Suchitra is her name!!! I came to know about her from a Calcutta based agency who dealt with household help. I was at the threshold of welcoming our first child into this world and was at a loss of how to manage the logistics of resuming my job after my maternity leave. Mine is a nuclear family with parents flying in every other weekend but living their life in different cities. Hence, if I were to fulfill my dream of continuing my career inspite of a kid, I needed to find someone who could assure me that my baby was in safe hands. After a fruitless search for around 3-4 months, I was left with little choice. Hence I resorted to this agency assuming it to have some level of reliability and authenticity.
I negotiated terms and conditions with the agency and subsequently she arrived by train to my place – to a city which she had never before seen or heard of, to someone’s house she never knew or bothered to authenticate. She was around fourty though the face looked younger. She had a warm smile on her face which showed the weariness of the 38 long journey hours. There she stood at my door hugging her small bag and waiting to be shown in. I got to know later that she barely ate anything during the journey partly because she was apprehensive of what lay ahead of her and partly because she was afraid of spending off the 150 rupees given to her by the agency for travel expenses which was the only money she had. I quickly ushered her in and settled her.
The days later went by rather in a daze. I was blessed with a baby boy and my maternity leave neared to an end. “Didi” (is what I called Suchitra since that is what is used commonly in Bengali to refer to someone older) seemed to be fully ready to take up the responsibility of looking after my little one whilst I was away at work. As the days passed by, my trust in her grew more and more. She looked after my son with the care and attention of a mother. She sat through the nights with me when my son was unwell with inexplicable pains or fever. She shared my joys when my son took those very first steps in life and when he uttered those first words that are a mom’s delight. She was there to comfort and cradle my son when he felt agonized at being away from me. She used her instinct and called me at work at the first bouts of diarrhea my son experienced so that I could immediately take him to the doctor before it became serious. She sat outside my son’s school during his pre-school days when he couldn’t bear to be alone and I was unable to take leave for extended times. She shared the happy times in our lives – working hard when there were guests to entertain and the not so happy times by keeping mum and disappearing in the shadows. She planned well ahead in time to cater to my son’s demand for ‘sabudana khichdi’ by soaking the ‘sabudana’ hours before. She was always around to sneak a bowl of my son’s favourite “bhindi” at the dinning table when I was cajoling him to eat the “paalak sabzi” that was cooked. She never demanded a raise but was always grateful for the raises and bonuses she received. When she went to her village for a vacation, she cut short her trips because she couldn’t bear to be away from my son. She played hide and seeks with my son when he wanted to play, slept with him when he was scared, gave him a hug when he needed one and showered him with praises at his smallest achievements.
One day, I contrasted myself with her.
I was lured to quit my previous employer for the “Infosys” fame and the promotion that I got. Every project that I delivered to the customer’s expectations, I expected a pat from my delivery manager. I went through exhaustive trainings to help me plan my work, learn the Infosys processes, align myself with my customer and meet my unit objectives. Anything I did above expectations, I was quickly given accolades for my achievements. I had my team and my seniors to help me cover up for the mistakes I make in my work. I didn’t think twice before I fired printouts of materials that I could manage with soft copies. I expect a salary hike every single year that goes by and expect a promotion every other year. I need project parties to build team spirit and recognition for slogging away to glory.
That was the day I was humbled with Didi’s perseverance, efficiency, loyalty, meticulousness and love! I don’t understand the motivation and inner strength that keeps her going…maybe the day I understand; I will be a better human being.