Asmita and I
by Anoushka Zaveri
Domestic helpers are a blessing to every household. They bring efficiency to the monotonous task of running a home and a kitchen. They are those family members we forget to include in our families sometimes. They are hard-working, long-term employees who get married to your home, burrow through its carpets and make place for themselves beneath its floors. God knows what would’ve become of my house if it wasn’t for Asmita Pawar and her dedication to my family, her need to bring joy to people she doesn’t know and her coordinated singing alongside an orchestra of clanking pots and pans, whistles and sizzles. When Asmita came to our home as a full-time helper and employee, she was a little above eighteen years-old. And I, a fourteen-year-old fat girl who needed help to tie her shoelaces.
A little bit about Asmita. She is from a small family in Ratnagiri and has a younger brother. Her father is a farmer and her mother sells handmade baskets made of straw. Asmita grew up farming and going to a school the size of which was smaller than her bedroom. At least that’s how she described it. In her spare time, Asmita would dress up, apply a bindi, hold an imaginary mike and perform a full-fledged concert pretending to be her favourite singer Shreya Ghoshal.
The five years she spent working in my home were smooth years for my family. She made everything so easy. She was reliable, focussed and incredibly intuitive to other people’s feelings. She would send me to school, feed me hot food once I got back, pack and unpack my books and help me with my Hindi homework. She was like an elder sister to me but she was also a great friend. I say this because firstly, we were both teenage girls going through similar phases in our lives, secondly, we both hated my grandmother and thirdly, we both had a crazy crush on boys who didn’t fancy us back. The last reason is the kind of stuff that binds girls together for life.
I specifically remember one or two instances in which she was a great friend to me. My grandfather has a food problem. As a result, he only eats fruits, vegetables and boiled food. I was never allowed to touch fruits that were bought for him and most often than not, all fruits that came into my home were bought for his exclusive consumption. I remember eating a banana by mistake once. My grandmother got furious and almost conducted a thorough investigation of the missing banana case. Asmita, who had seen me gobble the banana while I watched TV went up to my grandmother the next afternoon and confessed of having eaten it. She saved my mother and me from the badmouthing my grandmother would do about us for stealing her husband’s produce.
I used to have a pathetic immunity system when I was in school. Falling sick came naturally to me. I remember that she sent me my medicines in my lunch bag along with an éclair despite the doctor’s strict instructions to avoid sticky substances. In return, I’d send back pieces of cake that a friend distributed for his or her birthday. It was always a sweet exchange. I spent a lot of time teaching her to read and write English. She redid all my school workbooks after I was done with them. Sometimes, she taught me how to sing her favourite songs. All this while she cooked and cleaned and did the laundry. I think I really looked up to her. She was there for me in small ways, ways that went unnoticed at the time but made me respect her and appreciate her.
Asmita is now married with two sons, lives in her own home in Ratnagiri and teaches music to the kids in her neighbourhood. She left my family soon after I went away to college but visits every time she is in the city. When she comes home, we ensure that we update each other about our lives fully, every single detail. In the short time she spent in my home, she was an indispensable part of it. She made my angst-ridden teenage years a little less difficult to deal with and taught me that being there for somebody in tiny ways is what matters the most in a friendship.
Anoushka Zaveri is a student at Flame University, and was an Education for Peace intern at Prajnya when she wrote this.