Those were the days of chaos, especially mornings. There was breakfast to be made, lunch to be packed, milk to be boiled, toddler to be taken care of and get myself ready for college – before the water supply bid adieu for the day.
As you can imagine, it was a mad dash from the moment I woke up (mostly late – after having slept fitfully because the little one had strong beliefs and strident opinions – nights were meant for play and not sleep).
So there I was, groggy, stumbling around the kitchen trying to brew tea and boil some milk on a rickety kerosene stove (yes – those days!), all the while trying to soothe the cranky warm bundle nestling on my shoulder when there was a knock on the kitchen door.
“Oh no!” I grumbled. Here was the dreaded interruption to my carefully choreographed routine which took me from the kitchen to the bedroom via the hallway (with intermittent pirouettes through the washroom to fill buckets).
It was the ‘trash guy’ who came everyday to collect the day’s trash for less than a rupee a day. And to make his deal more attractive – he offered to wash the trashcan as well.
Except it wasn’t – 25 rupees a month to throw trash? I could do that myself and earn myself a few bucks in the process. But then I hardly had time to breathe, he needed the job, we were generating employment, keeping the food chain moving – okay fine.
So he began by adding his two bit to the morning bedlam. Unfailing in attendance, he had the uncanny habit of rapping on the door just as the pandemonium had peaked – and invariably trigger a panic attack. I was late! There goes my bus! Again!
All my frustration and irritation would come to the fore as I opened the door, keeping a tight grip on the now alert and frisky toddler – aha the door was open! The world awaits me! Let’s go out and run he would jerk, squiggle and wriggle adding strength and volume to his exhortations as only he could.
“Hurry! I don’t have time.” I would wail as my
eel baby all but slithered from my grasp.
“Namaste Madamji.” He would offer cheerily while emptying the trashcan. “I need to wash this. It’s filthy.”
I would shoot a harried glance at the clock, fighting a losing battle with the now impossibly arched muscular bundle, “Maybe tomorrow. There’s someone in the washroom.”
Phew! I shut the door and get back to my dance routine with renewed frenzy.
It was the same old story –day after day. Except, his pleas to let him clean the bin grew more demanding by the day – but something or the other always took precedence – the baby was shrieking, somebody in the washroom, major water crisis, so on and so forth.
With growing guilt, I would shut the door on his disapproving accusing face.
“What the hell is his problem? He should be happy. Less work for him.” I grumbled to my husband. “And it’s not like I am not going to pay him his full dues. I know the bin needs a wash but I don’t have time for this right now.”
Finally on Sunday he caught me. Feeling expansive, I gave in. He demanded soap and turned on the tap – my heart fell to my shoes. Hold the water dammit!
Heart in mouth, I held my breath as he scrubbed the trashcan to his satisfaction. He turned to me his entire face glowing with pride, joy and triumph and a hint of censure. “Look madam, this is clean. You should let me clean it everyday.”
From illiterate garbage guy, I learnt some of the most important lessons of my life – to take pride and joy in my work no matter how small or inconsequential it may be in the larger scheme of things. And to make sure I earned my salary.
Written for the Daily Post’s prompt Filthy
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