Tuesday 10 August 2021

Bijoyini Maya, ShortStory 2021 Longlist

If Loki Came Disguised as Maid…

It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.
-Fyodor Dostoevsky-

Banu was a maid in Rourkela, a steel township in India. She had landed in Mrs. Braganza’s house by her wheel of fortune turning in the right direction. Here, she satiated her tummy with ghee (clarified butter) and rice every day and enjoyed the air conditioner. Basically, she was more than happy to leave her shelter near a coalmine along with a family full of responsibilities.

Mrs. Braganza was a teacher by profession and had thought twice about child labour laws before concluding that both can help each other with their skills. She had no clue of Banu’s disposition or age. In Indian villages it is common to forget one’s year of birth. Unlike metropolitan cities, nobody checks Aadhar identity proof while appointing maids in middle class towns.

A fourteen-year-old Banu began to be pampered by the teacher as a ten-year-old girl. The latter took pride in having given protection to a girl child in need. Banu’s eyes began to glisten with her first success in motives. Mrs. Braganza had only one child, her daughter Rudrani. This moody artist was Banu’s obstacle in achieving her goals.

Rudrani lived in Mumbai and tried to make ends meet. The few days she came home it was becoming terrible for Banu to fulfil her wicked wishes. A constant vigil allowed Banu no access to the teacher’s phone, her innumerable boyfriends, cosmetics, and all other comforts that she had begun to assume is her bequest in the house. Mrs. Braganza lived with her sisters who needed Banu’s daily help more than herself. They saw the exploitation and chose to be blind.

Mrs. Braganza would come back from work and holler at Banu for all the unfinished work. Banu would then sit for an hour with a puppy dog face, act sissy before sitting with a plateful of rice, fish, pulses, ghee, and vegetables to eat. The disruption in this routine occurred when Rudrani visited home. She would inform her mother of the little mischievous things Banu did during the day, which did not allow the latter to get back to normalcy. Banu had chalked out her work schedule the first day she arrived at the teacher’s place.

She came to eat, sleep, and get a taste of men. The best way to achieve that was to go to the market so slowly that the teacher finishes most of the household work (a workaholic by nature), answer every call of Mrs. Braganza’s sisters and complain how she could not finish any work because they kept her occupied. She was successful in all her endeavours. There would be rifts between Mrs. Braganza and her sisters. Only Banu’s negative aura remained close to the teacher alienating an educated woman from logic and the world.

Banu laughed at all those who thought it is unfortunate to be uneducated. When Rudrani tried to tell her mother of this evil spark inside Banu, her mother rebuked the former for being distrustful of a little girl (the age deception is all where it began). Unaware of movies like Omen 1, 2, or 3, Mrs. Braganza was blissful. Banu took her first leap of faith. A brand new pair of slippers vanished the next time she went home. Rudrani was not kind about things lost and misplaced. For a week fake search mission was launched and Banu began to blame the sweeper for stealing. A new sweeper was hired. Banu’s word was oracle for Mrs. Braganza, and her two sisters by then. After two weeks she smirked at Rudrani, “I told you they trust me more than you.”

By then Banu’s sister had started using the expensive stolen pair of slippers at home. The teacher had given Banu a basic Nokia phone. When unknown numbers began calling at odd times, Banu had to surrender the phone. Within twenty-four hours of surrendering, the phone went missing. Exhausted Rudrani, after her spring exhibition, sensed devilish vibes during her meditation at home. She told her mother to check Banu’s things where the phone was found. Prior to Mrs. Braganza bringing up this matter, the next morning Banu left with one of her lovers while the teacher was still sleeping.

Mrs. Braganza worried about a little red riding Banu lost in the dark woods, ran to the police station for help. She had checked with her neighbourhood grocer, vegetable seller, and tea-stall owner before that. As in any part of India, the police blamed Banu because she is a girl. This incident shook the environs and silenced dogs for few days. Next day Banu’s mother brought her Aadhar card to police station for verification. For the first time the teacher laid her eyes on any such government document of Banu.

Her eyes could not move beyond the DOB section. Recently Banu had gone home to get her Aadhar card updated. It took the teacher few seconds to calculate Banu had turned 21 that summer. She sat down on the chair with a plonk sound, while Banu’s mother told the police how people in the village teased her daughter and called Banu a dwarf. Her rambling continued about their jealousy as soon as Banu came to live with Mrs. Braganza.

Quietly, the teacher went back home and narrated the incident to Rudrani over phone. Later in the midnight, officials called to tell the teacher that Banu had reached home safe. Banu’s mother thought to herself, “That lady has always forgiven my daughter and needs company in that massive house.” She called Mrs. Braganza. The teacher uttered what she never imagined herself capable of stating, “I was about to call you. Take all Banu’s things as soon as you can. I do not want to see her face or the police station; unpleasant sights” and hung up.

Have you ever hired a maid and treated them as your own child? Did you feel guilty later for treating her/him like one rather than maintaining professional distance? Society will judge you based on their age, and newspapers will love to sell articles on child labour without any practical experience of child’s psychology or physical toil of privileged child labours. TRP hangs on words like “depression of a teenager maid,” “minor’s plight in modern India,” “torturous negligent employees,” but human reality is Amazon rainforest wildfire (hushed and fatal). No TRP (only fear), no news (suppression of building fear), no gossip (horizons of right and wrong meeting). One burning question to every unawakened mind — Who is to be blamed?

1 comment:

  1. It is bhuni who worked like this in my friend's house. Realistic..