Ruchika woke up with a jolt. She sat up in her bed hurriedly, her mind still reeling with the thoughts about the dream she had just dreamt and her body shaking with its after-effects. She desperately looked around for something, something familiar, real, something not from her dream but from her real life. In the dim night-light, she could make out the silhouette of her husband and children on the bed beside her, sleeping blissfully. And next to them, a little further, on the couch, a heap of clothes. At that sight, she heaved a sigh of relief. “It’s ok, it’s alright, it was just a dream. Everything is fine, absolutely fine,” she consoled herself. In spite of this, She could hear her heart drumming in her ears and felt the presence of sweat beads that had appeared on her forehead. Yet again. She looked towards the AC, it was on, emitting the cold air out with the full force.
In fact, her kids were covered with a thin blanket and she could tell they were still cold because they had rolled into a ball each. She gently pulled another thin blanket over them and then sat thinking to herself. She had dreamt the same dream. Yet again. The dream she had been dreaming for a good few years now. A dream, a wish actually, something she wished for so badly sometimes that now it had become a nightmare and had now begun to haunt her. She wondered when she would stop dreaming this dream when she wouldn’t wake up sweating and gasping for breath because of what she sees in this dream. Then she sighed in response to her own thoughts. Because obviously, she didn’t know when she would stop dreaming this dream. Because obviously she didn’t have any control over it. For now, though, she decided to let it go. It was nearly 6 am, she knew even if she tried to go back to sleep now, she wouldn’t be able to and then today anyway was a very important day. So she pushed herself out of the bed and began with her day.
It had been 10 yrs since Ruchika and her husband, Sachin, had moved to the US of A. And luckily as they were currently in India, visiting family, they had decided to throw a party today to celebrate this milestone. It would be a good excuse to meet up with everyone they hadn’t met in a long time, catch up on everyone and that way they wouldn’t have to take the 100 trips too to the relatives ‘/friends’ places that they had to take otherwise every time they visited home.
“America? Yes, totally amazing. No place like it.” Ruchika now said with a slight air of importance. She smiled mildly, politely at the group of 20-30 women who were sitting surrounding her in a circle. And As some of them were gazing at her incredulously, she then unnecessarily lightly coughed into a tissue paper to add to the effect too. It had been an hour since the guests had arrived and the party was now finally in full swing. As it usually happens in most parties, after a while, men had gathered in one corner discussing politics, Presidents, Prime Ministers and whatnot, and women had come together to form their own circle and talk about whatever they fancied.
“Yes, no place like it. Life definitely couldn’t have been better,” Ruchika said again. The women around her sighed. A few cousins looked at her enviously. Relatives, neighbours couldn’t help but marvel at her luck.
“Aur ghar ka kaam beta? baai bagerah to hoti nahi waha, hain na? (what about the housework? They don’t really have the house-help concept there, do they?)” one aunty asked.
For a moment, Ruchika almost froze, looked lost, even hurt as if somebody had asked her something no one was supposed to ask her about. As if somebody had scratched a wound deep beneath her skin, a wound that otherwise she kept hidden.
Thankfully her mother came to her rescue and intervened at the right time. “Machine hai waha to har kaam ke liye, jyada kuch karana hi nahi padata. There is a vacuum cleaner, there is a dishwasher, washing machine, even a dryer. You name it, they have it. High-fi country hai bhai, aise hi thodi hai,” her mother said looking at her daughter proudly.
They all nodded. “waah, what luck! You went to the right place beta. Good to know that at least somebody’s dreams are fulfilled,” the oldest aunty there said and all the women around agreed with her. They nodded, smiled at her, some even stole glances at her jealously. Though most of them were happy for her and wondered at her luck, some couldn’t help but feel envious too.
Ruchika didn’t say anything this time, didn’t correct her mother either. She just smiled, a tight-lipped, measured, important, what she thought of as an American, NRI smile (with just a slight hint of pride). “Haan jyada nahi hota,” she finally said. “Dust and all to hoti hi nahi, like mumma here just said. Machines hai, to sab ho jaata hai easily. Bas cooking karani padati hai. Easy-peasy,” She lied. After all, it was not every day that she was treated like this. After all, it was only when she visited home, India, that she was given this much importance. Because nobody in America treated you special because you lived in America. She basked in the glory of living in ‘America’, soaked it, enjoyed it and glowed in it. And to add to the effect, when she spoke to her husband and her children, even her mother, she threw a little bit of accent here and a little bit there (just the right amount again). Even though she tried to talk with her children in Hindi in the US (so that they learn it), here, she used only English, “hey, hey, hey, don’t do that buddy. Ohhhh silly! that’s not how we do this in America. It’s different there…no, you can’t drink water directly from the tap here..don’t you know that yet…oh, my poor little boy, missing home already?!,”..blah, blah, as she knew everyone was watching her, looking at her, observing her. She threw the word ‘America’ in her sentences a good few times unnecessarily and then turned back and smiled again at everybody pretending like she had no idea that they had been watching her.
‘How lucky’, the women around her couldn’t stop gazing at her and imagining the images they already had in their minds associated with the word ‘America’ and the life there.
And though everybody had come to see her, was either talking about her, to her or couldn’t wait to talk to her, she didn’t tell them the truth, the reality.
