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Its not morning yet as sun has not risen over the chilly winter horizon. But she has to wake up after all its question of bread and butter. So quietly She gets out of her straw bed careful enough not wake her family, her husband, her children, her in-laws.
She doesn’t need an alarm clock actually its her body clock that has been doing the job since she was 16 come rain, shine, winter all year round without fail. She goes to ‘bathroom’ and finishes washing herself and doing her morning chores because her mother-in-law doesn’t like anyone to enter ‘kitchen’ without bath.
She walks into the kitchen lights up the stove to prepare the ‘breakfast’ for her school going younger children. Lunch she doesn’t worry because her eldest daughter takes care of it. But breakfast she does as she wants her girl to enjoy some sleep.
She ‘gets ready’ for work putting on a shawl she looks lovingly on her sleeping family and walks out. No good bye kisses and hugs. She walks fast onto the mud road leading upto the main road. She meets her fellow workers and they start the chatter so that the walk becomes easier.
Still its cold and dark out there and a thick layer of fog making the visibility very low yet they hear the ‘Sobji Gari'(Fruits and vegetable train) pass its the first train. In 5 mins their Lakhikantopur Local will arrive. They hurriedly rush to the platform meeting, waving, smiling at other acquaintances. Reaching their spot that is the exact point where the ‘Ladies’ compartment of EMU train will arrive. The place was already crowded with other passengers waiting for the train.
Its already 10 mins. since the train should have arrived. She asked another woman “Didi what’s the time? The train seems to be late today?” Other woman replied “Yes it already 10 mins late maybe due to this fog trains are running slowly”. She knew it was right, delays often happen in winter mornings due to heavy fog. But today She should have been early as yesterday the security of the apartment said her that Bose boudi is coming and had informed them to tell her to visit boudi’s flat.
The Platform now is quite crowded as passenger for next trains also have arrived She knows it will be very difficult today. Just then they announced that Up Lakhikantopur Local is arriving shortly. She felt relieved finally its not too late.
The train has arrived that after a lot pushing and shoving around She could herself merely in. Her shawl was precariously hanging through the door. But She is used to it. Her sole goal is to get in at next stop take a decent place to stand for the rest of the Journey. She’s used to it but now-a-days her legs pain maybe She’s getting old. She chats with her fellow travelers they catch up and pull each others legs. They discuss their salary and other work related issue and ofcourse the gossip as to whats going on where but She’s least interested in the last one. Yet she listens as it is an important part of her profession.
The train generally takes about an hour to reach but due to fog today it got quite late. One by one most of her companion get down at their destinations. She along with a couple of others wait for their station Dhakuria to arrive but the train stopped at the signal Just in front of the signal. Some people start jumping out as it nearly there, She too jumps on to side of the railway track and starts walking quick actually almost running today She’s very late. Nag mashima must be very cross.
Nag mashima answered the door “What is this I thought you are not coming today. What happened again late today?” She said “Mashima due to fog the train got late what can I do?” Nag mashima retorted “Bablu and Bouma(daughter-in-law)’s office won’t listen now quickly start working you get into kitchen first, rest you’ll do later. See Bouma is already preparing food.” She looked truly the daughter-in-law was preparing food and She was naturally in bad mood as She had step into kitchen though they are paying through the nose for a maid”.
She hurries to the Bagchi household for her work there and here she did not face tirade of questions as She had told one of her friend who works with the Bagchi’s neighbor’s to update them about the delay.
After finishing at another house She walked into the apartment. The security said “Oh you have come go Bose Boudi and their Son have just come half an hour back they were asking about you”. She was happy hear this. Bose boudi was her employer for many years. Then they shifted to some other city but have retained their apartment here and come here once or twice a year and whenever they come She’s the one they look for and She also is too Happy to work for them for the Short period that they stay. Bose boudi is overwhelmed to see her at door. She said “Boudi today I got late otherwise I would have come earlier”. Boudi smiled ” No problem our train was also late due to the fog. So can you just sweep now so that we can start the day and then you can come later for other work”.
She’s back at Nag mashima for the rest of the work. Here she gets lunch as well. Actually She works in 6 houses in total and most of them give her ‘tiffin’ but at the Nag household she does the cooking along with other chores so She gets lunch.
She’s with the Bose boudi’s for the remaining work generally she heads home at this hour but for next 10 or so days She will extend her work hours to accommodate Bose boudi. Bose boudi said “Today you’ll get late it will be dark when you reach. How will you go?” She replied “Don’t worry boudi. My nephew works near the station I’ll ask him to take me home”.
She heads towards the platform for the 4.30 train today she has a big bag today as Bose Boudi has given a lot stuff. She reaches her home by 6 PM. Its the end of her work day but its still a long time when she finally can call it a day.
PS: This is the schedule of the woman who has been washing our dirty linen and dishes and keeping our home clean for over decade. A woman who is my mom’s man Friday. A woman I address as Didi though she is younger to me I guess. A woman who would never be able to read this. A woman who is part of a tribe that is called ‘Kajer lok’ in west Bengal(my home state) ”Kajer Lok” literally means “People of work”.
Image : http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~uribraun/
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