Thursday, March 5, 2009

The House of Four Women - Chapter 3

Misadventures of the Maid Servant

Omanaamma - try saying that out loud twenty times - came to us last year. She's older than my mom and aunt, but unfortunately(for her), slightly younger than my grandmother. Omanamma liked to talk. About her grand-son incessantly. The neighbour's kidney removal. Sensational news. And she truly believed that we liked listening. We tried, anyway.

To give her credit, she really was a sweet sensitive old lady. With a very low Achamma-tolerance threshold. And my grandmother disliked her on sight. To give my grandmother her due, Achamma IS ancient. They probably hadn't abolished slavery when she was growing up, way back in 1753.

Oh, the drama! It was the War of the Geriatrics. "Omana spoke rudely to me!", indignantly exclaimed my grandmother, who has almost certainly never spoken nicely to the household help in her life. "She doesn't give me enough to eat", weeps Omanamma, coming from the kitchen after neatly polishing off six idlis and a vada. The battles usually ended in my aunt and mother trying to pacify a hysterical Omanamma threatening to leave. We expected denture-grenades any day. Then came the show-down.

It was lunch-time. Achamma was sitting at the head of the table with her back to the door of the kitchen. She has a disconcerting habit of saying embarassing things in what she thinks is a whisper. Like most near-deaf people, she thinks none of us can hear either.

Mom: Omanamma, I think we'll have our lunch now.
Omanamma: So then I said to Shanta, my grandson is very bright. The other day he -
Aunt: Yes, yes, I'm sure. Omanamma, lunch.
Achamma: What?
Omanamma: So then I said, Shanta, you see my grandson is very intelligent -
Aunt: I told Omanamma to bring lunch out.
Achamma: What?
Aunt: LUNCH! (O takes the hint and goes into kitchen)
Achamma: (In loud, audible whisper she thinks only we can hear) She's always talking. Switch On all the time. How many times will we hear about her grandson?

There was a loud crash and a wail just behind her. Rice all over the floor. Omanamma left the next day in a storm of tears. Last I heard, she was companion to another old lady, reputedly worse than Achamma. Some people just never for Achamma, she just smiled. Victoriously.

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