Those of you who have followed me for some time must have noticed that lately, my posts are less and farther between than ever in the past. It’s not that I am out of juice…just out of energy. My househelp had to leave suddenly and I haven’t found a replacement.
I am not sure how many of you can truly understand the place of househelp in an Indian household. Losing one is akin to losing a hand and both legs.
If her husband is ill, an Indian woman will be concerned. If you tell her that her maid is unwell, she will be hysterical. She will cry her eyes out and blame her husband for all her misery while washing utensils in the kitchen or kneeding the dough, as if he’s the only one who eats. And while washing clothes, she will pray for her sons (even six-months old…or rather, especially six-months old) to grow up quickly and get married so that there will be someone to help in washing their clothes. If it is a daughter, she will try to help, keep getting in the way and falling over the spilled detergent, increasing the size of laundry. Then, the woman will wish that she would grow up and stop helping.
A house without househelp is a complete chaos. Mountain of utensils keeps toppling over. The mop gathers dust and clothes gather in piles all over the house–piles of washed clothes, piles of dirty clothes, piles of clothes okay to be worn again and so on. The family winds its way around these hillocks, trying to find space enough to place their feet.
Visitors are returned from the door on the pretext of COVID to avoid potential embarrassment due to the lack of space to sit, since all chairs are covered with clothes of varied level of privacy. Husbands might have to sleep in a sitting posture if the clothes on the bed are not dealt with, until a replacement is found.
With my househelp gone for a month, I am now looking for a spot big enough to sit so that we can sleep. If not, one of the hillocks will do…
I had long wondered why my family had the tradition of eating peanuts on long winter nights while sitting on the bed, preferably, inside the quilt. It is certainly warm but considering that peanut shells and their inner pink foils tend to stick to the quilt cover until washed, and makes them look dirty and forces us to wash them more frequently, it seemed like a lot of work for a little bit of warmth.
Hence, I tried to break out of the age-old tradition and eat peanuts at a table yesterday. I began to break open the shells using my fingers. That’s when it happened…
As soon as I would turn my head to talk to my daughter, who talks non-stop, peanuts would jump out of my fingers, land on floor and dive for cover. I would look around, meaning to find the lost bounty, to wash and eat it anyway. But to no avail…
The peanuts would just vanish in thin air. Frustrated at defeat and adamant on finding them anyhow, I moved the furniture and everything within three feet radius, even sweeped the floor using a broom so that, at least, we won’t step on them. But somehow, they managed to avoid me.
That’s when I realised why we eat them on the bed and inside a quilt–to trap them…
That’s what I am doing tomorrow too–I will wash the quilt covers later!
Maybe they had been a little rash
and stopped a little too late.
Do we throw away people with driving accidents?
A bad choice of date,
an indulgence in drugs with shared needles
at an age when life seems too short
to go slow and think twice,
a blood transfusion,
a used needle,
isn’t it all an accident too?
AIDS patients are victims,
Before you judge,
remember, you could be one too…
As a lot of you would know, today is World AIDS day. It is unfortunate how we have to create a day to spread awareness about a disease.
Out of all diseases, AIDS is the most unfortunate because of the stigma associated with it. A COVID patient, at least, recieves government aid, society’s sympathy and family’s emotional support but an AIDS patient, at least in India, is thrown out of the house for being infidile and bringing shame to family–as if those not infected have not been doing exactly the same things. AIDS patients are simply unfortunate to have received the disease that someone else had either hidden or carried unknowingly.
Shabana Azmi was India’s first actress to openly support the cause and come on television and say in a public service ad, “Chhoone se AIDS nahi failta.” (Touching doesnot spread AIDS.) That someone had to say that out loud on national television in an ad that was repeated everyday speaks volumes about how AIDS patients were treated then. Unfortunately, they are still treated the same way.
Virginity before marriage is the first demand for social acceptance in India. AIDS shatters that mirage. If an average Indian meets an AIDS patient, they jump to conclusions regarding their character without accepting that it could have been a mistake, true love, or simply blood transfusion or infected needle.
When Phir Milenge, a movie on AIDS with big starcast, was relesed in India in 2004, it only recieved critical acclaim, not box office success. People were afraid to be seen outside the movie hall that showed such a movie.
Even with laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a person with AIDS, it is sad how AIDS patients are still treated the same way. It doesn’t just kill them, it kills their wish to live.
Let’s remember, we are all humans who err. Let’s be humane…