Maami has an idea…
Between Siva’s travel to England and Nitya’s marriage preparations, maami was exhausted.
Maama did not even deign to lift his finger to help out with the huge responsibilities. He claimed he was tired of maami’s nagging and so spent most of his time at Joyda’s, merrily chatting away, watching the India-West Indies series on their colour television or playing cards with the other men of the chawl.
When confronted, maama would just say, “I am totally dependent on you, Saroja. You take care of everything but don’t ask me to either help you out with the household work or anything else. I do enough work at the office!”
Subha was very busy with her own household, sewing lessons and the little ones. Ramya was forever running from one morcha to another and now silently harboured dreams of being on TV (while maami fumed that one lathi on her head and her youngest daughter would see sense!) When she was not humming Dil Toh Paagal Hai (from the latest Hindi blockbuster), Nitya did everything with an ear towards VSRVV’s house, waiting for the telephone to ring… Gopal diligently called twice a day, one before 7am and the other after 9pm (off-peak rates). Archana silently seethed within, but her love for maami prevented her from saying anything. It was just a matter of another month, and then the phone calls would stop. So maami had no one to depend on but herself.
There was tons of stuff to do… silver to be polished, the ritualistic trip to Madras to buy the Kanjeevaram saris and other marriage paraphernalia not to forget, the customary visit to the family deity at Tirunelveli. And the worst part… maama did not want to budge from Nagpur. Maami was at her wits end with maama’s non-participation in the whole affair.
It all started with an argument between Joy and Jayati. Tired of making endless cups of tea for the card-playing men of the chawl, Jayati screamed at her husband one day, “What do you think I am? Your servant? Fifteen cups of tea in a day. And on top of that poha and singharas when there are cricket matches. And all those household chores and shopping for groceries, looking after the children’s studies. Okay, I like the fact that we have a colour TV, but when have you ever let me watch Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi or Nukkad in peace? I am M.Com Honours… and I deserve a life better than this… and she broke down bitterly.”
Joy responded angrily and soon, it became a full-fledged slanging match. Maami and maama went running (it was after a chawl, your business was everybody’s business!) and tried to placate them. And that’s when Jayati said, “Maami, tell me, it’s the women of this chawl who slog day after day. Do the men actually do anything? It’s not as if you and I cannot do anything…”
“Calm down, Jayati,” said maami, a small smile playing on her lips. “Let all the women of the chawl meet on the charpoys outside my home at 8pm. I have an idea!”