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Just Another Rainy Day… But How Different It Was For Me And My Domestic Help!

While talking to her, Sia realised Meena looked a little worried, she could read her face easily. “All okay with you? Any problem you can always share with me? Did your husband say anything or it is something else?”

It had been raining all day and Sia had taken a leave from work. Her husband was busy reading the newspaper while her kids were playing on the terrace. Rain almost has a magnetic pull for children; there is nothing better than playing in the rain and jumping in puddles. She saw her kids run on the terrace, make paper boats and feel the splashes on their legs.

She always loved the monsoons; it was her favourite season of the year. It evoked a sense of nostalgia and brought back so many memories. There is something about the rains that pushes us into nostalgia and makes us think of all that we love. We yearn for the times that have gone by-our childhood, our love and the remembrance of the muddy streets we played in.

The fragrance of the rains calmed her senses and the sound of the falling rain was like music to her ears! She couldn’t stop herself from going out to the terrace and getting drenched. Monsoon brings along with it an unmistakable earthy perfume which mesmerizes you. It is a feast for the eyes to see the greenery around; every tree is far more glorious and greener than it was before, symbolising life and giving us a promise of growth.

As the droplets of rain touched her body, she could feel all her stress, exhaustion and cares getting washed away. She reminisced about her childhood, her mother making adrak wali chai and hot pakodas. She remembered dancing with her friends in the rains, making paper boats, seeing them sail away in the dirty water logged streets and the raincoat that was rarely removed from her bag. Children never care about getting wet hair or spoiling their clothes, all they know is that they have to savour the moment.

Rains also evoke one more important and primal emotion, the emotion of love! She looked at her husband and called him out asking him to join her on the terrace. Her husband replied, “You know I don’t like getting wet! You enjoy with the kids. I don’t like the rains and the mess. I’d rather stay in the house. I’ll keep the towels ready for you when you are done.”

We’ve all heard opposites attract haven’t we? Then they get married and do opposite things! She looked at him with longing eyes and craved for his company! Seemed like the rains made him a little more attractive. She decided to join him inside; she didn’t know what was stronger, the craving for him or the craving for hot pakoda’s and chai. “Pakodas first” she thought in her mind and giggled. Food before love! And fries before guys!

She had a quick warm bath and joined her husband in the living room. Netflix and chai didn’t sound bad either.

The croaking of frogs and cicadas could be heard from afar. She could hear the sounds of her children’s laughter, the thunder of the grey clouds, the pitter-patter of raindrops falling on her window and the deep sound of the wind crashing against her windows.

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“Reading a book in solitude doesn’t sound bad either. Maybe pakodas and romance both can wait,” She thought.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the door-bell. She rushed to open the door and was greeted by her house help Meena,  Sorry didi aaj late ho gaya, it’s raining very heavily outside.” (Sorry today I got a little late.)

She was totally drenched; we all know umbrellas rarely work in the torrential rains of Mumbai! Might as well get wet and enjoy the showers.

Sia had asked Meena to keep a set of clothing at her house during the rains so that she could change on days like these. It’s a very sensible thing to do. Sia herself had a set of clothes in her office locker, commuting in trains and wading through knee deep waters to reach office is something most Mumbaikars are well familiar with. It’s like a yearly ritual; we all know what to expect and we are prepared for it in our own ways.

Meena freshened up and changed into a new saree. Sia asked her, “It is so difficult to manage a saree in the rains, why don’t you just wear a dress? You’ll be more comfortable.”

Meena replied, “I love wearing a dress didi but humare ghar pe nahin chalta. People in our chawl will start speaking about me and my husband doesn’t like it either. It is okay ab toh aadat ho gayi hai!” (I love wearing a dress but it is not okay at my house. People in our vicinity will start talking about me also my husband doesn’t like it. It’s okay, now I am habituated to it.)

Sia decided to leave that conversation; she knew it wouldn’t go anywhere as she had been trying to convince her for so many years.

Meena told her, “Didi I’ll make tea for everyone and bhajiyas too. Everyone will like eating it, you go and relax in the living room.”

Sia decided to stay in the kitchen and help her. She quite enjoyed Meena’s company and loved talking to her. They were around the same age. Meena was bubbly and full of life; she was married at a very young age and had a teenage son.

