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She tells me about the money she has saved for medical emergencies that might crop up, and to keep her salary on hold. She has also prepared her 13-year old boy, taught him to cook, just in case.
My friends here know I love cha! I have my first cup at 5.30 am with my favourite songs and prayers playing in the background, and my second cup, at 7.30 am, is always with Nomi, my friend, my domestic help.
Duto biskoot, duto pauruti (Two biscuits or two slices of bread) is always ready for her and at times a bun, and we have a chat about our ‘shukh-dukkho’.
She talks about the happenings around. The price of veggies. The disturbance in her locality. Her husband’s refusal to take a vaccine. The party politics in her village.
Her husband is much older than her and she is constantly worried about him. What if she brings the virus home? How will it affect them?
She informs me about the money she has saved for the medical emergencies that might crop up. And tells me to keep her salary on hold. “Thakur na korun. Tomader kachey Jeno haath na partey hoy.” (God forbid. I hope I don’t have to beg for money), she says.
I also come to know how she has prepared her 13-year old boy. She has taught him to make rice, mashed potatoes and dal. She has bought Maggi, chirey, muri and chanachur. The boy can now light the stove and prepare a meal. And then she laughs it off. “At times I call home and tell him that I will be late. But I reach on time and watch him try to cook a meal.”
Today, she comes and tells me about the woman who was the security guard’s wife in another complex and how that woman hasn’t been seen in the last two weeks. Today morning, the Corporation vehicle took away her body wrapped in a black polythene. She also tells me about other cases.
I share my virtual experiences of loss and grief among those I know.
“If that is how it is with you, do we stand a chance at all, boudi?” She asks me.
I try to put up a brave front.
It’s first of May tomorrow. I tell her to go on leave and stop stepping out. She shouldn’t be risking her life anymore.
I see a hint of sadness. “I look forward to this cup of tea. It’s not just a cup of cha. But a cup of hope and warmth,” she says.
When she leaves, I tell her that we will be in touch.
“We will meet… we have to live, boudi,” she repeats. And she is gone, but not before I see her wiping her eyes with the pallu.
On another note, she works at four households. While three of us have relieved her of her duties from tomorrow, the fourth has threatened to cut off her wages or throw her out if she doesn’t report tomorrow.
My friends were right. We don’t learn our lessons. And even if we say we have…we unlearn it fast.
Image source: a still from the short film Juice
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Sreemati Sen Karmakar holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She
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