Saturday, November 03, 2012

Introducing , "T." .......

A post inspired after reading this ....

My household help "S.", (who I have extensively blogged about for the last few years), is kind of getting on in years, and it was decided to find someone else to do some of her more strenuous duties like sweeping etc. She herself suggested someone, who we shall call "T.".

T., unlike S. comes from the coastal Konkan area of Maharashtra. She was married off to a guy, a widower,  from the village, working in Mumbai. This guy's first  wife had  given birth to a child, and died in childbirth, leaving behind, , in addition to the new born, an older girl of 7-8 years.  They came to Mumbai, and within a year there was another kid, her own. The difference between the son's ages  was less than a year and she  cared for the daughter and two sons  as if they were her own.  The husband, as it usually happens, habitually drank, and one fine day ,  he succumbed, and she was left with 3 kids to look after.

A brother living elsewhere in Mumbai, helped her find a place in what is now a huge slum on the hills. She consults this brother on all important events in her family. She started doing housework in our area, and has been going to the same households for several years, because her honesty, and work ethic is greatly valued.

She has looked after the children , got the daughter married to someone who earns a living driving a rickshaw, and her two sons stay with her.  Drinking water is a huge problem , and she often has to queue up at 3 am and 4 am  at the community tap. There are goonda elements, queue crashers, trouble makers,  but she has learnt to manage despite them with her no nonsense attitude. The two sons did not know for years together that they had different mothers.  I came to know all this when she needed some help with the junior college fees for the boys.

She obviously has some good folks advising her. The boys did an ITI technical training course during the day, and attended night school to complete their class X.  This year the appeared for their XII exams, again, while continuing their ITI course. They help their mother fill water early mornings,  , then leave , and return back almost at 11 pm  . There are work assignments and studies to be done.

She says one of the reasons this is good , is that the company of boys in her area is terrible, most being vagabond, jobless, druggy types, aspiring to be dadas, and she sees many young folks whiling away time with such types. Her sons are away  almost 16 hours of the day.

Once a year, she travels to her late husband's native place, where the old home still stands, over which she is aware she and her sons have a right since it is ancestral. Does the necessary maintenance stuff, whatever repairs and so on, fully aware , that there are folks within the family, who think she has no share and may simply create trouble for her.

The boys both appeared for class XII boards, one cleared it all, and the other must clear one subject yet. The older fellow now has a job in a factory, and the younger one, in his own way, tries to support the family, amidst school/training/studies etc, with a job at a place where he wraps chocolates and gets paid by the kilo.

By pure coincidence, I heard about all this from  T. , during a week when I also came across a post , on my friend's blog,  that was all about a lady, who had everything life could give her;  a wonderful childhood full of opportunities, a degree in the US, marriage to someone in the US , an Indian, as qualified as her, and a child.

The lady in question,  was writing to vent her worries about having to return to India and the likelihood of having to stay  with the in laws, or they staying with her, and how she was absolutely against it. The issue was independence, and her husband's inability to stand up to his parents.  There appeared to be no earning-a-living issues. But there appeared to be many issues having to do with  adjusting to a "people"/in law  environment back in India, strangely, after having grown up earlier in a standard family  environment in India.

And then I wondered about the problem solving abilities of both T and this lady. 

About who was happier. Who was more stressed.    Who was more capable of facing up to challenges. Who could look a problem in the face, prioritize , and decide, even if it was in the short term .  Who had a huge amount of resources to tap, and who had almost nothing to tap.

Also, how formal education, had actually managed to slot attitudes into compartments. "This" was progress, "this" was an interference, "that" was guaranteed to stagnate your career because you put it on the back burner,  "something else" was a direct attack on your way of thinking.

Progress  has to be of several kinds.  It is never the type that can be graphed as an oblique line, rising away from the origin, way up into infinity, at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal.

The best kind of progress , is often  a bunch of points on a graph , scattered  around a general pattern, which emerges after there are sufficient points.  There are some points that play truant and even go out of range.  Some fall acceptably close to the emerging style.   

Management types will call this a trend.  

It is actually "learning from experience".

 To me, T had generated a wealth of such experience points, some close to each other, some far away.  Her uneducated, but observant mind absorbed, the trends, and learnt from them,  generating what I would call, a new "informed " point.

Both T and the lady in question above, have things that irk them.   T, with her limited resources, has often hosted relatives visiting Mumbai, and managed somehow with her meagre space and economic resources. Some of these folks have an eye on her ancestral small place back in the village, and she is aware of it. Tangling with them at this point, is not going to help.  She keeps such thoughts to herself, and concentrates on ensuring that the sons are well settled into some jobs.  T has learnt to prioritize, and she doesn't plan anything for, say, even 5 years down the line.

The lady in question on the blog, appears to be planning her entire life in one shot. How, where, when, and with whom.  Forcing the points on the graph .  She has reasons for publicly  verbalizing her problem, and she hopes to hear from folks who have been through similar stages of life, and she feels she will get some unbiased solutions this way.

I don't know who is right or wrong.

Ten years down the line, I cannot say who will be happier.  But somehow , it seems to make sense to have short term goals, work towards them, learn from them, and live life, rather than live rigidly with a unchangeable grand life philosophy......

But the contrast between the two,  here, was  too glaring. 

It's just that , sometimes, I feel, experience teaches a huge lot more about problem solving than any degree can.   


