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It was raining heavily and Rekha was trying to keep water out of her hutment. She had put all the pots and pans at the leaks yet the entire thatched roof was dripping.He new born daughter was in the middle,lying in a second hand pram which her Madam had given her,so she was temporarily safe.
He son of four years had gone out to be in the line for the tanker.
She pulled the pram in one hand and a broken umbrella in the other to reach where the tanker had to arrive. There was a mad rush and rage amongst the people. For it was already eight in the morning and the supply had not arrived.
All hell broke loose and the lines vanished when it did arrive. It was now survival of the fittest. It became impossible for Rekha with her baby in tow. She quickly gave the pram to her son and picked up the two buckets to get some water for her house.
But alas,she was late. More than half of the water had spilled and mixed with the muddy rain water due to the width of the pipe. Some more got spilled as people picked up their buckets and walked through the slush towards their hutments. Some of them even fell in between and failed to save the precious water.
Rekha trudged back wearily with her children who were by now drenched to the core.
She did not know what will she feed them now as there were no leftovers.The government promise of free water meant no water in the taps.
Not being able to think of anything else,Rekha started to boil the rain water on her stove.
She cleaned her children and herself and made a stew hurriedly.
She packed them up and started walking swifly towards the posh colony of Nirvana.
Her Madam would be waiting as she had to leave for her work by ten. Her Madam was very nice and affectionate to her. She would let her bring her kids and give them toys so that they could play in the garage while she worked. Rekha could also cook food for them and for herself.
Madam would come back by six thirty and let Rekha take away food for her dinner as well.
At no cost would Rekha shirk her work. For she knew that her Madam would have to suffer.
She just wished for a small concrete roof on her head so that she could take care of her children better.
Her husband had absconded long back for another woman. But today when she rang the bell,Madam did not open the door. A man about fifty asked her who she was. Then said that as her Madam was travelling,she should come tomorrow for the work.
Rekha felt dejected as this meant that her children would have to forgo food today. Madam also had to pay her some advance today.
She asked that man that had her Madam left some money for her.
In answer to this,he threw a five hundred note at her.
Rekha felt something fishy. "Who was this man? And Madam would never leave so suddenly without informing her".
She tried calling Madam's number but there was no response.
Apprehensive she went back to her hutment. But she could not forget Madam's face or that man's.
She thought that she will go again in the evening to check.
This time again the same man opened the door and started shouting at her. He refused to answer her queries.
Her feeling grew that something was wrong and her heart beat faster. Upon enquiring from the guard,she came to know that he was her ex husband. And the guard was also worried because he had not seen Madam go anywhere. Her car was still in her garage and none of the guards had seen her stepping out of the house.
Rekha sat down under a tree,unable to decide what to do next.S
Sheasked the guard to help but he refused point blank. Not to leave the matter as it is,she went and complained to the RWA. When they knocked on the door,the man said that Madam was travelling and would be back in a day. He said he was her brother who was visiting.
But Rekha did not believe him for the guard had told her that he was her ex-husband.
It was late at night so she went back and tried to salvage what was left of her hutment. She also had to fend for her children as food would be a problem today. She went to her neighbor,Sushila Aunty and requested her for some rice and dal.
Sushila Aunty was a large hearted woman and would help anyone in need. And vice versa,the entire area would help her with her chores,be it to buy vegetables or grocery or massage her feet when her gout would act up. Today also she did not fail Rekha. Infact she invited her and her children for dinner,knowing fully well the state of her house.
Sushila Aunty had a concrete house so she offered that Rekha could stay there for a day or so.
The dinner conversation went on to Madam as Rekha was very worried. Sushila Aunty knew how highly Rekha thought about her Madam. She decided to come with Rekha the next day. And they also agreed that they will round up the other maids and go collectively. Today a lady she knew as Madam's friend, opened the door. Behind her, she could her Madam,but in a wheelchair. She immediately went and hugged her,barging her with questions.
Madam had a big scar on her face and her leg was fractured. She could barely talk,let alone smile. But her eyes conveyed a sense of relief on seeing Rekha. The guard came inside and said"Thank you" to Rekha. He narrated the turn of events. It was only because of Rekha's enquiries that that man had got vigilant. He was planning to hold Madam captive till she willed the house to him. But,when Rekha had got the RWA,he left in a hurry. Madam then somehow had managed to call her friend. And,today Madam told Rekha,"From now you will stay with me. I will get a lawyer and will this house to you and your children." Rekha had only dreamed of a concrete hutment and here,the turn of events overwhelmed her. She told Madam,"What will I do of such a big house? You make it a center to help others. I will be happy with a room in a corner and I will look after you all your life." Why cannot we be clear of our needs? Why do we want to grab everything? After all,we need only the length and breadth of our physical body.
To sleep or to be buried.