While talking to her, Sia realised Meena looked a little worried, she could read her face easily. “All okay with you? Any problem you can always share with me? Did your husband say anything or it is something else?”

Meena used to share every little thing with Sia, she replied, “Actually I needed some money, if you could help me?”

“Of course I will Meena! Have I ever said a no to you for anything? You can have as much as you want, don’t worry but atleast tell me what is wrong?”

“This is the worst season of the year! I hate it so much!” Meena said

Sia looked at her surprisingly. Who doesn’t like the rains? The entire day she had been revelling in the beauty of the showers!

Meena continued, ”I haven’t slept the whole night, none of us and that’s not even the worst part. My house was filled with knee length water. The mattress, the utensils and our belongings are all wet and wasted now! I’ll never be able to use that mattress again, I’ll have to buy a new one now and you know money is a big problem for us. Every rupee counts, I don’t ever have major issues because you always help me didi but I don’t like asking you for money again and again.”

“It rained so heavily last night, we tried to salvage as much as we could but it was not possible! There was water coming from the toilet and there were faeces mixed with the rain water! Imagine our plight, where do we go and what do we do? When the water started receding in the morning the whole house was like a garbage area. My husband and son are still cleaning it!”

“The electricity was cut off and we were waist deep in water. The drinking water that I had filled in my matka also got wasted, we were so busy saving the valuables that we forgot to lift the matka and keep it on higher ground. We had no water to drink all night! The roof was leaking the whole night.”

“Today after I finish my work with you, I’ll go and buy plastic sheets with the money you give me and put them on top of my roof, then when the monsoon is over, Ill remove them.”

“Every monsoon my house inevitably sinks, we live in a low lying area so there is nothing we can do about it! Rent is so high nowadays; I barely make enough for my son’s education! How will I ever be able to afford a better house? And even if I do, it will probably be in a similar place, who knows water might fill there too! There is nothing I can do about it other than pray for this season to end fast!”

Sia was silent; she didn’t know what to say. She realised how privileged they were to have a roof over their head and food on their table. While her kids were busy making paper boats and dancing in the rains, Meena’s son was cleaning his house.

While she enjoyed the bliss and serenity that the monsoons gave her, Meena struggled with basic necessities that were taken away from her due to the rains.

Sia was dreaming about chai and pakodas while Meena dreamed about a good night’s sleep, drinking water and a dry house!

How unfair is life and how inequitable!! Inspite of everything Meena was at work at her regular time and was chatting away with her while frying pakoda’s.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Meena’s word’s, “Didi kya sochne lage aap? Tension mat lena please! Hum ko toh aadat hai yeh sab ki! Teen mahine ki toh baat hai, aise hi udd jayenge!”

(What are you thinking? Please don’t get tensed as we are used to this! It is just a matter of three months; they’ll fly before we know it!)

Author’s Note: While this is a story I have penned, it is a reality for most Mumbaikars. My house help faces this situation ever year! Not just my house help, even the people who live in buildings on the ground floor. Every monsoon they have to buy new furniture and redo their homes. There is filthy water overflowing from the toilet and the drain water from outside the home also fills inside. Plastic sheets are a saving grace for them so that their tin roofs can be covered. Inspite of all this they work hard and show up with a smile! Life goes on with all the difficulties!

The city of Mumbai has a love-hate relationship with rains! People are in love with the rains as they are in love with the perfect boyfriend who mesmerizes you in the beginning but eventually turns irrational and scary! Floods, water logged roads and potholes are a yearly phenomenon that Mumbai is used to.

We still get up, travel in crowded trains, wade through dirty waters and plead the auto rickshaw guys to drop us to work. No matter what the situation, we always show up and get going! That’s the relentless and undying spirit of Mumbai!

Monsoons are my favourite time of the year! My soul is drenched with peace and happiness! My mind reminisces and my heart dance’s with joy but I realise it is not the same for everyone around me. I try to do my bit and I hope each one of you does the same as well!

Please take a moment to ask your house-help, your watchman or your staff if they are doing okay and if there is anything you could do to help them. We live in an unequal world! The least we can do is try tipping the scales and hope for a better world!

Image source: Triloks from Getty Image Signature Free for Canva Pro

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