Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Silent Robbery

Priyanka and Neelam sat in the front row. They watched with pride as their children enacted a patriotic play for Independence Day at their school. They clapped fervently when the play ended.
Neelam looked around her and smiled. Everyone was well dressed with clothes in orange, white, blue and green. She noticed that everyone looked happy and were smiling. Her gaze next turned to some of the housekeeping staff, and was pleasantly surprised to see them also dressed in the colours of the tricolour, holding a flag. 
She felt thirsty and wondered if she could ask one of the housekeeping staff to get her some water. She signalled to one of them, standing a few feet away. As the young lady came over, she requested her for some water. She hurried away and quickly brought her some water. Neelam thanked her and the lady smiled.
She also greeted Priyanka with “Hello Madam”.
Priyanka replied with “Hello Geetha. How are you?”
The lady replied “I am fine Madam”, and smiled and walked away to stand in a corner.
Neelam looked at Priyanka “Oh, you know her”.
 “Yes, her husband is our driver”.
 “Oh Ok. She seems a nice person. Do they have children”.
Priyanka replied “Yes, she has two kids. A girl of 6 years, and a boy of 2 years”.
 “I hope she is sending her daughter to school”.
 “Yes, she is”.
“It must be difficult for these people. They probably earn quite less and then it is not easy to manage; what with the rising prices of everything….” said Neelam.
“That is true”, said Priyanka. “But there is a bigger problem as well. She has been robbed”.
“What? Robbed? How did this happen? What did she lose?” asked Neelam, taken aback.
Priyanka grew to be thoughtful. She looked at Neelam and said quietly “If you watch her for some time you will probably know”.
Her curiosity aroused, Neelam looked at Geetha. She was puzzled on how watching someone can tell her what they were robbed of. She was tempted to say that she has given up, but thought she can only do that after giving it some time. She turned and looked at Geetha every now and then. She saw her supervisor summon her once asking her to get a chair. On another occasion, she saw her wiping a seat clean after a parent accidentally spilled some tea on it. She then saw a parent with a girl in tow say something to her sharply. Geetha’s face grew tense and sad, and she muttered what appeared to be a sorry and drew back. After some time, she saw her hurry to rush behind the curtain probably to clear the stage for the next event. She came back after a while, with what seemed trash and left the hall. She then returned after a few minutes and stood in a corner.
The school program was drawing to a close. Neelam now looked at Priyanka and spoke up “I give up. I cannot make out what happened to her and what she lost!”
Priyanka spoke “Did you watch her?”
“Yes, I said!”
“And you could not find an answer to your question?”
“No I could not. And how can I?! I would I come to know what she was robbed of by looking at her! I am no Sherlock Holmes!”
“Ah, you don’t need detective skills for this!”
Neelam said “I cannot stand the suspense! I give up! You have to tell me!”
Priyanka responded “Ok, let us first go over what you saw”.
Neelam recollected all she had seen and told Priyanka.
Priyanka said “Let us discuss the exchange between the parent who was with her girl and Geetha. What do you think happened?”
“The parent and the girl were seated in front of us. The girl wanted to go to the restroom. After that, I noticed the parent say something sharply to Geetha. Not sure why. Maybe she stepped on her foot or something?”
“Not really. Geetha offered to take the girl to the restroom and the parent told her sharply ‘Don’t touch my kid’. That is what happened”.
“Oh, but how do you know that is what happened? I could not hear anything from here”.
“I put two and two together. I see this happen again and again”, said Priyanka.
“Class is sad”, said Neelam thoughtfully. “But you were going to tell me about Geetha being robbed”.
“I am telling you about her being robbed of her dignity and identity almost every single day. Is that not far worse than struggling to make ends meet? It is as if she is an object – nobody is even interesting in knowing her name” said Priyanka.
Neelam looked at Priyanka, shaken and thoughtful.

As they were leaving the hall, they saw Geetha standing in the corner. They walked up to her and thanked her.
“Thanks for getting me the water, Geetha. I saw how busy you have been today”, said Neelam.
“Oh Madam, it was no trouble at all” said Geetha, a smile lighting up her face.