I spent a lot of my childhood hanging out with my maternal grandma. She used to take me around town and some places in my home town, Pune have come to be associated with her. I lost her when I was 8 and most of her memories are now hazy but certain places always remind me of her. One such place is the ‘mandai’ or farmer’s market where my parents get their weekly stock of veggies and fruits from. I used to go there with grandma. Nowadays I accompany my dad once in a while when I visit home. Its a Sunday morning tradition. I love the colors and bustle of the place..even though it isn’t really the cleanest of places. The vendors have been there for years. And so have the customers. They know each other..share laughs and bicker over prices and even know each others’ life stories.
This is Anjari. She is my maid’s niece helping me for the last month or so till my regular one is visiting her native village.
She is younger than me. Has a 10 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Both her kids stay with their grandparents somewhere in rural India. She lives with her husband in the big city in a tiny one room dwelling and works in various apartments and houses doing household work. She rings my doorbell every single day at 6.05 am. Including weekends. She leaves exactly at 7 am. The house is spotless after she leaves. She does tasks that are not on the pre-decided list. She scolds me for leaving things around unattended and folds away my clothes. She hates that I don’t do my bed after waking up and sneakily fixes it if I am not in the room. She gives me cooking tips while we drink tea. She thinks I’m beyond stupid to live alone. She wakes up at 4 am, cooks, cleans and leaves for work. Walking. I am her first job of the day. I live 4 kms from her little house. It has been 1-2 degrees Celsius in the mornings with winds of 30 kmph for the past 2 weeks. Its dark till past 7.00 am. The water is beyond chilly and she washes dishes. She hasn’t complained once about it. She likes her tea scalding hot and makes a face at me if it cools down before she arrives. She works till 8 pm, goes home and cooks for her husband and washes clothes. She sleeps at 11pm. She and her husband have managed to buy a little bit of land in her village and they have built a permanent house with 2 rooms for her in-laws and kids. Maybe in a couple of years, they can buy more and start a bit of farming. She hopes to see her kids in December this year. It was 2 years ago that she met them.
When I asked her if it was okay if I took her photo, her face broke into a happy smile. She removed her shawl, smoothed her hair and said she will stand in front of the light so that the photo would come out right. There wasn’t daylight yet. But couldn’t stay still and smile without bursting into laughter.
…clear blue skies…
..and my favorite city…
..it leaves little time for anything else.
Found this quote in my diary last night, written some 5 odd years ago. Sometimes I miss the girl I was..
It’s 7 years since I left my real home.. since the first job which included running to the opening shift at 5.30 in the wee hours of the day.. since my first day of graduate classes ..of being on my own after never having left the safety of home for 23 years.. I have moved a bunch of times since then. I don’t know if I ever want to go back to Philly..but I will always love this dear old dirty city.
Do you have a place other than home that you think of as home?
I hated Philly for my first two months there. It was too drab..too dirty and it wasn’t home. But as everything, that changed.. I relaxed ..we got acquainted with each other..became friends and then, it became my home town.
Surprisingly in my mind, Philly is my home town. The city I grew up in will always be home. A place where I want to return to and grow old and grey. But it is like mom..who spoils you..covers your mistakes and hugs you when you throw a tantrum. Philly to me, is like dad..who scolds you, disciplines you and prods you to grow up. It was the place where I experienced the elation of a first paycheck. The first time I walked in a bank and opened an account on my own name..a place where I saw a friend mugged for $10 and his bloody face.. where I learnt that being alone and being lonely are two very different ideas..where I fell in love…where I grew up from a spoilt brat of a girl to a woman.