Anvita always believed
in dressing well. Her saree would always be prim and proper, neatly
pleated and pined against the blouse. She had 3 sarees which she
would wear to work and each of them had a matching blouse which
fit her perfectly. A simple gold chain ordained her neck and she
wore golden loops in her ears. Even with the meager income and having
a large family to fed, she would always ensure that she had a bath
with soap, wore a clean saree and looked tidy. She tried instilling
this sense of cleanliness amongst her three kids but given the broken
down house amidst the slum area where they lived and the vicinity
it was very difficult to teach them the tenants of tidiness.
They were never always this poor. She did study when she was young
and her father wanted her to study more and earn for herself but
things changed one fine day. Her father a railway guard died in
a train accident. The whole family was shattered. The pension was
meager and the mouths to feed were many. Anvita took it on her to
earn for them, she would do odd jobs, try teaching some school kids
and give whatever she could earn to her mother and her 4 brothers
and sisters. To ease the burden, her mother did what most families
in that situation would. She got Anvita married off to the village
boy who had a job in the city. Things happened in a flurry since.
The marriage, the dowry paid by her mother, the pleadings, bickering
followed. Anvita knew that her escape lay in this disastrous marriage,
she would go to the city, start a life and earn for herself.
The dream shattered
very soon. On reaching the city she faced reality which appeared
much severe than the village. The husband had lost his job a year
back, he was living off some savings, the house was a rat hole-
a one room behind the Kanpur station. There was hardly electricity
ever, water had to be drawn and got everyday and the neighbours
were noisy and jobless. Her husband sat at home the whole day and
told her categorically that she needed to earn for them. This seemed
ages ago now. She had toiled everyday, took up maid’ jobs in the
quarters nearby, she did some stitching in her spare time and sometimes
taught in the night school.
Her family had now
grown, she had managed to save up some money and they now lived
in a cleaner two room premises. Her children went to school. Over
time her husband started working for 10 odd days in month as a labourer
and earned some money. Their lives were much better comparatively.
She felt the happiest
pinning her saree and going to work at Mrs. Tewari’s house. She
was so nice, she always asked about her, gave her to eat and always
encouraged her. She would keep her money with her and save up for
the future. It was one such day when Anvita had just entered Mrs.Tewari’s
house. I will be back soon said Mrs Tewari and left the house. Anvita
was in the kitchen and decided to finish the fries before shutting
the door. Ji madame she said and continued with her task at hand.
Glancing up she saw the apron hung in the kitchen wall. The oil
was still simmering and she wandered towards the apron.
She had always seen
Mrs. Tewari wearing this while in the kitchen and curiously Anvita
took it out and put it round her neck. Useful thing she thought,
now no oil stains on her neatly starched saree as she continued
frying the potatoes. Hello is anyone there.. hello…….. came a voice.
Anvita quickly ran out to see a young lady at the door. She opened
the door ajar and started talking. Anivita started blurting that
madame was out but this young lady was so excited, she started saying
oh my what a beautiful house you have Mrs. Tewari, its so beautiful,
I hope I did not disturb you, I am Alpana.
She plonked on the
sofa and smiled at Anvita saying that she and her family have just
moved on the first floor and she has just come to meet the neighbors.
Anvita again opened her mouth to clarify but Alpana started her
story of her move, her family, the locality urging Anvita to join
her. Anivita tried several times to interrupt her but gave up after
a while. She sat down on the leather sofa, smiled back inquired
about her, told her about her family and her neighborhood.
The afternoon went
by and as Anvita lay in her bed at night. She wondered and smiled.
She actually lived a different identity this afternoon and for the
brief twenty minutes she forgot who she was, she forgot the tiredness,
the problems and she was Mrs. Tewari at the railway quarters in
Kanpur. It felt amazing to be able to converse with someone and
not worry about a thing. Maybe she will never have this in life
and maybe she will always be Anvita, the maid but for this brief
time she lived the mistaken identity. If it was not for her circumstances
she could be there, she could be her but she won’t , she can’t.
She had come to terms with her reality ages ago but this one time
in this make believe world made her feel very alive. The unlikely
moment became possible at least once.. Maybe she would live her
life on the surreal hope which the mistaken identity gave her…
A fun loving whimsical person who is very passionate about
writing and learning new things. Apart from “practicing law” I also
love to travel, indulge in culinary delights and dance. In my endless
effort to learn new things, I am currently struggling with salsa,
meringue and swimming!