A smiling Reshma rang the bell just as the episode on television ended. It was a serial about a vastly rich woman trying to bring a wayward husband to his knees.
|Reshma’s smile rarely deserts her.
I was struck by the sharp contrast between the two women – the one I’d been watching on television, rich but distraught, and the one who now stood before me, poor but full of poise.
Reshma is good-looking, fair-complexioned, tall and willowy. She used to work for me many years ago, and still drops in once in a while. Let me recount her tale:
She was not yet 20 when her family married her off to a neighbour in their Madhya Pradesh village.
Her parents had migrated to Delhi some years before that. Both had found jobs as cooks. Most of her siblings, married or single, had also settled here. Yet they decided that life in their ancestral village was good enough for Reshma.
She was in the family way soon enough, and her woes began almost right away. Her husband turned out to be a philanderer. He loved the good life, wanted rich food, clothes like those his in-laws in Delhi wore, and a bike to ride around on. To her dismay, Reshma found that he expected her family to keep up a regular supply of goods and cash.
Her protestations drew out the worst in him. His mother added fuel to the fire, sensing easy money. She spirited away the gold ornaments Reshma’s parents had so lovingly bought, and cursed her incessantly for being no good.
Reshma rarely ate, despite her pregnancy. She discovered her husband was visiting his old flame regularly. She worked all day and cried all night, but he did not care a whit. He was not there even when she gave birth to their son. Her sister-in-law informed her parents on the sly. She also related what Reshma was going through.
It took her mother two days to reach the village. Reshma had by then lost a lot of blood, and was too weak to even pick up her newborn. Without much ado, her mother bundled up Reshma and her child and somehow brought them to Delhi. The good woman for whom she cooked supported her efforts to nurse the daughter back to health.
In the village, meanwhile, Reshma’s husband decided to bring his girlfriend home to live with.
More next week