The news is that I have chanced upon a fantastic maalish wali (though she says she has been frequenting our block for the past fifteen years!), who is now a regular to my household. Fantastic because she is a rare combination of soft hands, breezy smile and a voice that seems to be coming out of the wilderness (though the voice part has nothing to do with her proficiency), She comes between 3 and 5.00 in the afternoon for my mother, does a half to one hour job, and has a fixed rate (hourly) so there is no khich-khich over payment; besides she doesn’t mind doing other odd jobs too like washing the utensils and cleaning the house in case the house maid has taken a day’s off or played truant. She comes in the morning and walks back home late into the night. Her jhuggi is around one and half to two kilometers further away from our block.
I see her only on the weekends. While her soft hands play music on my overstrained muscles (most of the times I doze off), Premwati confides her woes in me. She hails from a remote village in Satna district, Madhya Pradesh. It takes two and a half days and innumerable switch-overs from train to bus to tempo to reach there. She has one cow, who if fed sufficiently, gives two litre of milk a day; two buffaloes are used for harvesting; and an unmanageable calf which she had to ultimately sell off. While her eldest son, who doesn’t keep good health, tills the land, her younger son is good for nothing and stays mostly with his wealthy in-laws. Her youngest son is studying. Her brother-in-law (her husband’s younger brother) is the Sarpanch and therefore better off than her husband. The sister-in-law, though younger in age, is a big bully.
Premwati’s aim in life is to build three pucca floors for her three sons so that there is no squabble over property once she departs to the other world. She has built one already for her eldest son. Rest two remains to be built. Her only lament is that she does not get enough time to meet all the demands in the block. Sometimes she runs short of time and has to say ‘no’ to many which pains her.
Bits and pieces of drab, dreary, mundane information signifying nothing in particular to urbanites but put together present an insightful earthly portrayal of rustic lifestyle, thoughts and aspirations. Down-to-earth, basic and universal!
I admire her dedication. Her proficiency. Her single minded focus on what she wants in life. Her hard work and patience. Her honesty, her soothing presence and smiling efficiency. An illiterate woman hailing from a remote village of Satna toils day and night so that she can provide permanent shelter to her children.
Admirable!!! Who says one needs a string of big fat degrees from elite institutes to be labeled a “pro”?