~ SELVI ~
” Selvi ! How long are you taking? What the hell are you doing anyways? ” screamed Radha from downstairs.
” Right in a minute lady ! “, Selvi cried out. Taking her sari pallu she wiped her forehead. Swish swooshing the floor clean and carried the bucket downstairs to be met by a glaring pair of eyes.
Selvi lowered her gaze immediately. 6 years she has been working for this house and she still can’t seem to muster the courage to face her landlady.
” Are you even aware of who these people are? They are gonna be here any moment and look at you. Drudging around like an old lass. Buck up now and get yourself moving ! I want the place spick and span in the next half hour “.
Saying this, Radha walked away in a stern manner, her head in the air.
Selvi buckled up her pace and started hurrying to get things done.Who would want to listen to this female’s disgracing speech again. No matter how high you go in life, the rich will behave like poorly bred adults, she muttered more to herself.
A momentary flash ensued and she remembered how her kids yearned for Pongal.
Probably if I do well, get in her good books, maybe she will provide me well. What with this being Pongal and the festival spirit lingering in the air. With that, her thoughts continued on a trail, and the next hour went on in her chores that she could forget everything about her misgivings.
Life has been hard on her but still she woke up everyday to a shining sun and a bright blue sky thanking her stars for the blessings she received in the form of her kids. 2 kids and a drunkard for a husband she had an indomitable spirit always remaining upbeat and cheery even when things were going downhill. Her strong willed personality acted as an iron pillar supporting the family.
Soon her work was done and she took leave from her mistress. Just then she was summoned inside.
Radha counted out the money and handed it over to Selvi, her monthly salary.
” And by the way, tomorrow being Pongal and everything, I wanted to give you this “. Saying so, Radha handed over a bag containing old clothes. ” Sara hardly wears these, and maybe you can put them to some use”.
With a light-hearted smile Selvi spoke. ” Amma. I wish to tell you this. I being your maid doesn’t mean I don’t have my dignity. And while the rich lavish in new things, why should we be denied the pleasure of wearing new clothes? “, she asked indignantly. ” I feel touched by your gesture ma. I really am. But it’s a festival and my kids deserve better than somebody’s worn clothes which has been discarded because they had outgrown it or they don’t match with the latest trends. I don’t question your intentions but your attitude hurts me”, she spoke, a huge lump in her throat obstructing her voice.
” Beggars cannot be choosers”, came the harsh reply, the steel in Radha’s voice unmistakable.
” Just to clarify Mam, I am not what you call , ‘ a beggar ‘. I earn my money fair and square. And I definitely don’t need somebody’s used items. Now, if you will excuse me. I have better things awaiting me back home”, and with that Selvi turned her back to an astonished Radha.
Off she walked, away from that place, her head in the air and the roads ahead blurred in her blinding vision.
– Pavithraa Swaminathan
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