Just as there is no doubting her integrity, there is no faulting her work. Her work needs no supervision.

My domestic help is a bigger social networker than anyone else I know of. No, Muniyamma isn’t on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Orkut, MySpace or GooglePlus. Yet, her social circle is so vast and the obligations to it are so demanding that I am often put to great inconvenience.

She is supposed to report for work at 2 p.m. but she will waltz in anytime between noon and 4 p.m. Instead of starting her work right away, she will insist on giving a detailed account of what delayed her. When I impatiently tell her to get down to work, she will counter me with, “ Isn’t it common courtesy to explain why I am late?” (or early, as the case may be.) She will embark on an involved, none-too-original tale of a friend’s cousin’s uncle’s grand child who fell sick and was hospitalised. “All I can give is moral support,” she will add with a sad shake of the head.

It isn’t always a sad story. Sometimes, the reason is celebratory. Once, she arrived in all her finery and said, “I had to go to my sister-in-law’s aunt’s niece’s first birthday lunch.” I asked, sarcastically, “Couldn’t you have given the function a miss?” Her eyes widened in holy horror. “How could I do that?” She sat down, to explain better. “My sister-in-law saved my son from the clutches of an unscrupulous scoundrel. I am indebted to her. It is only proper that I discharge my duty.”

I was so exasperated one day, when subjected to another anecdote on the matter of honour, that I said, “It will take you a life-time to fulfil all your obligations.” Pat came the answer: “Not even if I take seven times seven lives!”

Where absenteeism is concerned, she is a law unto herself. She isn’t in the habit of bumping off hale and healthy friends and relatives. Neither will she quote illness as an excuse for gaining my sympathy. She will state blandly that it was important business for which she had to take the day or days off. It could be renewal of her son’s driving licence, some complication with the ration card or to arrange for funds for a family function. Why then do I tolerate her? It is her mystique.

She is trustworthy. She will not help herself to anything — not even a flower from the garden or an empty jam bottle or an old issue of a magazine. As a matter of fact, quite a few times she has taken out currency from shirt pockets and handed it back together with a lecture on carelessness. She guards my property like the proverbial dragon.

Once a plastic spoon was missing. She was most upset. She went on and on bugging me till I was so irritated that I said, “It is only a plastic spoon. Leave it.” Undeterred, she lectured me. “Today it is a plastic spoon. Tomorrow it may be something valuable. What happens then?” she challenged. An unassailable argument!

And she didn’t rest until she had ferretted out the dratted plastic spoon. Sometimes, unable to bear her nagging, I say I have given the item away. I have suspicion that she doesn’t believe me.

Just as there is no doubting her integrity, there is no faulting her work. She is neither a shirker nor slapdash worker. Her work never needs any supervision. Whether she is watched or not she does a thorough job. I just need to ‘adjust’ a little bit! And pamper her — which I do!

(The writer’s email is padma_ganapati@yahoo.co.in)

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