A Drop Of Tear
A Drop Of Tear5 mins 9.7K 5 mins 9.7K
Elliot’s beach at the posh Besant Nagar in Chennai was overcrowded. Apart from normal beach-goers, thousands of devotees who were attending a festival at the nearby church had also come there to get some respite from the Chennai‘s sultry weather. Moonlight and cool sea breeze probably were soothing everyone’s mind, except mine. I was feeling very small inside me, for that day’s incident.
I found a small place to sit and tried to adjust to the annoying crowd. I was mentally exhausted. My house help was absent the day before. And I was afraid that she might not come the next day also. We have become so dependent on them that we all feel without them our life will come to a standstill position and I remain worried everyday till she enters my home. I feel a sense of assurance and a breath of satisfaction comes out, unknowingly, when she arrives. Really! How much my physical and emotional wellbeing depend on her?!
My help, Laxmi, 27, is a slim dark ever-smiling beautiful lady. A neatly worn saree pallu tucked around her waist and beautifully pleated long hair touching her bums. Occasionally, jasmine or kankamvaram flower garland adorning her hair completes her look. I am so used to her that every time she asks for a leave, I agree reluctantly. When she remains absent without intimation, my worst side comes out. I end up scolding her in her absence, cribbing about her basic education, low income and social background etc. I get some respite when I share this with my friends in the evening gatherings. I console myself that I am not alone. In the evening walk , the topic takes center stage among my peer group. At least mine is better than Mrs Rai’s and Nandini’s. Their helps take more leaves than Laxmi.
The day before Laxmi was on leave. Yesterday, when she did not turn up till the last minute. I scolded her inside me as I did my household chores. How could she do like this? How can I manage two days without her? Let her come today. I was fuming inside. “TING-TONG”, the doorbell rang. While walking to the door, I kept some hurtful words in Tamil in mind. Laxmi was standing there unlike other days not having trade mark smile on her face. Her dark speaking eyes were swollen like snails. She did not look at me. I noticed her unkempt clothes and hair. Once I saw her, I forgot all those hurtful words I had planned to tell her. My anger just disappeared. Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and the question papers are not set. Laxmi was doing her work like a machine. I was observing her silently. I was sure, there is storm hidden behind her silence. Gathering some courage, I asked her, “Why didn’t you come yesterday- what happened?” She looked into my eyes. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. Gathering herself, and wiping her tears at the end of her saree pallu she said, “I left my mentally retarded daughter in an orphanage, Akka. She cannot do anything herself. I bathe her, feed her and put her to sleep and wake her up. She cannot speak, but understands my touch and communicates with me through her looks.”
“You have a son too?’’
“Yes, Akka,” she said. “A few days back, there was a fire at our home. I had come to work and the boy had gone to play. A neighbour saved my daughter. I am planning to send my son to a residential school next month. When I come for work, who will take care of her? If I had some money or some jwellery to pledge and get a loan, I would not have had to leave her at the orphanage. I could have opened a petty shop or started a small shop to earn my living at the same time taking care of her. But, I have to go to others’ houses to work, it is not possible to carry her around- from house to house. So, I decided to leave her at the orphanage, at least, she will remain alive there. I can see her whenever I want.” Laxmi’s voice was choking. “She will get food, clothes and medical care, which I’m unable to provide regularly. I’m an unfortunate mother, unable to stay with my kids.” She wiped her tears.
“Laxmi, did you leave your daughter just because she is a girl?’’, I asked her hesitantly.
“No, Akka. She is my favourite child. After my husband’s untimely death, my in-laws wanted me to abandon her. But, I left their house near Madurai and came here in search of a job. I left her only because I love her. I am dying to see her, to hold her. Yesterday, I didn’t get up from the bed. I cried the whole day, didn’t take a morsel of food. I don’t know how I’m going to live without her.’’
Laxmi had gone long back. I was sitting still dipped in guilt. How mean I was? No grief will be more than Laxmi’s. An organ has been separated from the body. How badly her motherhood would have been hurt? It would have been howling silently. She would have cursed her poverty, her helplessness. Even I was feeling helpless myself- I did not have the money to provide some sort of support at this time of utter need. I was cursing my lower middle class background.
Unknowingly, a drop of tear fell on my palm. With that I was rediscovering myself. My motherhood and humanity were applauding me- unlike my so called friends who think I am over sensitive.