It was late in the morning on a quiet Saturday at the house. The doorbell rang. It was Jaya, our housemaid.
Jaya has worked at our place for many months. Despite having had no common language, we have always managed to communicate in some way and get along well. To my slight (and very snobbish) annoyance, she wakes me up out of my two-layered blanket, early every morning, to narrate to me happenings of her life. But we don’t complain because we have been happy to have a nice lady that doesn’t mean to profit from our carelessness.
Jaya has been stuck in an unhappy marriage; it ‘s more of a non-existent marriage that still manages to bring her agony. And the reason is simple – her husband is a drunk, wife-beating pervert that sleeps around and does no one any good. In spite of the marriage scenario she is in, she always manages to maintain a joyful air around herself.
However this day, this evidently wasn’t the case. Jaya was teary eyed, conspicuously teary-eyed. She was desperately trying to hide it with her made-up giggles and chuckles. But the eyes never lie. They held to the brim, the pain that was told off all those days, accumulated. It was emotion that had been pushed and pushed deep down into a hole that could no more contain it. It was emotion that had lashed out breaking the attempts to slash it. It was emotion that had finally come out in an overpowering, uncontrollable manner. She held her belly tight and squatted on the floor outside the door. Petrified and unsure how to help, I offered her a chair. She chose to lie flat on the floor of our empty hall instead. She introduced to me, her mother who had accompanied her. It took me a while to get that she had brought her mother to complete her work that day. Jaya’s mother was quite old and the idea of her doing our work made me very uncomfortable. I convinced them against the idea and promised to give Jaya money without anyone having to work.
Jaya lay flat on the floor and I sat next to her feeling helpless. When I couldn’t come up with the Telugu equivalent of ‘What happened’, I resorted to Tamil combined with gestures. She explained to me her story. She was having an abortion because she did not have the money or guts to raise a kid alone; her husband, in her words, is not worthy of being considered as a capable partner or a potential father. And when the brazen uncultured man who works far-away in Chennai paid another visit, he kicked the lady in the stomach. I had already heard a lot about stories of the man and his many women, about how he’d always beat up Jaya simply because she was too tiny (relative to his fleshy women, the ones he found attractive) and because he was suspicious of Jaya’s relationship with her brother. She explained to me that kick that landed on her stomach at some point through the period of abortion caused some medical complications. I could see that it had added to the pain, physically and emotionally. She was so weak, she couldn’t stand.
Yet she managed to laugh. And that just broke my heart.
I asked why she’s still married to him; why not get a divorce. She talked about the monetary prerequisites for a divorce. A divorce could take her from a court to another, to lawyers, again and again and it would ravenously demand money, time and strength, none of which she had enough to spare. That, to me, was the saddest part. If you ‘re so poor that you don’t have enough to get you rid of such a murderous relationship and a repugnant man, if the easiest way is stick on and tolerate the difficulties, that is as bad as It can get. She had a bit of paper tucked away in her little purse, which had on it the date of the day on which the man had kicked her. She had kept it safe in case she got a chance to file a complaint. Of course there’s a caveat. The possibility depends on her ability to finance it and stand bravely through the troubles it will bring with it.
I gave her a carton of juice, the only thing she said she could take in. I asked her not to come back to work till she was alright and I promised to send her money the next day, as I closed the door.