Mama says finding the perfect maid is tougher than finding the perfect mate. And she would certainly know what she’s talking about as she’s had a battery of maushis and didis for us since we were born.
First we had a Maharashtrian maushi at Pune who’d been (you’d never believe it) a construction worker. She was a sturdy fifty something lady. We were pretty tiny then but we’d tire her out completely as she’d be changing nappies constantly. She was quite alright, except that her afternoon siesta was sacrosanct. No matter what happened come 1 pm and you’d find her dozing off, tucked away behind the sofa or out on the balcony.
Then there was Surekha the Surly. When we first met her we thought she never smiled but she turned out to be fun. She used to come to massage and bathe us. Her wrestling matches with N during the massage were quite legendary. Despite the tiny mite that N was at a few weeks, she’d kick and push and make her sweat it out. Surekha was quite in awe of her prowess and used to say that when she grew up she’d be the kind who’d bash up the guys and come home.. What say N?? How did U like that?
I don’t even want to begin to think about Surekha. God… bhai do U remember how she would give us a bath? I positively HATED it when she doused us with those incessant mugs of water. I certainly made sure she knew how much I disliked it. How she made me howl! Now of course I love bathing… but that’s a story for another day.
Bhai U remember Ram Dulari?
RD as she was called by all of us, was, I think, the most hilarious of them all. She was this fair, plump, youngish woman straight out of the village. She’d roll in at 10 in the morning and by 10.30 her rug would be spread out and she would be in the midst of deep slumber… snores and all. Mama would go berserk yelling out to her. But what would really drive mama up the wall was RD’s assumption that each time we cried it meant we were hungry. So one wail and she’d come up in her typical sing song accent and her native dialect ‘bhukhane hain, aghane nahin’ (they are hungry, they aren't sated yet)… and that would be like a red flag to a bull for mama no matter how much masi tried to cool her. By 5 each evening she’d lumber out yawning and scratching herself. Oh yes she’d scratch herself all the time. She’d say it was mosquito bites. She also blamed the poor mosquitoes for her endless snoozing. She said they’d keep her up all night.What irked nani most about her was when she nuzzled either one of us. I can’t forget her incessant telling offs to RD. As for masi, each time RD made an entry she’d only hum that silly song ‘O meri ram dulari tere nain katari’.
Her life seemed to be pretty eventful and something was always happening with her. She had a husband who was a rickshaw puller and who drank and gambled. One day she appeared with this huge black eye courtesy a fight at home. She was always asking nani for something - it might be something small like guvavas or lemons from the trees in our garden to something as big as a place to live in the compound.
Then one day she appeared saying her son in the village had fractured a hand and left. We can't say we were sorry to see her go. Later, while on our next visit to Lucknow, we spotted her sometimes. She had the same smile on her face lumbering around in her elephant gait.
When she left mama was paranoid about how she’d manage but like Bua nani says, whatever happens, happens for the best and so in came Sunita didi. Bhai you were her favourite, isn’t it?
H: Um well… since you were so tough to handle I was automatically the favourite. But you've got to admit she was really efficient. Where RD's clothes were all over the place, you'd always find Sunita didi impeccably dressed. She was really polite and so very responsible. While RD had to be reminded a thousand times to check for wet nappies Sunita didi was constantly there nappy in hand ready for a change. Mama tried to persuade her to come to Bombay with us but her mother didn't let her.