Within this week, after you’ve packed off hubby and the kids with a warm hug and tiffin, your day will begin to take on a strange and ominous turn with the unexpected, early arrival of your usually invisible maid, Shanta bai.
‘I will be gone for a week, starting tomorrow’ she announces imperiously clearing her throat, chopping the onions viciously just in case you have any brave thoughts of objecting to her decree. You almost pass out in the palak paneer.
‘But…what about the spring cleaning, the saaf sa faee?’ you ask meekly. She shoots you another nasty look chopping the onions even more loudly, making them quiver with her rage.
‘I don’t know memsahib, but I’m getting my house painted and I need chutti from tomorrow’. ‘Take two weeks after Diwali…’ you stutter piteously, picturing yourself returning, suntanned from a glorious holiday and morphing into a human dishwasher! But it takes a lot to sway the hardened hearts of these Shantabais. Your world comes crashing down as this modern day executioner proceeds to make mincemeat of your holiday plans. You begin to tremble, tears are a wail away, finally after much deep breathing; you do what every woman has done a million Diwalis before - You fling yourself at her mercy, begging her to turn up on Laxmi Pujan because you’ve got the entire family descending and you sure as hell can’t possibly cook aloo gobi the way she does! Shantabai smirks happily, she knows she’s got the goose where she wants and sighs dramatically,
‘Teekh hai bai, Alright, I shall come, but then I must leave early everyday till then!’
You can’t nod fast enough in agreement before she cooks up another ingenious excuse and hurriedly throw in the baksheesh of your old mobile phone to clinch the deal.
You settle down gratefully for a well deserved cup of tea thinking foolishly that the storm has passed.... The next few days float by peacefully, when a newer danger rears its fearsome head… The festive fever has brainwashed every shopper making even you buy stuff an idiot wouldn’t want. As you proceed to empty out the stores, your credit card is on the verge of swiping the smile off your hubby’s face, and you are in real mortal danger of financial freefall, but you can’t seem to stop yourself. So you head home with yet some more scented candles to mollify your mightily miffed male over a mere matter of money. Just as you finish setting the scene for the romantic evening that is supposed hypnotize him into seeing the right figures, the phone rings in the next death knell. It’s your mother in law, bursting a clogged artery coz she’s just heard that you’ve voiced this grandiose idea of making chivda, chaklis and ladoos at home!
‘Best left to the experts if you want me alive and kicking’ she rings off grimly.
It’s the second time in the week that you get weepy, your eyes well up, when something sparkles brightly in the candlelight,
‘Happy Diwali darling!’ and you know that this festive secason, you are going to be perfectly alright…
(DNA Pune, 'Funny Bone Column' Sunday, Oct 25th 2008)