I have already talked about my struggles to get back to work and all my false starts before I finally got to this point. I have been working for exactly 1 year and 2 months now. And there is one single reason for this - my trustworthy maid/nanny/helper/mentee..the girl who wears many, many hats - Asha.
I have briefly mentioned her in one of my posts before. Asha came to me at a time when I had already quit 2 jobs because I couldn't get my son into a daycare without him crying as if his heart would break. I had all but given up hopes of ever holding down a job for more than 3 months and was at my wits' end. Then, one day, one of the other cleaners in my apartment brought her.
When she came, she could'nt speak Tamil or Hindi, leave alone English and I could'nt speak Kannada. 'She'll learn..she already understands a lil bit', her aunt marketed to me. Kuttan was not yet 2. 'Let me give her a try', I told her aunt. 'If I dont like her after a week, she'll have to go.' It was agreed that she'd come to my house at 8 in the morning and leave at 6 in the evening and will take care of kuttan and also help me in cleaning the house.
Within a week, I was ready to kick her out. 'She is dumb!!' , I seethed to the husband. She doesnt understand anything I tell her. And kuttan would'nt even allow her to come near him. Bathing, cleaning, feeding , even playing, I needed to be there for everything. What's the point in having her and giving her money for no reason, I asked my husband.
Then, on the last day of her first week, I got an interview call. In the afternoon. I can't go, I decided. Then she told me, 'Akka, you go. I'll play with him.' I decided to give her one last chance and went. I called every five minutes and made sure he was ok. I had left my number with 4 different people in the same apartment so that they could call me in case of an emergency. I came back tearing from an interview to a job I did not get....to find my son playing with great joy and having the time of his life with all other kids in the apartment..and his akka.
From then, Asha has improved great leaps and bounds. From not knowing how to speak a single word in Tamil, she can now fluently communicate and teach kuttan a thing or two in the language. From not knowing how to speak into a telephone, she now carries her own mobile. She has become a great favorite among the children in apartment. She has become an expert in our way of cooking food. From Sambhar to the elusive molgoottal to kuttan's favorite pulav and hubby's favorite bonda, she has mastered it all.
She has slowly risen in status in our household from being a mere help to a nanny to a cook and finally, housekeeper. She has been living with us full time now for over 6 months. She has taken the fact that kuttan is smaller and thinner than the other kids as a personal affront and has spared no efforts in fattening him up, sometimes to the extent that even I get chided for not trying hard enough to feed him.
Everytime she left for her hometown she has driven me up the wall with worry that she will not turn up. Too many times, she has proved my worries to be grounded in fact by not showing up for a day or two. I have screamed and raged at her at different times for not doing things right. She has irritated hubby and me no end by staying back to watch the Friday night movie with us, a ritual for the two of us where no one, not even our parents, are allowed to intrude on. But we took it all in our stride. It seemed a small price to pay in return for the amazing care she gave kuttan. The fact that kuttan, on many days, seeked her out for comfort when I scolded him was proof of the love between the two.
And yesterday, after all the battles and struggles and the triumphs, Asha handed me her notice. 'I am leaving akka', she announced. She is going home, to get married. Hubby, who had already been informed by her earlier in the day, and Asha together did their best to cheer me up. 'We'll manage', hubby told me bracingly. 'Imagine, no more friday night intrusions. Kuttan can finally get used to that lovely school and daycare which moms in our apartment have been oohing and aahing over for a while. And, the best part, no more Monday morning madness waiting for Asha to arrive!!'
Yes, I told him perkily. We'll manage just fine. 16 months back, kuttan could'nt even talk. Now the situation is totally different and daycare is right for him, I agreed. Everything will work out just fine.
And then, in the night, when everyone around me had fallen asleep, I shed silent tears into my pillow. I was not just crying because kuttan will have to let go of a way of life. The age of innocence where he stays home and runs behind Asha is over. Now he will stay outside the home all day and come home with us in the evening...all grown up like. He will talk about his day and we will have no part in it. He will be in surroundings which will, with time, grow familiar to him, but ones which I will have no idea about. The people at the daycare centre told me they teach kids to feed themselves. But all I can see is the countless times Asha runs behind him, plate in hand, coaxing him to eat 'one more vaai'. He will go and sit with the other children and hold his spoon and eat. And somehow, the image makes my heart break.
Yes. I know that a daycare is better for him and I know that it will help him in a lot of ways. And I definitely know that babies who are less than half of kuttan's age do go to daycare centres. But I guess I just need to cling on to that one moment, a moment which slips by all too quickly, before he passes from babydom to boyhood.
Goodbye Asha...You were very much loved and wanted. And you will be sorely missed.