Chenni is a woman of my age or little younger to me who comes to work in my home, cleans the floor, washes vessels, clothes daily. She is Odiya speaking not even a single word from any other language she is aware of. Initially I was a bit concerned as to how will I get my work done without common language. Still I hired her as I was looking for a help in order to concentrate on my other roles and responsibilities with little more extra time devoted to it. Swift in her body movement and highly predictable with her sequence of work and words used, and extremely committed and loyal; this is a profile of the tiny woman who is taller and larger than “Trivikrama”, as for me avataras of Vishnu is just a story reminding expression among lives around.
She knows her work before I could spell, nothing extra either in movement or words. Enter the door with a broom, sweep, bring a bucket of water and mop the floor, walk straight to the sink with vessels, clean, dump on the kitchen slab enter the bathroom to wash clothes hang them to dry, inform that she is leaving and vanish into the space.
I said through my action the first day of her work that kitchen waste to be emptied daily to a small garbage pit I dug in the corner of the yard and to put the non degradable like plastics in a dustbin firmly tied. It is an year since she is working with me not even a single day has mixed biodegradable and non degradable and religiously puts the waste in its respective place as per first days’ instruction.
From three years as warden in the hostel whenever I go on rounds in the corridor I see dogs pulling bread, crows and cats eating rice and other food waste thrown in the dustbin along with plastic bags and several other garbage, not to mention what. Repeated requests, instructions, insults on decent management of sanitary napkins fallen on deaf ears and all blind to the garbage created around due to throwing of shampoo sachets or the soaps covers, napkin covers wet and coloured thrown out of bathroom windows irrespective of the place it falls on. It may be the front yard of the warden’s residence or on the head, back or shoulders of the gardeners working. I was reading a news item of a school warden force stripping a bunch of girls to see who is menstruating as she found the blood strained bathroom, drawing parent and public wrath. Alas, I understand the woes of the warden, at times when a fresh pad fell on her head or shoulder while setting out to work for the day. Repeated instructions and requests made by the warden is unknown to the parents and public who are highly sensitive to the issues of girls ( In no way I am supporting the action of the warden but just analysing the situation from her perspective)
I have grown a handy kitchen garden to save my time of rushing to market for want of curry leaves, coriander, pudina and green chilli along with few easily growing vegetables. There are few fruit trees and a drumstick tree which someone has nurtured so that it yields for the posterity. A neem tree standing high and mighty testimonial to the ‘n’ number of batches of students and wardens staying there. The neem tree flowers profusely during summer. Chenni asks me politely if she can take a handful of neem flower, or drumstick leaves. (Never she has asked for drumsticks, mangoes or even the tomatoes and chillies growing in the yard). When I don’t understand her language she will call me near the window show the plant, walk there to touch the flowers or leaves she is asking for. Only after my nod she picks as little as she needs, keeps a small portion for me and says how to cook it and it is good for health. I prepare all that she says probably because of the warmth and concern with which she says. She climbs on the gate, gently bends the branch, plucks the flowers/ leaves without wasting or harming the tree. My students walk into my yard usually when I am away in the institute, or sometimes when I am inside silently without my TV on during the weekends. They hit the tree for fruit, leaves and flowers from the first or second floor where they stay. The fully grown, not fully grown drumsticks are hit mercilessly to collect. The broken branches, fallen leaves and unwanted fruits are left scattered in the yard without even a thought given to it. They have never bothered to keep few for me either in the tree or after removing from the tree. Without discrimination the young and the old, the budding and blooming chillies, tomatoes and custard apples are hit hard and collected by the students not caring for their bearer or the carer. Till I saw the cruelty meted on them on a silent Sunday afternoon, I was under the impression that the workers or some outsiders pluck them when I am away!!!
I wonder on my role as a teacher educator, how am I preparing the future teachers? We need the likes of Chenni more for the country than the students studying physics, chemistry, biology, math, and many more subjects as part of their curriculum. The hope of the country is on them to shape its future. But how many Chennis who are humane, humble and conscious of the environment are we caring for? They are the real strength to our nation, but fade into the oblivion, unnoticed. Lest we learn from them!!
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