(Human Rights Day poem) A maid for Mrs X by Ruma Chakravarti

I wait for her to come each day.

Always worried beyond belief

That the trains may not run,

That there may be a cow on the tracks,

Or a lover gone wrong, something or the other

To keep, my maid from cleaning my floor.

Keep her from folding my clothes, stop her dusting my door

Nothing must keep her, from cleaning my already clean floor

But when she arrives, a lean machine, dusty hair and clothes windblown

I forget to ask how come she is there on time

Despite the crowd of women who fight to keep a toehold

On the Lokkhikantopur Local, at least I think

That was the name she gave as the name of her train

Despite the crowd of groping hands, despite her man’s drunken roar

Nothing must keep her from cleaning my marble floor

I push her into the kitchen, almost shove her to the floor

Where last night’s biryani and rezala congeals in yellowing pools

On the plates I paid excess baggage for on a trip to Phuket.

I give her the special cup that sits, alone on the shelf

Far from things that we, the others, use

In the dim light of a zero energy globe, I can barely see

The cracks that leak tea, onto her roughened hands.

I somehow forget the dry chapatis that I have saved from the weekend

My plan is to turn generous as she is finishing for the day

With a little week-old potato curry it should be enough

To induce her to stay late on the weekend

Such a boring life I lead, another party at the club

The only thing that can brighten up this existence

Is a trip to Park Street, or perhaps I will go ethnic

Byloom seems all the craze, their mutton chops are to die for

Said the skinniest of my friends.

The b_! I am so sure she hopes to shimmy up to X

Show off her perfectly sculpted stomach and get him to play

I look at my maid and think if only I had her regime

I would look like a million pounds too

Instead of reading that on my bathroom scales.

From my kitchen she must rush to sweep up nonexistent dust

Mop the floors, do the washing, hang it out

At least I am considerate, I have bought myself a washing machine

At lunch I eat too much, make a mountain of fish bones by my plate

She sits half asleep by the sofa on the floor, unseeing eyes fixed

On an educational serial on vernacular television

I know all the big words to use, I am about to cut a disc

Of poems, songs and ramblings set to techno-jazz

Ten percent of the profits I have chosen to give

To a women’s shelter that sells the most exquisite

Chikankari work to outlets abroad

As I get up to wash my hands, I notice something that makes me see red

A hand-print, five fingers, on the brushed steel fridge, that looks like dried blood

I call her sharply, I feel like slapping her stupid face, I ask her how she got mud

Near the water dispenser tap. Have you been drinking my ice cold water?

You are such a spoiled cow I yell, you are completely useless

See what you have done! Now I will go to the shops

With a bloody raging migraine.

Festive Eve by Ramkinkar Baij (1910-1980) http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/ramkinkar-baij-festive-eve-5761161-details.aspx
Festive Eve by Ramkinkar Baij (1910-1980)

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