REVELATION OF HALF TRUTH
(Manohar Naidu, Virginia, USA)
It was yet another transfer. It was expected having spent stipulated period at a tenure place of posting. This was with a icing on a cake. To my home town Nagpur with promotion. Though Nagpur was not a new place, but three decades of gap and new locality, new office environment was a big change. The most urgent task was getting servant maid in the locality.
But to my surprise, the very next day of shifting to new apartment, I found my wife Chitra talking to a woman. She was Kantabai our new maid. Tall, about 45 years of age, neatly dressed,spoke clear Hindi with Marathi accent. During conversation, it was revealed to my wife that she is already working in 5 houses and stays nearby juni basti – a walking distance away. On questioning about her family she told that her husband is mason, skilled in polishing the floor tiles with his own machine. But now he is sick for last couple of months. She had two older daughters and one youngest son. All studying. This was her brief bi-data. She was employed.
Kantabai proved good in her assigned tasks besides being punctual and clean without taking leave or requesting for advance. Chitra became quite intimate with her and she was given additional work of cooking. Chitra was particular in giving blouse piece and saree on occasion on festival. She had also promised to visit her house in near future and attend her daughter’s marriage whenever it takes place. Kantabai was also responsive to Chitra’s needs beyond routine work.
In couple of years I retired from service and settled in Nagpur. My only son had gone to US for higher studies and subsequently got employed in IT multinational company to his satisfaction. Chitra was feeling too lonely and intense desire to meet her only son and looked for suitable match for him. In the meanwhile we got our VISA to US and left India for six months.
When back home, we inquired about Kantabai, our immediate requirement. We were told that she is not seen around after the death of her husband recently. Chitra was shocked. Kantabai had very closely associated with house chores for years We decided to visit her house to convey our condolence. The very next day we visited Kantabai’s house in locality with wall to wall old dwellings. We were wel -comed with greeted hands by young girl in her first room. Room was well maintained with clean cushions on wooden three piece sofa .Walls were distempered with pleasing shade. Kitchen shelf was visible with shining utensils placed neatly.
We expressed our sorrow. She wiped her moist eyes and got composed. We assured her all the help in near future, if need be. She introduced her daughters Lata and Suman and son Suresh, all were studying. She had quit working. We returned with heavy heart pondering over her fate and enroute bought vegetables for home.
Years passed. Our visits to US became often along with Chitra’s anxiety of son’s marriage. One fine morning we saw Kantabai at our door greeting us with folded hands. She appeared fresh and rejuvenated than years back we saw her. Chitra was happy to see her and ushered her in drawing room sofa, putting her arms on the visitor’s shoulder. Kantabai opened her bag and took out one envelop gave it to my wife with folded hand and said “ My eldest daughter Anjali”s marriage invitation. You had promised to attend.”
Chitra took the invitation in her hand so graciously remembered and given. But with her sharp memory she shot back, looking deep into her eyes “Kanta, if I remember correctly your eldest daughter’s name is Lata and second is Suman. But who is Anjali ?”
Kantabai gave a impish smile. With a pause she said. “That was HALF TRUTH, I had lied when I came to work in your household years back just to grab the job urgently needed. In fact I have two more older daughters. I was afraid that I may not be employed if I say I have five children”. She sipped water from glass kept on side table. I looked amazed towards Chitra.
Kantabai continued. “The truth is, I was married at a very early age of sixteen years to a man 12 years older than me . He was my elder sister’s husband. She died with one month infant baby girl and another two year infant girl. .My sister whom I loved like a mother, took a promise, that I shall look after two kids during her dying hours with clasping hand in my hand. Things were comfortable for twenty five years. Then he became bed ridden due to paralysis. All children toiled hard while working part time with nursing homes, taking tutions and taking advantage of free education in college, attended libraries and took guidance from all possible sources. All are graduates now. Eldest one Anjali and the next Meera are in government jobs. Youngest just cleared his engineering degree. Lata and Suman have passed bank exams and awaiting appointment letters.”
She paused again. “ Anjali and Meera still do not know that I am her aunt.”
We praised the struggle and sacrifices made by her. Gifted a blouse piece and Rs 101/- as a token of good luck .She knelt down , touched our feet and left. I kept my right arm on Chitra’s shoulder while looking at Kantabai who had surprised us with THE REVELATION OF HALF TRUTH walking away.
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