  1. Very insightful post! Experience is the better teacher over formal education, in all areas, sometimes even in the office cubicle, I think. I also liked your point about having short-term goals when you have no idea how things will take their course.

  2. Ah! I so agree with your post. I remember reading that post on IHM's blog and thinking that how much importance we give to things which are actually not predictable. We plan & assume things so much in advance that we are unable to decide. In the process we stop counting our blessings. I really believe that we cannot plan everything and sometimes shud let the life take its own course,

    1. Smita, thank you for the comment. It seems to me that folks like T are more capable of facing unexpected crises . We tend to theorize a lot.

  3. That was quite a controversial post on IHM's blog. And I feel so happy readin this, as while reading that post, I felt the writer was just taking too much of assumptions into play, while expecting her assumptions to be the definitive was things would move. And ofcourse, 'T' seems to have much more control over her life than the much educated, much travelled lady has!! Fantastic post!

  4. I wonder how much of how we solve problems is in our DNA. What works for one seemingly doesn't for another. In my life i have tried to walk a line of compromise between what seems best for me or my family-- not always the same thing. I don't like to use the word 'should' but whenever I do, it relates to family because of my hope to influence the future generation by my choices as well as make it as good as possible for those i love. Our choices do teach others. I don't think being totally unselfish is always better but is that in my DNA that I would think that?

    As so many of yours are, this was an interesting story and illustrates one of reasons I enjoy watching foreign films as it teaches me how someone else with a different culture will approach problem solving. Although our physical situations may be very different, what's inside-- not so much.

    1. Rain, its true. Our approach to problem solving is in our own DNA. Sometimes, I think being privileged abd more educated simply blinds us to some obvious solutions. At such points i admire the native wisdom of folks like T.

      Thank you for you nice comment!

  5. wow! T sure is an amazing person...Loved to reading about her are people who face so much in life...and yet have the strenght to overcome it!

  6. Loved reading this! Experience definitely counts. The way I see things my in-laws do now is so different from what i felt when I was a newly-wed :) Everything which seemed like interference then, now feels like concern!:)

    And kudos to T! I was always in awe of S, now adding T to that list too.

    1. Swaram, thank you! yes, experience does teach us to look at things differently, but sometimes I feel we get too overcome by some kind of theorectical thinking ignoring the various boundary conditions.

  7. :) Dare I say anything ... I better not .. But I am sure you know my thoughts already..

    Now looking back at my comment that i made their makes me even more angry I would say ..

    This is exactly what I like to say when people go on and on and Onnnnnnnnnnnnn especially about women this , man that, society this .. Somehow the people who are actually facing all the problems Dont talk much about it , they just get on with it .. Trying to resolve things and make things work according to them

    yet there will be plenty of people who will have to say a word here or there for them .. I have said a log of times especially at all the rally's etc that are held .. I mean there are women who still have to walk miles to get water and not jsut one or a thousand , MANyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy is the word .. Funny enough not many people involve THEM .. when they are the ones who actually are in must dire need of all the help ..

    Thank you so much for the post .. I use to think maybe its just me who thinks that way .. But as i found at my blog and now here too there are many who think logically rather then harping on one Single agenda.. :)

    Bravo and I salute "T".. She is the women from whom everyone not just other women but everyone , take some lessons and learn how to live and make the best of everything ..

    I do hope The people who i was talking to .. READ THIS ALSO.


    1. Bikram, thank you ! At the end of the day, you must follow the path which you think will work, not what some theory says..

  8. What an amazing woman T is. I think the difference is that some people don,t have a choice. They just have to get on with it. There is no room for strategizing or grand plans. T is a woman of substance and it sounds as though you will be lucky to have her with you.

    1. Lilly, I think sometimes facing up to thinks strengthens you in a way formal education doesnt. It also makes you mentally tough. When was the last time you heard about someone like T going into a depression because an employer called her names ?

  9. Wow T is a really strong woman! An inspiration.

    However I disagree with your assumption that the lady who wrote the blog post is not as strong - I think the difference here is that this lady is facing a decision, and that is causing her dilemma. Once she has made it how do you know she wouldn't handle it in exactly the same way as T has handled her life?

    "Somehow the people who are actually facing all the problems Dont talk much about it , they just get on with it " - thats fine, and admirable, when you dont have a choice...when you're at a crossroads and you've got a decision to make and your preference goes agains your partner's, surely that would cause anyone strife? I mean, you cant go through life buffeted around by other people's choices - with the lady on the blog, her husband could equally have posed "My wife wants to remain in the US, I want to move back to India, what should we do?"

    Perhaps it is because I am younger and less experienced than other readers, perhaps it is because with 'education' I have come to the conclusion that men and women should play an equal part in the decisions that affect their family, but I don't understand what you expect her to change about how she is trying to come to a decision being made?

    1. For someone (the blogger lady) who went to the US, studied, met and married and had a kid with someone of her own choice, it seems a bit odd that she should find out about his parent-bhakti aspect now, and agonize about it. I too had a US graduate education in even more difficult times(early 70's), and am aware of the lifestyle changes, feelings of independence being threatenened and so on. I would have thought that the blogger would be more open to checking out this Indian option instead of imagining scenarios. There are so many variables in her case, and so many self defined boundary conditions . She needs to realize that every problem does not have an algorhythm as a solution.

      I dont think its a question of "making do with a quality of life" as in the case of T. Its really about being selfless, and realizing what needs to be prioritized.

      I respect what you have to say, howevermuch i may have to disagree.