Kokarako … ko ...cried out the 'cock sound' from her mobile phone morning alarm. It was 4.00 am and Shantamma stretched her arms out and shut it out to snooze about a little bit in her tiny hut besides the construction site .
Ghrrr... her husband was snoring and peacefully asleep besides her. She was happy for him and for the fact that he was sleeping peacefully. Poor fellow ... she thought, life has not been easy on him for the past few weeks.
Let all this pass...she prayed.
It was pouring outside her hut, besides, she was feeling cold. At the stroke of the next alarm she knew she could not laze around any more. She looked at her mobile handset. The mobile handset was a gift from Preethi Madam.
Preethi Madam lives in the apartment complex down the road. She works in a big air-conditioned office and leaves for work by 7.00 am. Shantamma works as a domestic help at her place.
By 6.00 am she would be at her place, wash the utensils, sweep and swop the apartment and make Rotis and sabji to be packed in lunch boxes for Preethi, her boys and her husband.
By 7.00 am she would repeat the chores at Nitya Madam’s apartment and then at Meena Madam’s apartment, before heading to Anusha Madam's apartment.
Preethi Madam is very benevolent. Last year when she got her promotion she gave her a good pay hike without Shantamma even having to ask for it. Preethi Madam invited Shantamma for a function in a five star hotel where she was given some award in a big hall lit with chandeliers.
Shantamma went with her. It was very grand. She had never seen anything like that before. Preethi madam gave a speech in English in front of everyone and they all laughed a lot during her speech. When she got down from the stage, many people clapped and came to her and shaked hands with her and then with Shantamma. It was all so embarrassing and confusing for Shantamma.
She asked Preethi madam what was happening. Preethi madam laughed. Then, someone translated it for her from English. That is when she understood it all.
Preethi madam had dedicated the award to Shantamma and proclaimed in front of so many people in the hall … saying
‘ Behind every successful man is a woman . Behind every successful woman is a ‘bai ' ( in this context … a domestic help).
And thus all the attention turned towards Shantamma. She was embarrassed but very happy.
She feels she is very lucky. Unlike her husband who works at the construction site, where sometimes there is no work and no pay, she gets to work on all days. All her employers pay her on time.
They are not without their quirks. As much as they praise her cooking, they get very angry when she comes late or takes unscheduled leave. They say it screws up their timings and getting late is not an excuse they can give to their bosses at work.
Over the years she has learnt that they are not angry with her not coming to work, but angry because she does’nt let them know in advance. How can she tell them that she cannot come all the way to tell them that she would not be coming to work, when she is shivering with malarial fever or has gone to her home town to attend to something.
But somehow, Preethi madam understood. She gave her this mobile handset so that she could use it to call her if she was not coming to work. Preethi madam had already got herself another new handset.
With a little extra money, Shantamma bought a prepaid SIM card. But her hut does not have any electricity. She secretly charges the battery of her mobile when she baby sits little Arnav and his sister Aradhana at Anusha Madam’s house in the afternoons.
Cries out the 'cock sound' from her mobile phone morning alarm after the 10 minutes of snooze.
Cabs ferrying the BPO workers of the morning shift, zooming past the main road, have already woken her up from her sleep. This time around she stretches herself and gets up to begin the day. Yet another usual day.
Shantamma is not in her best of moods. Money has been a little tight for her and her husband. Off late, her husband’s debtors have been approaching them very often and at all odd hours. Ever since her husband fell down, when the scaffolding gave way at the construction site, he fractured his leg and it has been on a cast. It would be another three weeks before the cast would be out. Even after that they were not sure if he would be able to work as before. It would be atleast another couple of months before he could get around on his own, leave alone getting back to work and bring home some money.
The income was now solely hers, and it was getting difficult to make ends meet. She had already taken advance from Nitya Madam, Meena madam and Anusha madam to meet the hospital expenses.
Please... let all this pass soon and I will come break 108 coconuts, prayed Shantamma to Santoshi Mata, the all powerful deity, whose photo was framed and hung on the corner of her hut.
She got up and filled up her bucket of water. Thankfully the rains had stopped.
She walked past the roads into the residential layout where there were few plots left unconstructed . The thick undergrowth of bushes over there is where women like her living in the huts go for their morning ablutions. It is sort of an unsaid rule. The men go about their morning ablutions soon after sunrise and so the women do it well women before sunrise.
These days they are left with very few vacant plots in the layout. Construction has begun in many of those vacant plots and the shrubs and bushes there have been cleared up to give way for cement and concrete. Shantamma knows a vacant plot that is about 10 minutes away. It is quiet all over, except for the chirping of the birds and occasional traffic of cabs on the road. Few people are up this early, unless they are women like her out for their morning jobs. She walks with her small bucket filled with water .
It was not yet the end of the month. Pay day was more than a week away. She was thinking of asking Preethi madam for some salary advance. The usually generous Preethi Madam is very strict in this matter. She does not encourage loans. But Shantamma was hopeful she would be able to explain and make her understand the present condition.
With that advance, she may not be able to pay off all the debtors, but some money would atleast keep that letcher, Chengappa away for a while. There was something about the way he spoke to her and looked at her that troubled her. Everytime he spoke to her, in a slow, understated, slimy voice, especially when her husband was not at a hearing distance, she felt like a poisonous snake hissing at her. On normal days she would have hinted her husband. But these days, her husband was wallowing in self-pity and depression. In any case there was not much that he could do with him being so immobile.
There is a thick growth of shrubs and bushes . Shantamma makes sure there is nobody around.
Shoo … shoo .. she whispers, to shoo away puppies, kittens , snakes, insects or any other creature that may be snoozing around in the dark. Once she makes sure the piece of land beneath her feet is devoid of all creatures, she pulls up her saree, covers it over her knees and squats on the ground.
Vroom …. Whizzes past a motorcycle on the road alongside the plot.
A few seconds later, it takes a U turn and comes back. She can now hear it very close.
Shantamma is worried. This place, especially at this time in the morning is her secret hideout. Nobody really comes by in the morning. Not definitely at this hour, that too on a motorcycle. She turns back to reach out for her bucket for some water to clean herself quickly.
Her heart skips a beat. Behind her, stands Chengappa, the letcher.
This time around there is no mistaking the evil intent in his eyes.
She stands up and lets go of the bucket.
Dhoom … the bucket falls down and the water splashes all over.
On the other hand is her mobile phone. The one Preethi madam gave her when she switched over to a new Apple phone.
Shantamma is illiterate, but knows the right buttons to press.
She had SMART SURAKSHA with her …
This is what she does .. click to know more... but do visit this post to know what happened further.
FLASH FORWARD :
A badly bruised Shantamma walks up to the ambulance.
A police van screeches past and chases the only motor bike on the road.
It would not be too long before Chengappa would be behind bars.
Shantamma is not worried about missing work today. Because this time around, the illiterate Shantamma managed to message Preethi Madam at the press of a button.
That is how they were all alerted. The local police station, her husband ( he managed to read the message in kannada). Preethi, Nitya and Anusha.
It was Preethi’s pay back time. She called up her boss and let him know that the ‘successful woman’ had an emergency at home . She would not be coming to work.
In the afternoon Preethi, Nitya and Anusha visited Shantamma at her home.
I am participating in the Seeking Smart Suraksha contest at BlogAdda.com in association with Smart Suraksha App.