Salt & Sugar

Blood is truly thicker than water.

The dark, slender girl walked slowly along the road, thinking. She wondered who would employ her. Would the young family of number 530? No, they were far too educated to employ a young girl like her. Maybe the widower who lived at number 542? Widowers always needed help; but then again there were always risks whenever a young girl looked for employment in a single man’s house. And then it hit her. What about the elderly lady who lived alone at 502? Surely she couldn’t clean her entire house by herself and surely she had a few hundred rupees to spare each month. She quickened her pace and took a left turn towards the big white house.

The house itself was called “Anugraha”, meaning an unexpected gift from God and sat among a row of other, ordinary houses. She opened the white gate slowly but confidently and walked up the stairs. The door was open for the sake of ventilation since power cuts were frequent in the city. She saw the old lady at the exact moment that the old lady saw her.

“Yes, who are you? What do you want?” the old lady said cautiously in her native tongue, Kannada.

“Mam, do you need a maid?” her rural accent was thick and she gave the lady a nervous, toothless smile.

The lady knew that she couldn’t trust this girl. Maids were never picked off the street; neighbours and friends r¬ecommended them to you. And look at this girl – she was wearing a simple gold chain, but with a ruby pendant and a sari with gold embroidery. She knew she should say no, but she wanted to know more about this girl. She seemed intelligent and this would certainly make some good gossip.

“I have to wait for my husband to come back before I can hire you. But why don’t you come inside and make us some tea and we’ll talk for a while.”

The girl simply accepted the lie and went to boil a pot of milk to make the tea. The old lady followed her into the kitchen and watched silently as the girl carefully measured the sugar and tea leaves. She looked at the old lady after she had made the tea but said nothing.

“My cup is the white one with brown flowers. You just take a steel cup for yourself. Bring two or three Marie biscuits with you.”

The girl did as she was told and soon they were both drinking tea in the living room, the lady on the old sofa and the girl on the floor.

“What’s your name?”¬¬

The girl paused for a minute before muttering, “Nandhini”.

“Nandhini, you seem like a different girl. You look far too rich to be a maid. Tell me, do you have family?”

“I don’t know.”

The old lady hid her surprise at this answer and continued to sip her tea.

“The tea tastes very good. Have you made tea before?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Nandhini finished her tea and got up to go and wash her cup. She worked quickly and was back within seconds to wash the lady’s cup.

“You will start tomorrow.”

She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at the old lady.

“But what about sir? Don’t you have to ask him for permission?” she said cheekily.

The old lady ignored her comment and gave instructions to Nandhini to come at nine the next morning.

*

The End

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