She buys the fish, she cuts the vegetables, she cooks the food, she waters the plant, she feeds the cats. She runs my house.
She is Minu, my maid.
A maid to me, and to seven other homes in the Colaba area.
Seven am to 12 pm, seven days a week, she toils.
She walks from building to building, to save some money -- so she can buy her son the fake ‘Being Human’ T-shirt he wants from Fashion Street.
Her troubles are unending -- all the usual Mumbai problems -- abusive husband, aggressive slumlords, absolute poverty.
But she stays cheerful.
I’m angry on the phone, one day, with the cable guy.
When I’m done shouting, and the smoke emanating from my nostrils has lessened, she says calmly from the kitchen, “Saab, kyun tension lete ho” This on a day when her own home has had a monsoon flood flow through it.
Yeah, that’s Minu the maid. Parental, but practical.
She comes to my house everyday at half past one, to make me lunch.
Yesterday she got delayed, but my phone rings -- it is her, weeping, asking if I can manage meals on my own, this one day. But the crying is relentless.
Her boy lies dying in a hospital -- his head badly injured.
It’s true that he, headstrong and fearless, was attempting a daredevil motorcycle stunt that went badly wrong.
But he lay on the side of the road, body broken, blood oozing out of his cranium, unattended.
In the new cruel Mumbai, no one stopped to help.
Passersby are nonchalant in their justification -- don’t want to get involved, right? Cops ask annoying questions, hospitals provide all sorts of bureaucratic hindrances.
So, a few crucial, delayed hours later, he’s wheeled into the ICU.
Sudhakar Tambe, the hospital ward boy, is ironical. He has seen it all over 40 years.
It was different during the time of the 1992 riots, the 1993 bomb blasts, he says, everyone helped each other. “Civilians brought their injured brothers to us. I don’t understand what the city has become. No one cares. I am used to every kind of injury, but not used to this kind of indifference.”
Minu’s son lay on that sidewalk for two hours. It’s true he could have been saved if the city had been kinder.
Why me, Minu asks. “I have difficulties, why give me tragedy as well?”
The spirituals have their explanations -- it is her karma, some hogwash about sins from her previous life, paying for them today.
Minu doesn’t have time to wait for a next life.
She just wants her son to wake up in this one.
While he lies lifeless in a Navy Nagar hospital.
In his blood splattered ‘Being Human’ T-shirt.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.