A Telugu ‘వాచ్మేన్ కూతురు’ story written by Sesi Saradi is translated into English as ‘Watchman’s Daughter’ by the same author, Sesi Saradi.
It’s been six months since we shifted into this apartment building and from that day the watchman’s wife started working as our maid. In a very short time my wife started praising watchman’s daughter.
This evening when I came home, as soon as opening the door, she excitedly said, “have you heard this?”. “How? You have not told yet!”. I joked but instinct told me it will certainly be about our watchman’s daughter, Kala.
Confirming my thought as true, she said, “Kala brought home a computer and the whole building is buzzing with the news”. Having said that, she disappeared into kitchen to prepare tea. I felt guilty, Malati, my wife often sends articles to magazines and strongly believes that with a computer and net connection, in addition to sending the articles neatly and quickly she can also enhance her knowledge. But I am postponing it every month, citing one reason or another. There is a doubt in my mind if the look she gave me has the ‘you could not do the thing which a watchman’s daughter did’ kind!
That moment I decided to buy her a laptop. All these days, even though I know her necessity I did not buy it as I will be using the laptop given by my company and did not let anyone to use it. At that moment Malati came with the tea cup and I went to sit in the balcony in peace, which is my habit. I need to unwind after coming from the office. Just then I noticed Kala entering into the building walking slowly, looking tired. I often met her while going for the morning walk or coming home from office. She goes to work that early and comes late. I felt compassionate towards her. Such a young girl and working so hard! From Malati I came to know that Kala has always been good at studies and in spite of opposition from the elders of their village, her parents encouraged her to study. Kala went up the ladder of education with the help of scholarships and she completed her graduation from a government college and now doing a job in a private firm.
“What a hard working girl!”, I thought. That day I casually asked Malati about the company Kala works for. I am pleasantly surprised as Kala works in the same company for which my friend Sudhir works too. The next day being a Saturday, I planned to meet Sudhir. Not to play a detective but to ask Sudhir to help Kala in whichever way is possible for him. I got a rude shock when I came to know that there is no one named Kala in Sudhir’s office.
My mind started racing with ideas. If she is not working in Sidhir’s office, what made her tell a lie? Where does she go out so early in the morning returning late? What does she do in that time? How can she afford to buy a computer? Had she fallen to bad company? I could not figure out.
That night when I came home, Kala is helping Malati as her mother is bed ridden. “See, how hard working Kala is! She came tired from work but that did not deter her from taking on her mother’s work. We need to do everything in our hands to help a girl like her”, my wife said. Just then Kala emerged from the kitchen to serve us tea. Malati asked brightly, “what happened? Did you go to Sudheer’s office? Had he promised to help Kala? I could not tell her that Kala is not working at Sudheer’s office as it will break her heart. Hearing what Malati is asking, Kala’s face became pale. I wanted to let her go. Maybe we misunderstood her. She might be working at some other place.
But Kala asked Malati to sit beside me and said, “Sir, I am not working at your friend’s office”. Malati stood up in surprise. “Not working there? Then why did you said that you are working in that office and fooled me?”. She could not believe that, Kala whom she always treated as a younger sister could cheat her.
Sensing Malati’s mood, Kala pleaded, “Madam, Sir, first listen to me.” What she said later was an eye opener for us.
“Sir, as you know, I came from a very poor family. My father works as a watchman and we move from one apartment building to another, as this job has no guaranteed time frame. We never had a house. The basements of the apartments become our houses. My parents always encouraged me to study. And the day I graduated is a landmark in our lives. But that didn’t bring me any job offers. As I am not fluent in spoken English, I am always rejected at the interview.
After six months of attending interviews, it finally dawned on me that my education couldn’t get me good job. This made life miserable for me. I could not face my parent’s expectant eyes whenever I returned home after attending an interview. But I can’t blame the companies too- when candidates with English as medium of instruction and degrees from reputed colleges are available, why should they take me? That’s the time I took a decision” – she stopped and waited eagerly for her to continue.
“You know ‘Sagar Enclave’, Sir”, she asked, who does not? It’s the costliest housing colony in that neighborhood. Middle class people can enjoy it from the outside only. But what has it got to do with Kala’s job? Kala took a deep breath, “I am working as a maid in some of those apartments”, she said calmly. Malati reacted as if a bomb exploded near her. She jumped up from her chair. “What? Working as a maid? Why Kala, an educated girl like you falling into the same trap your parents are trying to save you from?”. She seemed very disturbed.
Kala said calmly, “it’s only because of them that I took this decision, madam. Now I am able to face my parents and make them happy. You know something madam, I earn more this way than in an office job. I also stay back at lunch time and run errands for people, like dusting and ironing clothes, for which they pay me extra money”
“But for how long Kala? One day or other your parents will come to know about this. Imagine the shock they will get. Either change your job or inform them yourself. Otherwise they will feel cheated”.
“I know, madam, what I am doing is only temporary. I am saving half the money I earn and soon will join an English speaking course and later computer education”.
All this is okay, but what about the computer? This thought is itching me all along. As if sensing my thoughts, Kala came to that point. ‘I work in a house where their daughter is a software engineer. A few months ago, she shifted jobs and stayed at home for a month. Noticing my enthusiasm, she taught me basics of computers and recently she bought a new model computer and wanted to sell the old one. I asked her how much it will fetch and laughingly she said that as it is an old one nothing much will come as it is now second hand. So I took it myself and asked them to cut the sum from my salary’.
When the puzzle of the computer is solved, I have only admiration for Kala. There are lakhs of youngsters like Kala in our homes. We feed them, send them to the best possible schools and colleges, help them in every way to come up in life. Give them Anchorage, so that they will have a sound foundation for their future. But Kala is special. She is fighting against all odds alone to succeed in life.
I came out of my musings as I heard Malati’s voice. “You should say all this to your parents, Kala” I am curious to know what Kala might say. “No madam, I can’t do that. I can’t wipe the happiness from their faces.
If God wills, I will find a good job after I finish these courses.” She said with faith gleaming in her eyes.
I am sure Kala will succeed in her mission. God will definitely help hard working people like her. And I pledged to myself to aid her in whichever way I can.
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