I was staying in Pune, and my house help was a 23-years-old widow with two children. She had been driven out of her husband’s home and was living with her parents. Often, I used to cook extra, keeping her in mind and would offer her the food when she arrived. She had a beautiful habit of asking me, “Didi, apne khaya?” Initially, I was astounded at this because I expected her to ask me for more for her children. Instead, she would insist that I eat some more! I felt that this was a rare quality.
Later on, I left Pune. Before leaving, I decided to sell my barely used gas stove, which my maid told me that she would like to purchase. I knew her situation, so for her, I reduced the price to Rs 500 Rs. On the last day, when I was just about to leave, she gave me the money for the stove. My heart was crushed at taking money from her, so I returned the money to her. I could see that she was touched as her eyes filled with tears. I was staying all alone in Pune, and it was she who bid farewell to me while leaving the house.
After that, we were in touch for some time through WhatsApp. I used to imagine her cooking food for her children on that stove, and feel happy that I could contribute in a small way. And though I tried to contact her during the lockdown, I couldn’t as her number was switched off. Now I have lost contact with her, and I pray for the well being of her family every day, especially as the virus had hit Pune rather hard.