Revelation of Half Truth
by Manohar Naidu
(Virginia, USA )
It was yet another transfer, which was expected after having spent a stipulated period at a tenure place of posting. This was with a icing on a cake - to my home town Nagpur, with promotion. Though Nagpur was not a new place, three decades of gap and new locality, new office environment, it made a difference.
The most urgent task was getting a servant maid in the locality. But to my surprise, the very next day of shifting to new apartment, I found my wife Chitra talking to a woman. She was Kantabai, our new maid. Tall, about 45 years of age, neatly dressed, spoke clear Hindi with Marathi accent. During our conversation, it was revealed that she is already working in 5 houses and staying nearby juni basti - a walking distance away. On questioning about her family, she had said that her husband worked as a mason, skilled in polishing the floor tiles with his own machine. But now he is sick for last couple of months. She had two older daughters and a the youngest one, a son. All of them were studying. This was her brief bi-data. She was employed.
Kantabai proved good in her assigned tasks besides being punctual and clean without taking leave or requesting for advance. Chitra became quite intimate with her and she was given additional work of cooking. Chitra was particular in giving blouse piece and saree on occasion on festival. She had also promised to visit her house in near future and attend her daughter’s marriage whenever it takes place. Kantabai was also responsive to Chitra’s needs beyond routine work.
In couple of years I retired from service and settled in Nagpur. My only son had gone to US for higher studies and subsequently got employed in IT multinational company to his satisfaction. Chitra was feeling too lonely and intense desire to meet her only son and looked for suitable match for him. In the meanwhile we got our VISA to US and left India for six months.
When we were back at home, we inquired about Kantabai, our immediate requirement. We were told that she is not seen around after the death of her husband recently. Chitra was shocked. Kantabai had very closely associated with house chores for years. We decided to visit her house to convey our condolence.
The very next day we visited Kantabai’s house in the locality with wall to wall old dwellings. We were welcomed with greeted hands by a young girl. The room was well maintained with clean cushions on wooden three-piece sofa. The walls were distempered with pleasing shade. The kitchen shelf was visible with neatly placed shining utensils.
We expressed our sorrow. Kathabai wiped her moist eyes and got composed. We assured her all the help in the near future, if need be.
Kathabai introduced her daughters Lata and Suman and son Suresh. All of them were studying. She
had quit working. We returned with heavy heart pondering over her fate and enroute bought some vegetables for home.
Years passed. Our visits to US became often along with Chitra’s anxiety of our son’s marriage.
One fine morning we saw Kantabai at our door greeting us with folded hands. She appeared fresh and rejuvenated than years back we saw her. Chitra was happy to see her and ushered her inside to the drawing room sofa, laying her arms on the visitor’s shoulder.
Kantabai opened her bag and took out an envelop gave it to my wife, and said with folded hands, “This is my y eldest daughter Anjali's marriage invitation. You had promised to attend.”
Chitra took the invitation in her hand so graciously remembered and given. But with her sharp memory she shot back, looking deep into her eyes, she asked -
“Kanta, if I remember correctly your eldest daughter’s name is Lata and second one is Suman. But who is Anjali?”
Kantabai gave an impish smile. “That was HALF TRUTH," with a pause she said, "I had lied to you when I came to work in your household years back just to grab the job which I urgently needed. In fact, I have two more older daughters. I was afraid that I may not be employed if I say I have five children”.
She sipped water from the glass kept on the side table. I looked amazed towards Chitra. Kantabai continued. “The truth is, I was married at a very early age of sixteen to a man who was 12 years older than me. He was my elder sister’s husband. She died leaving a one month old infant baby girl and another two year old girl child. My sister whom I loved like a mother, took a promise from me at her last moments that I shall look after her two kids like their own mother. I married him as per her wish and things were comfortable for twenty five years. Then my husband became bed ridden due to paralysis. Our children toiled hard while working part time with nursing homes, taking tuition and making use of the free education in college, attended libraries and took guidance from all possible sources. Thus, all of them are graduates now. The eldest one Anjali and the second one Meera are in government jobs. The youngest one just cleared his engineering degree. Lata and Suman have passed bank exams and awaiting the appointment letters.”
She paused again, and smiled. “Anjali and Meera still do not know that I am their aunt.”
We praised the struggle and sacrifices made by her, and gifted her with a blouse piece and Rs 101/- as a token of good luck.
Kantabai knelt down, touched our feet and left. I kept my right arm on Chitra’s shoulder while looking at Kantabai who had surprised us with THE REVELATION OF HALF TRUTH, waking away. *****