The Lady Cook - Part 4
Dear Readers, I would request you to read Chapters 1 to 3 of this series "The Lady Cook", first, for better comprehension of the continuity of the story so far...
I wrote last Sunday about the job I had offered to Geeta's (my cook's) sister Sita as a Tele-caller in our office. (Please refer to Part 3 of this series, for a refresher). Well, they, (meaning her sister Sita and their mother), were supposed to come to Geeta's flat in our city within a few days. That didn't happen. Geeta informed me when she came for her cooking in the evening of Monday, that her Mama (mother's brother), who was supposed to come and stay at their village hut with his wife, has backed out now. They have a strange problem. Her mama is staying in their own hut where their son and daughter in law are also living with their kids. He is now afraid that if he and his wife leave their room and go and take care of their sister's hut, his daughter-in-law might take possession of their room. Once they have to come back to their own hut later, they won't get their room back. Strange issue, but very crucial for poor villagers living in small huts. So, Geeta's mother and sister are now trying to reason it out with this Mama (maternal uncle), so that some solution comes out.
Geeta was quite depressed. She requested me if I could hold the position for some more days and not select any body else. I assured her that she need not worry. I will not recruit any one else now. This went on for three days. No solution was coming forth at her village house. So Geeta had become very silent as her mood was very off. She would only lament that such a good opportunity for her sister was going to waste. They were also discussing the possibility of her sister coming here and leaving her mother alone at the village house. But for that also, they were unable to find anybody suitable and responsible to stay with her. So it had reached a stalemate.
On Thursday, when Geeta came to cook in the evening, she had given up all hope of her sister being able to take up the job I had offered. She kept silent for the most part. Then I found her weeping silently. When I asked her, what was the matter, she told me that, they have finally decided that it will not be possible for her sister to come here for work., as no solution seems to come forth. So, she wanted to tell me that, if I want I can appoint somebody else, as they do not want my office work to get hampered because of their personal problem.
I was feeling very bad for her. I made a suggestion to her that, since the requirement and urgency is their's, why doesn't Geeta's mother and sister make some lucrative offer to this 'mama' gentleman. Like, why don't they stock up their shop with some materials and ask this person, that if he sells those, let him keep the profit and reinvest in the business, so that the shop keeps running. They don't have to pay him hard cash, which he might spend or drink off. Also to tell him, that since Sita is getting this job, they might not be needing to come back soon to their village home. They will be coming for a few days in between for casual visits. So let him stay with his wife and run the shop. This way, the shop will also be revived and their hut will also be taken care of.
Geeta listened carefully, and after I finished, said, "The idea is good, it just might work. But the problem is, my mother and sister are poor people. They do not have that kind of money for investing on the stock for the shop. How can they make this offer ?"
I said, "How much money is required for this?"
She said, "I'm not sure, but I think five to seven thousand will be required."
I said, "You find out and tell me the amount. If required, I will give them the money."
Geeta said, "That's very kind of you Sir. But my mother won't take your money. She won't be able to pay back that much money to you."
I laughed, "Tell her, I don't want the money back."
Geeta was very serious, "She won't accept so much money from you Sir, I know her."
I persisted, "Okay, if it hurts her pride, tell her that once Sita starts earning, let her pay me back in instalments of Rs 100 per month."
Now Geeta laughed aloud, "100 per month, Sir ? That'll take years to pay back."
I said, "So what? Who's in a hurry ? If it's Rs 7000, say, then it will take a little less than six years. None of us are going to get so old in six years."
Geeta stopped her work. She stood there thinking for a while. Then she came and stood in front of my dining cum work table, where I was sitting with my laptop open, preparing an email. She just stood there looking down at me, not saying any word. It was such an odd silence, I had to look up at her and ask, "What happened ?"
She looked at me with a thin smile and asked, "Who are you ?"
I was puzzled at this question....didn't know what she was meaning. Did she feel upset or insulted at my offering the money ? But then, why would she smile ? I looked quizzically at her, "Who am I ? What sort of question is that, Geeta ?"
She took both my hands and cupped them inside her own big palms. "Are you an Avatar of some God who has come to save my family from drowning ?"
I said, "Don't talk nonsense. Go and finish your work. And talk to your mother and let me know what is the amount ?"
She didn't go. She kept on holding my hands in hers, "Sir, I bother you a lot, no ? I keep on nagging to you, with my family problems. So you thought, 'let me finish all the problems of this girl. Then she'll not bore me with her sob stories'...No ?"
I said laughing, "Yes. Now will you go ? I'm doing an important work."
She still didn't go. She started pulling my hands, so I had to stand up facing her. As usual, whenever I stand in front of her, I feel so awkward, being dwarfed by her, standing so much taller than me at 5 feet 9 inches to my 5 feet 3 inches. "What are you doing Geeta? Why did you pull me up?" I said in a mock complaining tone.
"I want to see eye to eye with you when I talk to you," she said, smiling down at me.
I laughed, "But even now you cannot see eye to eye with me. Your eyes are 6 inches above mine."
She said laughing, "Yes I know that. That is why I pulled you up. Wait I'll make you as tall as me." Saying that she bent down and tried to pick me up in her arms. I caught her arms midway.
"Geeta," I said, "I have an important email which I have to send immediately. Please leave me alone for some time now. You are yet to finish your cooking. Also you have to call your mother and talk to her about what I said and find out the amount ?"
Geeta made a sour face, "You are such a spoil sport Sir. Okay, you finish your work. I'll also finish mine and make that call to Ma and Sita. Then when I come, you can't say no."
For the next fifteen-twenty minutes, I concentrated on my email. Geeta got busy with her cooking. Once she was through, I could hear her call up her sister and mother and excitedly discuss the proposal I had given. I finished my work without any disturbance. Then I went and stretched out across my single seater Sofa and was going through the notifications on my mobile.
