Sunday, July 06, 2008

Everyone's children are the same.

A bengali woman started working as part time help in my house recently. She is as bad as they come, dishonest, unreliable, lazy, incompetent and I wonder why we have her at all. The last time I told her that it was not working out she almost fell at my feet and she really does seem very needy so the story goes on. Anyway, four days ago she got her 3 months old daughter along to our house. Her husband had hit the child so she could not bear to leave her alone with him.

I peered at the dark, malnourished kid. She seemed reasonably clean but very weak. I made her lie down in the drawing room under the fan on a small padded mattress that Ruhi uses for her dolls, carefully covering it with a plastic sheet and a piece of cloth. She lay there happily gurgling while her mother went about her chores. No one except me and the other girl who helps me run my house, came near the child.

Before leaving, the woman left Ruhi's small mattress in her room and put the cloth away for washing. Nothing of great consequence till I realised that my mother in law was greatly upset with what had happened. That I had made 'that' kid lie on Ruhi's toy mattress.

I have a pact of silence to all things disagreeable within my rather volatile joint family. So I quietly went about collecting my things to leave for our weekend getaway. When she became particularly nasty, I softly told her " sabke bachche ek jaise hote hain" (everyone's children are the same). She did not say anything to that.

Half way through our road trip, I got a call from my father in law. He is nearly ninety, and always graceful. He sounded livid with me. He said his wife had told him that I let an infected, dying child lie down on my daughter's mattress. I asked him how he had arrived at that conclusion. He said the diagnosis was based on my mother in law noticing from farthest way that the child's limbs were rather thin compared to her head and body !!!

But she had not even as much come near the poor child. How did she know it was a fatal, infectious disease ? Unless the disease was called abject poverty. She had also noticed that the child's leg had touched the carpet on which she sits down to read namaaz everyday. Everything had been soiled it seems. And I am the freak who allows pariahs into my house, on to my carpet, on to my children's playthings.

I kept burning in an indignant fire till hours afterwards. I am not class conscious. I eat from the office peon's tiffin. I have inherited this from my mother who is beyond care for anything and anyone at all.

I always turn to my husband in such times to give vent to my feelings. He patiently explained that the issue was not class but hygiene related.

I know that's not true but I will be a coward and let it pass.


Diligent Candy said...

In my experience I have seen it is impossible to change mindsets.

I would advise (though you haven't asked but, I take the freedom of this being a public forum) do whatever saves your sanity and spirit.

Inexplicably said...

Thanks DC...

I wouldn't be writing if I knew the answers. I appreciate perspectives. Very few people come here and I appreciate it much when they leave me some wisdom.

Balvinder Singh said...

You have told us that your father-in-law is nearly ninety so your mother-in-law must be in her eighties. At that age the thinking gets more and more rigid. Since you possess a supple and flexible mind so let it go. And yes, you can express your anguish by continuing to help the poor and feeble and demonstrate that for you the humanity holds much higher a padestal than caste, creed, colour or culture.

AP said...

Love your writing so I keep coming back here. I have not seen too much of these "class" issues in India (at least where and when I grew up)... But I know with growing age, their minds grows more rigid. But I say you do whatever your heart and mind tells you. If it tells you that you should help that poor child... save that poor child from getting beaten up by her father... that do it! Let the in-laws vent their rigid ways to you... in one ear and out the other. But do help the poor little child as much as you can.


eve's lungs said...

Hugs :) You did the right thing . Older people get very set in their ways about most things so let it pass - graciously as you have done.

Mampi said...

You are not alone in feeling this way. But I would appreciate your being silent on all issues contentious, as well as the "cowardice" on the matter. I would say you did your bit and not all can do it. What mom-law said was after you had done the good deed, if it had stopped you from doing it, I would have expected you to put up a fight for justice, a mild one though. Her attitudes cannot be changed, but once your child comes to know of this, it will have a positive impact on her. I have seen it happening in my house.

I am a first time visitor here, will return for reading your other posts.

GettingThereNow said...

Hugs! You did the right thing - in providing the baby with a comfortable place to rest and in replying the way you did. It must be so stressful living with this kind of thinking - you either have to be on your toes about your actions, wondering what to do or what not to do, or have to continuously fend off attacks on your actions.

Hugs, again!

Preethi said...

if it was hygiene.. then the cloth was washed after all wasn't it? What if a friend/ relative brings a sick child to your house.. with cold or fever.. what happens then? People are so hung up on class they forget that we are all people after all!! Don't worry you did the right thing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gurpreet

What you go through must be hard, but its great to see that your compassion extends to the aging in-laws as much as it did to the baby. Have read some of your posts and admire the spirit and sensibility that comes across..