I don't think I have the courage to risk displeasing 'Laxmi'. For better or for worse, in sickness or in health I seemed to have pledged RAM my faithfulness to her and she to me. True(ly) made of honour!

Reader's opinion (2)

Rajesh ThakkarOct 1st, 2012 at 13:53 PM

Its not the AIDS thats a dreaded disease in India,but it definitely is MAIDS>>.Well articulated post.Loved it...may be share with my wife too..

Saumiya BalasubramaniamOct 27th, 2012 at 08:22 AM

Thank you.Yes maids are surely topic of household discussions in our country.Disease though would be a dangerous terminology.

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