The other day my maid began the day doing all the jobs that were pending for a long time. She had one look at the large brass lamps placed on my corner table in the sitting room, grabbed them with a vengeance in one hand, picked up other brass curios from the table opposite and promptly applied soaked tamarind and scrubbed them with all her might and made all my brass collection fit to be displayed at a shop window. Then she picked up the duster, literally thrashed all the doors and windows as though she would an errant child, swept the floor with an extra effort even as she gave me a glance from the corner of her eye as proof of her sincerity towards her mistress.
Why don’t you have coffee first before you can carry on with your chores, I said.
No amma, the coffee can wait, she said condescendingly and continued her spring cleaning.
I knew what I was in for and chose to disappear from the scene.
Amma, will you be going out? She said following me.
Why do you ask? I said.
Just like that. You know tomorrow is my grand son’s first birthday and I would like to gift him with a small gold ring, for which I need atleast 10,000 rs.
Why do you need that much for a ring? I said shocked.
Not just the ring, I have to buy a dress for him also, she said.
But why do you want to buy a ring for a boy?I can understand if it is a girl, I tried to reason.
No, amma, my daughter’s inlaws would expect me to giftatleast a small piece of gold irrespective of the gender of the child, she explained. ‘Just this once, please give me an advance of rs.10,000, you can cut from my salary every month’ she pleaded.
Her ‘request’ reminded me of the times when I first moved to the city. There was this milk man who would bring his buffalo to milk our day’s requirement and every second day would request for an advance to buy it’s fodder saying ‘just this once’ which we could not refuse. After a time the advance money would exceed the amount we paid for our monthly supply of milk like deficit budget.
Later it was our driver who would perpetually ‘demand’ an advance to meet his wife’s habit of compulsive shopping using the refrain.
At the end of it all, I learnt ‘just this once’ had ceased to make sense!