Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lost in the Concrete Desert

Part -3

By now I must admit that I have got used to exchanging pleasantries with whomever I bump into - be it in the lift, lobby, pool or gym. Earlier I used monosyllabic words while greeting people. It’s no more like that. According to the time of the day, I have to greet the fellow residents. Well, there is no harm in it, I like it.

Let me tell you what encounters I get into by doing the mundane chores living in Aman Plaza.
“Washing dirty linen in public”, wonder what? Well, it’s taking my laundry to the common laundry room at the top floor. That’s a very interesting place.

The first day I went there, is the day that made me think of how women of other nationalities think different and live different. “Hi, Good morning”, the lady who was loading her laundry into the washing machine said. “Hey, good morning”, I repeated. One look at me and , “Indian?” popped the question, I proudly nodded my head, by now I am thinking so high of being myself and an Indian at that, why, because of the admiring looks I get along with this question! Not that earlier I would think otherwise! “I haven’t seen you before, are you new?”, the inquisitive me had to ask.  “Ya, we moved in just a month ago, well, you will not have seen me because I am a working mother, and probably you might have seen my husband with my children”. At once my mind zigzagged its way from the 9th floor laundry room to the steps of Aman Plaza where this American perches to smoke his cigarette.

She casually tells me that she is working in the American Navy which is based here and her husband has taken voluntary retirement and is raising the children at home. She said since it was her day off, she wanted to give her husband a change. Hence was doing the laundry that day! I almost fell into the huge washing tub hearing her say this! A “house husband”, hadn’t heard anything like this before!

No wonder, I can find him on the steps of Aman Plaza smoking a cigarette, taking his older son to school, playing with a “doll-like” toddler in the car park, all with a smile on his face. This news was so juicy to me that I was waiting for husband to return home from work so that I could entertain him. When I broke this news to him very amusingly, to my shock, husband didn’t look a wee bit amused. Instead commented, “Why is this man wasting his life with what he is doing, I really cannot imagine how a man can be like this?!” “This is western way of life, my dear”, and added, “of course, men in India cannot digest this fact” or “Indian men are not used to doing such things”. Was I being sarcastic here or was I in awe of this American gentleman! I better keep quite.

Encounter two. In I go to the laundry room and what a sight greets me, white long legs bent over the washing tub, her brown panty goes for a public view! Aiyoo, Shantham… Paapam!!! When the figure straightens up, the T-shirt falls back into place covering her bottom. A smiling ‘Hi’ and she walks out as if nothing has happened! BEND IT LIKE BRIT! Then and there itself I coin this title for this ‘no inhibition’ white girl. COOL, na? I mean the name I coined, not the girl!!

It’s yet another day of doing the laundry. I am 20 minutes late. Hurrying through the passage and into the laundry room, I greet an American woman who has neatly folded and piled a set of clothes and you know what? They are mine! God, how could she do this? As I go near to pick up, she says, “I wanted to use the dryer and so have folded your clothes, don’t mind me touching your clothes?” “Don’t mind me touching your clothes”? Is she nuts! Pasting an instant smile, “Not at all, in fact you shouldn’t have done this. You could have kept the clothes on the table here”. She replied smilingly, “I couldn’t just leave it lying there”. “Thank you very much”. What a kind gesture? Or manners should I say? Would I have done the same thing? Well…?

Encounter of the fourth kind! This happened a few days back when I went up to get my clothes from the dryer. As I entered I saw a huge shapeless backside of a salwar kameez, the top portion having almost gone inside the washing machine! I waited for the full figure to come up, what I see is an Indian woman with long hair tied loosely, greeting me by saying ‘Hello madam’. Before I could open my mouth, she continued, “I put your clothes in this’, pointing to the dryer. I nodded and went to the other dryer to take out my clothes. Looking at me, she quizzed.  “Madras, madam?” “No, Bangalore” I replied. I now sensed that she was a maid. As if she heard what I was thinking, she said, “Working for flat no. 62. Too much dirty, madam, clothes every where, I come to wash only clothes, every where panty, madam”, showing me G-strings of various colors, beige, pink, black. “Removing panty like this and putting on the floor (repeating twice), in the living, in the kitchen, in the bed room, wardrobes, all clothes fallen, more panty, madam, too much dirty, these three white girls, go for work, madam”. By now my head was reeling! What am I seeing, what am I hearing, well, who wants to see the G-strings these girls wear, thank god, they were all washed! And this maid, she is showing me all these! Well, before I could digest the fact of seeing washed G-strings, this maid continued, “Madam, I work only in this flat”. Assuming she was indirectly asking me to find one more house for her to work, I asked her,” Looking for work any where else?” Pat came her reply, “Madam I work only for white people”!! There you go again…. White people! I quickly pick up my clothes and moved out. Aman Plaza and white people, instead of the black granite outer wall the building boasts of, it should have been a white one, huh!

As the lift went down to the 3rd floor, so did my mind to the G-strings. I still cannot understand the comfort level of wearing G-strings! How can a strip of cloth that is so tiny and stretchy be comfortable in between, er… I bet you know where I mean?!!

How days fly into years! One year has passed and my brief encounters of the color kind, white, black, brown, goes on.  There seems to be no dearth of it! By the way, I am not talking about racism, you see?

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