Tarabai came into my life in the year 1974, just before my son’s second birthday. I have watched her dedication to work all these years and if I have understood the real meaning of ‘Karmayogi’ then she is a perfect example of one. Day in and day out she carries out mundane household chores with dedication and perfection. Sometimes when she is relaxed she gets into a talkative mood and narrates incidents from her past, some pleasant and some not so pleasant.
Her grandfather, a farmer from a small village of Maharashtra, had come to Pune when he lost his small piece of land to a money lender and from an independent proud farmer; he became a servant in the house of a rich Parsi family.Tarawas a small baby then. She grew up there and went to school till she learnt to read and write but soon she too was required to work along with her mother. Her old employers were fond of her and treated her kindly. Things changed when the eldest son got married and a new dominating daughter in law entered the family.Tarano longer received any special treatment; she was treated like any other servant in the house.
One morning, the daughter in law found her new wristwatch missing. Every servant in the house was questioned severely, includingTara, and each of them denied having seen the watch. The lady was livid, the watch had been given to her as a gift from her dear father. Ultimately a police complaint was lodged. The entire staff was lined up and questioned by the officers. They could not elicit any information from them. Two of the policemen took all of them to the police station and locked them up there till the next day. Tara, a sixteen year old young girl, sat there among the other servants, shivering and crying the entire night. The next day they were released with a strict warning and the group returned, sad and crest fallen.
After a week there was a call from a watch repairer saying that the band of the watch had been lengthened as desired by the lady of the house and asking why they had not collected it as yet. The loving husband had given the watch to the repairman when his wife had complained that it was a bit tight on her wrist. He had forgotten to mention it to her and indeed, had completely forgotten about it till the shop keeper rang up.
No apologies were offered to the servants, they were just informed that the watch was found. ‘How callous….How heartless,’ I thought. How easy it was for the rich to suspect the poor. Even today when she narrates this incident, I see the hurt and anger inTara’s eyes, her biggest sin being her poverty.
Just as Tara finished telling me the episode from her earlier years and I was still thinking about the injustice done to her and the scars that must have left on her, our dog Bonney snatched the dusting cloth from her hand and ran.Tararan after him shouting and cackling like a young girl. I watched her in amazement. Is there some special unique gift that God bestows on the poor that they do not dwell too long on the past hurts.