Unlike Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, who somehow remembered the day he met the man who was to become synonymous with loyalty and companionship, I cannot remember anything about how I met my Man Friday. Or to put it more accurately, the female avatar of Man Friday. For the life of me, I just cannot recall any details about the beginning of this relationship that was to become the strangest and yet one of the sweetest I have formed till date. All I do remember is that, after tapping all known resources and after numerous trips to dubious sounding service agencies in the dismal alleys of Chitto Park in Delhi, I had given up all hope of ever finding any help let alone a half decent one. It was while I was in throes of such depression that I found some succour in the form of a then 16 year old girl.
Was it some acquaintance who recommended her? Or was it one of the various maids I would randomly accost in Malibu Town, Gurgaon where I stayed ? All that I do remember is that with 3mongrels hounding me, 2of them being of the 4legged variety, I was desperate for an extra pair of hands. However, truth be told, realising that she was just 16 years of age, I was not too keen to take her. Not only was she too young, I somehow felt guilty as well to even consider hiring such a young person. But hire her I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
To begin with, I didn’t even get her name right for over 2months. With her twisted Bengali accent she told me that her name was “Joshana”. It was only much later that I realised that her name was not the odd sounding “Joshana” but the very common Indian name “Jyotsna”! With little experience on her hands, she clearly was no Mary Poppins. All that she had by way of recommendation was not any kitchen or household know-how but a disarmingly lovely smile and an extremely affable disposition. Be it early morning or a late night, the smile never left her face. And soon I realised, neither did the 2 dogs leave her side. Following her around faithfully as if she was some secret Pied Piper, they would sit in her lap, sleep next to her, sit in the kitchen or bed room…wherever she went, they followed suit. The love and adoration was mutual – I may be left waiting outside the door, but she’d care for these 2 dogs as if her life depended on their well being. And so it was with my son. Often I would find her willingly losing at all games so that the little guy was happy. He on his part never bought anything from the market unless it was in doubles- 1 for himself and 1 for “didi”. It was always 2 burgers from McDonalds or 2 Paddle Pops or 2 chocolates.
And so we trudged along, blundering our way through life, household, Gurgaon and then Chandigarh. Slowly and imperceptibly she became more than a domestic help. Yes she did learn to cook and be the de facto home maker but somewhere along the line she became more than that to me. Three years together and she knew when to cheer me up with a cup of tea and when to take everyone away and give me solitary time. From the days when I would take her shopping with me, she came around to holding my hand and guiding me while crossing a road. She became my advisor in deciding what sarees to wear and which lipstick to buy as also a companion in good times and a shoulder to cry on in bad times. A friend, a companion..call it what you will.
Today when she has gone on leave to attend her sister’s wedding, there is a gnawing vacuum in the house. I have just forgotten what it is like to live without her! Work is not the problem, her absence is. So me and my 3 little pups are counting days till my lady for all days and seasons comes back with her beatific smile and presence to cheer us all up !!