She didn’t say that what she had just said was nothing but a big fat lie. Ofcourse she was grateful for her life in the US and a certain freedom that comes along with it, but easy-peasy! She couldn’t believe that how flawlessly she had just lied and had said that! Because it simply wasn’t true. Because it wasn’t ‘bas cooking’ that she had to do, but after that she had to clean the kitchen too, put everything back in its place, clean the counter and sweep the floor too. Because though there was definitely the dishwasher, it didn’t just run on its own but she had to first scrape the leftover food from all the dishes, then bend and load the dishwasher, one by one, one dish at a time. Then once it was done, she had to again bend, take everything out one by one, put them back in their places and then load it again and run it again, day after day, sometimes twice in a day. She didn’t say that as there were some dishes that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher or were not dishwasher safe, it was her who had to clean them with her own hands. Almost every day. She didn’t say that though there were indeed 3 bathrooms for 4 people in her house, it was her who had to clean the sinks, commodes and scrub the floors every few days. And that though there was the washing machine and the dryer, it was her who had to take out the clothes from the washer after they were done, sort them out to see which ones go in the dryer, put them in the dryer or on a drying rack or both, and then once they all were dry, it was her who had to fold each one and put them back in their places. That with two overactive and super messy toddlers, she had to this almost every second day.
She didn’t mention at all that when her children threw their toys, food, snacks, every single thing they touched or laid their eyes on the floor whole day, it was her who had to run and pick things after them, one by one and put them back in their places. That though there was the vacuum cleaner, it was her who had to move the dining chairs, couch, get down on the floor, bend her body under them in the most unnatural poses and vacuum the whole house, sometimes twice, thrice in a day because her children spilt things whole day. She didn’t say that it was her who had to dust every damn thing. And on top of all this, when her husband was too busy with work, she also had to drive, drop and pick up her children from their random classes, take them for their doctor appointments, to parks, to meet their friends and then she also had to drive to a grocery store and haul groceries every few days.
She didn’t say that though she lived in America, sometimes she felt like that she wasn’t just a wife, a mother of two toddlers (did she say two? Toddlers?) and a homemaker but she was also the maid, the driver, the doodh wale bhiya, sabji wale bhaiya, and also dukaan ka that helper who without any extra pay or complaining at all quickly runs errands for the household-women at home- too.
She of course didn’t mention at all about the episode that had happened two days ago. That how jealous she had felt when at the end of the day after her children and her nieces, nephews had made a big mess together, and out of the habit, she had gotten up to sweep the place quickly and put everything back in its place (so that there will be less for her to do later) and just as she was doing that when her bhabhi said, “Don’t worry so much didi, I’ll pick up the toys later but baaki, kal baai aayegi na, sab kar degi,”, how she had been so affected and taken back by those words that she hadn’t been able to move for a good few seconds, couldn’t react to anything and when she could, how those words still had echoed in her head for a long time like the mean, hurtful dialogues/ comments in the saas-bahu Hindi serials that her mother loved to watch echo in the good DIL’s head for a long time. Exactly that way: ‘Baai aayegi…aayegi…aayegi…Sab kar degi…kar degi…kar degi…’.
And she absolutely didn’t say that in the last 10 days that she had been here, twice she had caught herself looking at the maid in a way that if someone else in her family had noticed her, they would have assumed a totally wrong thing. Because she had been simply staring at her. Transfixed. Her heartbeat increasing with every movement, every stroke the maid made with her mop on the floor while cleaning it. And sweat beads appearing on her forehead with the way the maid had rushed to do the dishes without worrying her mother and bhabhi at all. That she had unknowingly stared at the maid like one would stare at an ex they still loved but could never be with.
And she definitely didn’t say anything about her dream. A dream she dreamt very often. The dream she had dreamt just this morning when she had woken up with a jolt. A dream of a house-help, a maid. And how simply she helps Ruchika with all her household chores in the dream while Ruchika herself takes a breather for a good few minutes and treats herself to a hot cup of tea, sipping on it in her backyard, without a single worry in her head. A dream that simple. A dream that she had started dreaming 2-3 yrs ago.
Of course, she didn’t say all this to anyone now. Instead, she quickly wiped off the sweat that had appeared on her forehead yet again thinking about all this, grateful that nobody had noticed her for the last 5 mins. She quickly put that important yet humble, American, NRI (with just the right amount of pride) smile back on her face. As more guests joined, she heard herself laughing out loud and saying, “America? Jee auntyji, absolutely fantastic place! What else could have I asked for? (no, no, don’t do that buddy, not here! You can do it back home in AMERICA- scolding her already confused and clueless son in between unnecessarily). Yes, yes, all my dreams are fulfilled. Every single one.” While in her heart, in the back of her mind, she knew what exactly she was going to dream of tonight too. Yet again!: a clean house, a house-help, a maid, in layman’s terms: ek baai smiling widely at her, handing her a cup of tea and saying the words she so longed to hear in real life: ‘Didi sab ho gaya, mai kal aati.’
Author’s note: This blog is written only for fun. A satire on many NRIs (including myself) who behave so importantly when they visit home, India ( I love to make fun of myself 😀). I feel it’s necessary to mention here that though there is no househelp system in the most western countries, everybody in the family helps with household chores. Husband and kids. The way it should be. Again, this blog is written to make people laugh. And so some aspects have been exaggerated a little bit to give it that comical effect.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Momspresso.com. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and Momspresso does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.