Today is a HOLI-day! Dual celebrations raise a toast to colour and femininity.  As I take in the zillion wishes via SMS from people who I don’t even know exist on my phone book, I am left wondering, how much more commercial this can get? Cards, Contests, Diamonds, Dinners, Dates, Holidays, Shopping, Sales……….Interrupting my chain of thoughts, my husband walks in and says, “Am I supposed to be wishing you ‘Happy Woman’s Day? I just wished you Happy Valentine’s Day some time back.” I shrug my shoulders and am back to wearing my thinking cap. If I were to single out one woman to pay obeisance to, who would it be? Mother, sister and daughter have their own day dedicated by Archies, so will leave them out of this. The answer is, hold your breath, my maid!

Every since Sunanda walked into my life 5 years ago and salvaged me from the nervous wreck that I was, I have been eternally grateful. At 5 feet, she is quite the epitome of efficiency. She has left the tap open and almost enacted the parting of the Red Sea at my humble home, while we were left to salvage post the mighty flood. She managed to double lock the house for safety,  and left the cat in the window for additional security. Fortunately, I was home early. She leaves the water boiling on the gas and voila, it boils and then falls all over, and no we still haven’t burned down the house yet. She has a keen sense of mixing my whites with bright colours for added effect. The outcome can only be described as the end of the rainbow. She cleans the exhaust fan in the bathroom with the jet spray, and almost switched it on to dry it off before I shrieked in horror. She, of course, thought I’d lost my marbles. Fans are meant to dry, aren’t they? In short, Sunanda keeps me on my toes.

She can’t quite understand what I do on a computer for better part of my day. In chaste Marathi she quips,“You have such a big TV and yet, the whole time you sit in front of this piddly little screen doing khit phit khit pit all the time.” Me trying to explain to her that I am a writer is met with an incredulous look as she says, “You don’t even go to office like the other madam. Do you even make any money? If you are doing this just as a hobby, you should try sewing, at least you can stitch your own clothes.” In exasperation, I give up as she hands me my morning cup of coffee. And, we get along yet another day.

Sunanda may seem like any other ordinary face in the crowd, but her strength amazes me. She has two school going kids of her own. Yet, she has taken it upon herself to raise her sister’s 3 kids, post her death. Her sister was burned by her husband for dowry. Sunanda could not save her sister, but she fought in the panchayat against him, took custody of his kids, got the house on their name, and put him behind bars. So much for being a frail, uneducated woman! She keeps telling me all the time that she wants the best for all her 5 kids, and hence will work as hard as possible to ensure they lack nothing. And, as I bring up one child in the comfort of my home, I feel humbled. Her only brother is intellectually challenged and hence the onus of her mother and him comes on her family too. Fortunately for Sunanda, her mother–in-law has been her pillar of strength. She looks after the kids, while she and her husband try to earn a living to support 10 members overall- a herculean task in a city like Bombay. And I am left to thinking, a broad outlook is not the prerogative of the upper class.

Sunanda never comes with any negativity to my home. She is always smiling and giggles when my daughter, who she dotes on, tries to speak in Marathi. Every time I‘ve wanted to throw in the towel or just felt I have too much on my plate, I look at her smiling face and I am given strength. My angel of hope and faith, she has the keys to my house and I never lock my cupboards. She chides me on keeping my valuables in the open saying, that if a robber breaks in, she will gladly lead him to the treasures. I tell her she can make a cup of tea for him too, if she likes. She shakes her head, not knowing what to do with me. Both of us thrive on our morning squabbles. No matter what, we both know we love this.

Just as I am ending this note, I decide to put in her picture and show it to her. “Arre Deva, how did you get me in there? You have started black magic also?” I tried explaining the concept of a Digital camera, and a USB cable. All she could retort was, “See, it is black.” I laugh and tell her that she is going to be famous. She hands me my coffee and says,“I’ll believe you if I get a call from Big Boss.Salman Khan, are you listening?

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