Friday, July 13, 2007

Ordinary Ordeal

Sometimes the most insignificant of things leave a fleeting impression in your life; a moment's contact with someone or a snippet from some strange conversation or a line from some old song. The feeling comes to you in a flash, but its something that you have always known and lived with. I love such moments.
I fancy calling myself a very simple person. I do not believe in wearing jazzy clothes or decking myself up everyday. I would happily wear my floaters wherever i go and would rather be at the beach than a busy mall, shopping. I find great joy in simple things like the sea, glass bangles, coffee mugs, books and so on. Now the purpose of this post is to tell you about my encounter with a certain someone.
I met her at office today. She cleans the toilets on my floor and I see her almost everyday. She is short, not very fat and has a beautiful smile. She has a small gold stud on her pierced nose. Her hair is usually plaited or tied up in a bun and there is always a general air of rush around her as she moves around with her mop and bucket from one toilet into another, refilling tissue holders, emptying dustbins and spraying room fresheners.We occasionally exchange a smile (once when i felt like putting my language skills to test, I spoke to her in Telugu. She burst into fits of laughter and since then i stick to my smiling or nodding.) As i have been experiencing insomnia for the past couple of weeks, I feel the need to refresh myself quite often. A generous splash of water every hour or so usually gives amazing results. So on one such trip to the restroom this afternoon, I met her there. Blue mop in one hand and a white bucket on the other, she was proceeding to do her routine cleaning business. I had brought my kajal with me so as to apply it once I was done with splashing. I left next to the basin, under the tissue dispenser so that i could get on with the splashing, when she took a fancy for my kajal and picked it up. "Leepshtik?", she asked me, with the same innocence of my five-year old nephew. "No, i replied. That's my kajal." She knew what kajal meant and it saved me from a struggle with the local language. "Oh! mine small and round. red colour.", she said. "I smiled and nodded in agreement. "Rupee kada ?", she asked. She was rubbing the thumb and index finger of her right hand in constant motion which further assured me that she wanted to know how much it costs. "100 rupees.", I told her. She was shocked and stunned; and the next moment she started laughing; a hand- over-mouth unbelievable sort of laugh. In between fits of laughter she told me "mine 5 rupees." More laughter. "Madam style." Laughter. Her eyes were telling me that she thought i was some rich freak who works for a big company and uses all branded and expensive things. Someone used to extravagance; who has always been pampered and maybe born with a silver spoon in her mouth. At that instant I felt as if the friendly connection that was there between us through occasional smiles and nods just vanished and we were separated by a grotesque mask and there was immeasurable distance between us. I wanted to tell her that it was not true. That's not the case. I am not one of those women whom she meets everyday, who may not even think of returning the warmth in her smile. But language and words failed me. I went into the loo and on my way out I looked at her as she was busily cleaning the basin. I was searching for the usual smile and "ta ta madam!" I walked out unnoticed.

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