Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Missing my main lady

I can almost imagine what it must be like for a farmer to watch his parched lands broken into cracks by the unflinchingly harsh sun. Through the months of March till the beginning of June, the sun is relentless. It the worst time of the year to get to know me. I am usually listless, nasty and downright moody. More than permissible levels. and I drink... through the summer... anything liquid... water, chilled buttermilk, cold coffee, and lots of beer. its the only way i can keep sane.

This summer has been different from the last few in a lot of ways. To begin with, it almost reduces me to tears every time I remember that Renuka, my faithful cook for the last 5 years has left me. She had to relocate to her native place to take better care of her alcoholic husband who put the entire burden of earning on her. She has almost 10 people to care for including her husband, 2 children from his deceased first wife and two of her own. the princely sum she was earning in the city working as a cook in as many as 4 houses was proving to be too less because of sky rocketing rents and costs of urban living. She had no option but to go back to the village where she has property and can therefore live rent free. She hugged me and said if she can come back she would first come to me. But her sobs were reserved for Sage. She wept into his fur, holding his head and kissing him. Renuka was irritated when we brought home a dog. within a few weeks, she was inseperable. Calling him her Sona baba, she would cuddle Sage and feed him morsels from her breakfast. Even giving him fruit and allowing him to rob potatoes from the vegetable stand. She would become a wall between him and me when I was annoyed with Sage and wanted to punish him. She made his jowar rotis and hand fed him on the days I left home for work really early. 

Most importantly, for the control freak that I am, it was a tough decision to give up the kitchen and its daily shenanigans to someone else. In a years time, Renuka would be the only one who sometimes knew how much rice we needed for the month! I relaxed a bit and gave over the daily running of the kitchen to her. She would keep track of groceries, vegetables and even stopped asking me what to cook each day. once a week the fridge would be cleaned and bottles washed and dried. In short, she sort of made her place indispensable. the only thing that remained status quo was her cooking. She made excellent rotis, and dal, idlies and podi and araichavitta sambhar and baghara rice... everything else was a hit or miss. some days i would grin and bear. some days smilingly tell her that the food was terrible. but her smiling demeanour and genuine love when she said "madam garam garam paratha kha lo" or "khana ready hai, please kha kar jayiye" was enough for me. And she was regular. No french leave for her. She would plan a twice a year week long trip to bombay to her sister's house and let me know well in advance. i would be annoyed, but by the time she was back, i would want to hug her!

In short, Renuka was too good to be true. the only thing that saddened me was her personal life. With a good for nothing husband, and sons who showed all signs of going the same route, she was the main earning member of a 10 person household which included daughter's in law and grandkids at the ripe age of 40. but she would always be hopeful of the future being good once her sons were done with college and started earning. So when she told me she was unsure of returning, or even if she did, it would be atleast 4 months, I could not say or do anything but to wish her well. tell her to forget about the dues she owed me and thank her for her love and food. 

When she sobbed into a bewildered Sage's fur, her only question was who will make his roti and feed him now?

I struggled for a month. With a long staying guest and amma being here, the mornings at home are once again stressful and chaotic. Amma tries to help. making sage's rotis, chipping in to help with cooking lunch or dinner. But I am impatient, and fastidious and want things done a certain way at a certain pace. So i prefer to do things myself. by 10 a.m i am crankier than the most terrible summer...

My maid stepped in and asked to do the cooking for the extra pay. I was more than happy because she is an excellent cook! We are still grappling with the timings and her getting overwhelmed at times with all the washing and swabbing in addition to the cooking.

I am missing the value Renuka added to my life... and I know that it was just not the cooking... it was everything else she brought with it..

1 comment:

Sri Nagalakshmi Karumuri said...

When i read this post on wednesday, little did i know that i will end up in a similar place in 48 hrs...my main lady has left me too..and i am left with sobs and silent prayers for her replacement.