A mid-morning interruption is a sign of good things to come.
FOR a fauji wife, one of the prime attractions of life in the army is her maid. However underplayed and masked be the attraction, this is one woman who is crucial to the comfortable existence of the fauji family; whether in the civilised zones of a city like Bangalore or at a remote posting in Misamari.
Like all faujis, we have had our fair share of postings and an equally fair share of maids at each of these postings. As a new bride, within my first few days of induction into the army, came the realisation (among several others) that the maids here are a breed by themselves. A resilient race, they were the undisputed underground intelligence network of a unit. It was my first posting after marriage and we were living in the Officers' Mess. (And reconciled to spending quite some time there, since we were months away from getting our quarters - or so I thought) One morning, I heard an authoritative knock on the door. Having already got rid of the Mess bearers and cleaners, and settling into my normally uninterrupted morning hours, I wondered who my visitor could be. I opened the door to find a neatly dressed woman. She gave me a quick run-over and briskly got down to business. "You will be allotted a house in a week's time," she announced grandly. I simpered. I staggered. I swayed in pride. To say, I was stunned would not be an exaggeration. The reason behind this medley of emotions was simple. In the fauji scheme of things, getting a house allotment was a milestone event and ranked somewhere between having your first child and getting a commendation from the Chief. I mentally started making my invitee list as I stared lovingly at this gorgeous woman (apparently an official from the MES) who had been thoughtful enough to call on me personally and convey the news. "I am here to apply for your maid's post," she explained quickly when she saw the all-too familiar look of devotion emerging in my eyes. My emotion bank began working over time again. Astonishment mingled with disappointment. "But you don't look like a maid," trembled on my lips. Fortunately what I yelped instead was, "how do you know?" It was her turn for emotions. She gave me the "you-poor-ignorant-darlings-always-uninformed-about-everything-that-matters" look and gently broke the truth to me, "We always do."As simple as that. Three words that conveyed a world of wisdom. In the days to come I would realise that this race did always know. Clued in and informed about every movement in the station, they are the first to know about postings in, postings out, house allotments, house seniority and promotions. How they know - I don't know. Probably an inherent genetic disposition. Or maybe a hyper active network system. I have yet to find out.
They come with their individual idiosyncrasies too. One of my earlier maids was an angrezi fan. In food, music and movies, she believed international was the best. She doubled up as my cook too at times and was very disappointed at my pucca desi tastes. She would extol virtues of dishes involving broccoli and thyme and urge me to add them to my monthly grocery list. Unfortunately for her all that these recipes got was a patient hearing since she was talking to someone for whom basic cooking required regular consultation with Tarla Dalal's starter's cook book. She'd be saddened at my obvious disinterest but a couple of days later would come back to me excitedly with another recipe - only this time it called for olives. Her next obsession was angrezi movies, "Anaconda" being her favourite. Since I had missed watching what was apparently the movie of the century she was only too happy to narrate the screenplay frame by frame. About two dozen times. And by some strange off screen mutation, the size of the python too grew with every narration. And if I ever wondered where she got her firang influence from, I had to only look at her funky husband to know. Permed and gelled hair, sporting the latest brand of t-shirts, he'd sit on their verandah strumming a guitar. While my house resounded with a newborn's wails, theirs would belt Bryan Adams. While I was struggling to get the tadka right in my dal, she would be munching sautéed mushrooms. So much for my self assumed hepness. Four postings old, I am now used to the housemaid drill. And when posted to a new place and if living in the Mess, I finish my chores early and eagerly await the mid morning interruption. It's a sign of good times to come.