Geeta finished her phone call and came and stood in front of me, extending her hands towards me.
I asked, "What happened ? What did your mother say? Did she agree to my proposal ?"
She said, "I'll tell you... you first come."
I said, "Tell me. Can't you see I'm relaxing."
"This is not fair Sir... You had promised...," she nagged.
I laughed at this, "I didn't promise Geeta. You only said it and you know that."
She was laughing too, "Okay then you lie there Sir, I'll pick you up from there only." She started bending down, so that she could cradle me up in her arms. I immediately stood up.
She started laughing. "Why, what happened ?"
I said, "No, not that way". She bent down laughing, put her two hands behind my thighs and straightened up with me. She adjusted my legs around her waist and asked me to put my arms around her neck and smiled at me looking straight into my eyes, which were now in level with hers. "So what's your problem with the other way? I love to hold you in my arms like a baby."
I said, "That's the problem, I feel too helpless that way. Tell me, what did your mother say?"
She smiled contentedly, "Ma wanted to speak to you. I told her that you were busy in urgent office work. She wanted to thank you personally. And about the amount, she said that 5000 is okay, but with 7000, it would be very good for our small shop."
She had started walking slowly around the room, talking to me, with my face now right in front of hers.
I said, "Okay, I'll give you the money today. But how will you send it ?"
She said, "There are two ways. One is that my husband can go this Sunday with the money. Or else, there is a bus driver who lives next to our house in the village. He drives a bus from our village to here and back. He travels every alternate days. We can send the money through him." Then seeing the unsure look in my face, she continued, "Don't worry, it is safe. He is very reliable, we send things to Ma through him whenever we have to."
I said, "Okay, if you think it will be safe through him, it's up to you."
She said, "Will you talk to Ma now Sir ? She wanted to talk to you. I told her, I'll call up once you are through with your work."
I said, "Aren't you going to go home, you are spending more time today than usual."
She said, "I've already called up my husband and told him I'll be late today. I told him what's happening and he is also very grateful to you for this. Now can I call up Ma ?"
I said, "Okay, but first put me down."
She said, "Why? Ma won't be able to see you on my lap. I'm not making a video call. Besides, you might not always be able to understand Ma's Hindi with a village accent. I'll have to explain to you".
She had picked up her phone from the table, while holding me up with one hand only under my back. She put the call through and set the phone on speaker mode. When her mother came on line, Geeta told her that she is giving the phone to me, and handed over the phone to my hand.
"Namastey aunty, how are you ?" I started.
"Namastey beta*.....Sir, I'm fine. How are you ?" She replied. (*Beta is 'son' in hindi )
I said, "Aunty, you call me beta only, it feels good. So, now I think you will not have problems in coming here."
She said, "Yes Beta, I don't know how to thank you. I was telling Geeta, you have come as God's Avatar to us. You are going to change our life." (I'm hearing this for the second time now).
I said, "What aunty, you are calling me beta and also thanking me. Would you thank your son for this ?"
She said, "Nowadays a son also doesn't do so much for his parents. Your parents are blessed that they have a son like you."
I said, "Enough Aunty, enough. You don't have to praise me so much. I've done nothing. I have just created some opportunities for your son-in-law and your elder daughter. That's all."
She said, "But these opportunities are not easily available to everybody. And who is so generous as to voluntarily give so much money to an outsider ?"
I said, "But where are you taking my money Aunty? You are planning to return it to me. Anyway, we'll decide on this matter later. You come here and then we'll chat a lot".
She said, "Sure beta, I'll meet you the very first day I reach there. I say to Sita, that this is purely God's grace that Geeta has met you. I only hope she is taking good care of you."
I said, "Yes Aunty, you don't worry about that. She takes very special care of me." I couldn't tell her that, if allowed to do what Geeta wants, she'd not let my feet touch the ground. Geeta gave me a big smile and a soft squeeze.
Then we disconnected. Geeta had been standing at one place as long as I was talking to her mother. She started walking again slowly around the room carrying me straddled on her.
Geeta asked me, "How did you like my mother ?"
I said, "She is a very sweet lady. Her voice is also very soft and smooth. I can visualise her looks by her voice and the way she talks."
Geeta was very interested. "Tell me, tell me , how do you visualise her ?"
I said, "I think she is a small lady, a little plump, around say 63-65 years of age. Possibly suffering from a knee pain or a back pain....Correct ??"
Geeta was laughing loudly, "Wow ! Such details ? But I won't tell you anything. You check it when you meet her."
I said, "At least show me her photo on your phone."
She said, "You know Sir, my phone is the normal type, not a smart phone like yours....it doesn't have even camera facility. You wait till next week, then you will see her in person." And she laughed heartily.
I said, "Tell me Geeta, what liberty are you taking today? When did you pick me up ? You are still roaming around with me on your lap ?"
She laughed gleefully, "Yes Sir, I'm loving it. And Ma only told me to take good care of you. She asked you also."
I said, "It was so embarrassing when she asked me that question. I was about to tell her that your daughter is not letting me down from her lap."
Geeta was laughing like mad, "Ma would have been very happy, if you told her that. Really, I'm telling you."
I said, "What really ?"
She said, "That's a long story. Today I'm already late. I'll tell you the story tomorrow."
I said, "Yes, you go, it's late, but take the money."
She said, "No, I'll not carry that much money at night now. Sir, you give it to my husband in office tomorrow. He will send it through the bus driver."
I said, "Fine, I'll pack it and seal it properly".
So finally, she put me down and left for her home. She looked very happy now, as the possible solution to her problems is now almost in sight.
( To be continued in next chapter....)