Friday, February 4, 2011

She stands sideways, facing the wall, waiting for the door to be opened. She’d have wanted a more handsome face, not to mention that of a man, to open the door, instead of the bespectacled scowling woman that opens it. She swings sideways from her pose, leaving that romantic thought with her new shoes outside the door.

She swings the leather handbag down her arm and puts it gently, deliciously on the stool near the kitchen. Then, she starts washing the dishes in the sink. Oh, but those large eyes, though not beautiful, and that face ,though not attractive, are holding the glance of the dirty utensil, furtively. She’s used to this. This waste, and this feeling of longing she has for a life like they have in the movies, which she watches ever so often on her broken and protesting TV set, given to her by her employers. These employers of hers are benevolent people. The lady of the house realized a long time back that his is no ordinary domestic help she was hiring. Her name was bengali for poetry. Forget about whether there was any poetry that sprung up in her father’s mind when he named her so. With this romanticized daze of hers, she would sometimes stand in the verandah, lost in thought and with time coming to a standstill, perhaps embodying in herself the true meaning of her name for once. Ah, those thoughts. How she gets lost in them. She imagines she is that woman at the verandah, standing and watching helplessly, as her husband (now her favourite hero Uttam Kumar) leaves the building. There’s perhaps a tear that trickled down the corner of his eye. Or so she caught a glimpse of, before he turns away, leaving her weeping helplessly. He’s going to war and so they must separate. “Kobita!”, yells her employer, shaking her out of her dream. She gets back to the dusting. She gets back to being the household help, who often pretends she does not exist and isn’t party to the conversations that happen between the husband and wife whom she works for. She, in fact, caught this young couple fondling each other once, if only for a brief second. It was when she was dusting their room and wiping their wedding photo in a frame she wanted to possess too. She had a photo of herself and her husband, clicked in a studio when he was still alive and she looked much happier, with vermillion gracing the parting of her hair. She wasn’t jealous, no. She did not even curse her fate for taking her husband away on the impossible pretext of a fall into a mine while he was at work. She just took a look back at what she was like and then, almost mechanically, put the frame back in its place and went on to attend to the other chores.

As she leaves, she swings the handbag back on, draping her sari back perfectly. She cleans her hands with a soap her daughter gifted her, which smells like fruit she never tasted, and steps into her shoes, back to a life that wasn’t meant to be the way it is. But in her head, it’s almost always perfect.