Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ratna's Story: Part Two...Continued after Part One

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To make the savings just add up to enough so that they could meet the expenses of the summer months when Subeer did not have his assistantship meant that Ratna would work as much as she physically could.

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Waking up early in the morning, she would catch the 6:45 a.m. bus on St. George to get to the house of the Tarafdar's on the other side of town.

From the bus stop, a fifteen minutes walk would take her to the home of the Tarafdar's exactly by 7:50 so that she just had enough time to get in so that Mrs. Ruma Tarafdar could hand over her three month old son, Shubhro, and explain all the tasks of the day to Ratna before heading out of the door.

She would watch Shubhro, feed him, play with him, read stories to him until Mr. Tarafdar came home at 3:45 p.m. for her to then rush out to catch the 4:00 p.m. bus to the house of Mr. Srinivas.

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It would not be until 6 p.m. that she would reach the Srinivas home to watch Ankit, their four year old son, until 9:30 p.m. as Mrs. Srinivas took care of her call center business in India, giving instructions, setting up tasks, and following up on deadlines.

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Listening Mrs. Srinivas talk on the phone and give instructions, Ratna would often be transported back to her days as an HR manager in Gurgaon, where she managed the workforce of 42 in a call center after receiving her MBA from the Indian Institute of Professional Management.

Quickly packing her things and running off to the bus stand, Ratna would have just about enough time to catch the 10:05 p.m. bus to reach home by 10:50 p.m.

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Subeer would be back home by then, freshing himself up, setting up the rice in the rice cooker, the daal in the pressure cooker, and a kettle of Darjeeling on the kitchen top.

After quickly freshening up and having a quick sip of the Darjeeling, Ratna would take over the cooking in the kitchen, finish up preparing food and setting the table.

After dinner, as she and Subeer listened to their favorite Radindra Sangeet play on Subeer's laptop, she would start chopping the vegetables and preparing the tiffin lunches for the Ghosh and Majumdar families that Subeer would deliver in the afternoon.

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By the time Ratna went to bed at 2 a.m., Subeer was still working, finishing up his assignments. The hum of Rabindrasangeet wafting in from the study "Aaj jyotsna raate shobai geche bone aaa...." would gently put her to rest for a few hours before the repetition of the same routine the next day.

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Working all these hours also meant that Ratna would sometime be very tired. She would have to make herself coffee many times throughout the day to keep herself up and running. But she could manage. If she made the coffee strong enough, she could work through the day without much rest.

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This cycle continued for Ratna throughout the winter and early into the arrival of the Spring.

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It was Easter Friday. There aren't any celebrations here, Ratna thought, unlike her hometown where the shops in park street would fill up with pastel colors, stuffed with assortments of candies.

As usual, she was watching the son of the Tarafdar's.

While watching, she had dozed off. Her eyes opened with Mr. Tarafdar standing yelling at her face:

"The baby could have died. You don't do charity for us. You bitch."

Ratna was dumbfounded. She was at a loss. Even before she could say anything, Mr. Tarafdar added:

"I will report you to the police. Women like you should rot in jail. I will tell everyone and destroy your career."

He called in Mrs. Tarafder to join the verbal onslaught over the phone.

Mrs. Tarafder: "You will not be able to show your face in this community any more. wait till I destroy your reputation. You will pay the price."

Mr. Tarafder snatched the phone from Ratna's hand and said "Leave right now, before I call the police and get you deported."

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Ratna was shaking. In guilt, in shame, and at a loss.

What was she going to say, that she watches Shubhro diligently, that she really takes care of him, that she was so tired after all the work that she didn't realize when she fell asleep?

She had nothing to say.

She took one look at Shubhro and could not control the tears that she tried so hard to suppress. She packed her bag and walked out of the house as she overheard Mr. Tarafder say, "You can't trust anyone these days. The maids in the US are no better than the maids in India."

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