Reservations, no reservations, reservations about reservations. But I had to write about this.
She came in today , a bit later than usual, as I was checking my email. Yes, that's S., my household help, who has been with me now for more than 20 years. The same who I have blogged about various times, and who folks have admired and commented on.......
Her family now consists of three sons, two of whom are married . And one daughter, who braved a terrible marriage, left the fellow, came back and now stays very happily, with her folks, while doing a day job.
There are also two grandchildren, the son's sons, and I have lately been involved in helping her with documents to get the older one into kindergaarten, where he recently braved an interview. The kid takes after his grandmother, and floored the school folks with his answers. His admission is now secure.
She was very upset about something when she came in. After discussing the usual mundane house stuff with me, and finishing her morning chores, she brought me a cup of tea to share, as she had hers.
"You know these ration-shop chaps ? They are cheats . " We knew that . Hmm.
"Why ? What happened ?" I ask, expecting a usual story of false weights etc.
"You know both my daughters-in-law are listed as members of the family on the ration card. The older one is entitled to 9 litres of kerosene per month. Last month was the first time the younger one could claim her quota, and she got 7 litres. I ignored it that time because I thought stocks were less or something. "
"Then today, when I went in the morning, they again offered 7 litres !" she bristled.
Turns out, that she went up to the guy at the counter, and asked him why 7 litres .
"You take it if you want it" "he, unconcerned.
"Why not 9 litres ? As is written in the ration card ?" S.
"Don't waste my time. OK. Take 8 litres". He didn't realize who he was tangling with.
People behind her in the queue, mostly women, who had work pending in their homes, and workplaces, far from being upset with the delay, started talking, about the fact that this was happening for everyone.
" Open your book and show me the rule that says I cannot get my entitlement. You have 2 queues here. One for the rationed kerosene, and one for kerosene at black market rates, which you sell by cheating me out of my quota. " and there is a buzz in the people behind her.
An old man, bent, white haired, with a wizened face, comes forward . And stares at the shopkeeper.
"Every single time I have come, I have never got my entitlement", and a shake of the head.
S. bristled in anger.
" Either give us what is written in our books, or give me in writing that you will not give the full quota. I will go to the rationing office, meet the sahib, and ask them if this is allowed. I don't care if no one is with me, I will go alone, but this will be the last time you make up your own rules. "
She tucks in her saree at the waist. Picks up her kerosene can and turns to go.
" Give the lady her 9 litres, and stamp the book. " The shopkeeper knows when he has lost.
He didn't know how badly.
S waited there, suffused with anger and energy, saree tucked in, hands on her hips, watching the queue, as everyone behind her got their complete quota this morning.
Her son met her halfway on his bicycle and lugged the cans home for her, while she came over to my place to work.
And told me this story over a cup of tea.
Then she took my empty cup, flicked an imaginary wet spot on the table, and stopped. She is getting on in years, and she sometimes stops and rubs her back when she gets up, before getting on with her stuff.
"I was just wondering. I did say I would go to the rationing office sahib and complain. But would you write out for me a proper complaint, with lots of "official English words", to give to the sahib at the office ? They may not let me in, of course, but I can always give in this sheet with signatures........I was actually going to ask if you would help ....."
.....Of course I would ! The rationing office is something I have tangled with before. Not only will I write a proper complaint for her with some "official English words", but I will even accompany her there.
I am sure S. will succeed.
She never went to school. She never learnt civics. She doesn't believe a word of what the local corporator says when he comes begging for votes, hands folded. And she believes, that laws and rules are to be understood and followed.
Most of all, she is not afraid to learn.
Forget those Page 3's with their Hand holding chains protests wearing designer sunglasses, , walks and banners....
She is the original Page 1.