Vijaya’s phone never ceases to ring. “Ajji, barthini. Next nivu manne.” (I am coming grandma, next is your house). Then the next call. “Facial? Aaj nahin. Parson teek hai na app ko?” (Today it is not possible to do facial. Is day after tomorrow okay with you?) “Akka okka metre oddhu, half metre chalu.” (No need for one metre, just half a metre will do). Vijaya continues to answer the calls cheerfully, even as she works as a domestic help in an apartment.
Vijaya's day begins around 8 a.m. in Bytrayanapura. Then begins the calls. The reason she is also a beautician and tailor. “I have been working in houses here for many years and it is the trust people have in me that keeps me going,” she says with her trademark smile.
Vijaya can converse in five languages Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, English and Kannada. “I can understand Marathi, but cannot speak it.”
A good student, she wanted to study further. “But my grandmother was very particular that girls should get married by 18. They stopped my studies and got me married when I turned 18. I had my first child the next year.”
It was then that she decided to do a beautician course and learn tailoring to meet her growing financial needs and also to “learn something.”
This desire also drove her to learn languages other than Kannada, her mother tongue. These additional qualifications ensure that there is always great demand for her in the apartment. The children in the apartments where she works like her too. If a child asks, “Amma, what is the capital of U.K.?” “London,” would be the quick reply from their ‘aunty.’
She is there to help the kids in the households when she is at work.
Why this work, in spite of so many talents, one may wonder. “I was working in a parlour. But the timings were long and there was nobody to take care of my kids back home. Even now parlours keep calling me… During wedding season and festivals, I go to the parlour, where I learnt my beautician course and was working earlier, to lend them a helping hand to my mentor Anitha.”
Keeping her as a domestic help is an advantage for people there, because they need not run to parlours or search for tailors. “I work in six houses single-handedly and team up with my co-sister in another four houses,” Vijaya explains.
“It has been 17 years since I moved here after my marriage. My moving from Yeshwantpur to Bytrayanapura was like shifting from city to a village. The transformation has been amazing here. There were absolutely no roads here, just groves, stones and pits. Everybody in the area would be waiting to see a bus with mouth wide open. But now its different. After the new airport has come, this part of the city has become a hub of activity. It has changed our lifestyle totally and helped us financially too, as we have got jobs.”
She takes off only four to five days a year. “Many people come and go. Different culture, different language and different style of living... But one thing common in most of the houses where I work is the love they have for me. Even if they move out of Bangalore, they still keep in touch with me even from Delhi or Bhopal,” she smiles with pride and hurries to answer the next phone call.