Just Imagine

Sabiha Bilgrami
Thursday, March 16, 2017

I had the flu. I had never felt so alone. I missed my family. Shivering, I huddled deeper inside the blanket. The bell rang. It was my part time help, Noora. She breezed in with a steel thaali balanced on the palm of her hand. “Bhabhi, garam garam sangeti khao, ek saal tak aap bimaar nahi hoongey” (‘Have this freshly prepared food, I guarantee you won’t fall sick for a year’), she said. Noora dusts, vacuums, does dishes and cleans bathrooms at 10 other houses. Each working day is grueling.
And here she was, at the end of a typically grueling day, at my doorstep, comforting me with her delicious, freshly prepared Andhra staples. That’s when I fell in love with her – Amazing Indian in Kuwait- Lion-hearted Noora.

5 feet 2 inches, lithe 100 pound frame encased in a swarthy skin, her middle aged looks don’t distinguish her from any of the other back-answering, sloppy maids crisscrossing Salmiya’s numerous maidans from dusk to dawn. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Never, have I known her to refuse a piece of work citing ‘time ho gaya hey’. She is proud, passionately so, about her work. She epitomizes professionalism. Her diligence and longer than scheduled hours, highly inconvenience my social life. More often than not I suggest shortcuts and ask her to skip a couple of the agreed chores. Thankfully, more often than not, she shuns my suggestions.

The other day she grilled me about some fruits starting to rot. “Bhaiya, itni mehnat sey kamatey hey aur aap ‘waste’ kartey hey”. I smiled and realized three truths –
1.She cares about us;
2.She is a male chauvinist pig with XX genes
3.Marriage is an institute that helps you escape mom’s nagging voice, but not its contents.

Under the avalanche of truths hitting me, I failed to tell her that her ‘Bhaiya’ habitually buys a dozen each of oranges and apples, every trip he makes to the grocers, whether its once a month, once a week or once a day.

Unsavory memories mar my experience of tiding friends and relatives over difficult times with cash. But when Noora borrowed, the amount was back in my hands on the appointed day, at the appointed hour. She thanked me profusely for the timely help – Of course, my thanks were more profuse.

At 17, she married her village school sweetheart. At twenty two, she was the mother of three kids. Each child was delivered at her village home. The last one she delivered alone, heaving against the wall in a standing position. She herself scooped the baby and chopped off the umbilical cord with a nearby knife. What a superwoman. And here I am, 13 years on, still reeling under the rigors of labor. At 20, she also acquired a souten (a co-wife). Dead set against the second marriage, her in-laws disowned Noora’s husband and his second wife. Noora, brokered the peace between the two parties. I asked her why she did that. Apparently her husband admitted that he had made a mistake and that was enough for Noora to forgive him and HER. Now, the two wives coexist peacefully and harmoniously. Many a times, Noora combs and braids the younger wife’s hair. I still don’t understand Noora. What is her DNA made of? She works long and hard to singlehandedly feed, clothe and educate her three kids. She neither expects nor gets a penny’s help from her husband. And she bears him no ill-feeling. I have to ask - Prophet Job/Ayub, is my Noora a disciple of yours????!!!!

She makes no show of being a devout muslim. Yet hail or hellfire, my Noora, starts work at each house with the words -‘Bismillah’. This lady sincerely prays for the welfare and prosperity of the bhaiya’s and bhaabhi’s she works for. In spite of the chaos and hardships around, I sincerely feel, my family and I are in a safe haven, in a secure cocoon woven with peace and love. After all, if my Noora’s prayers will not be answered – whose will be?


Express your comment on this article

 
Ali
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Thank for sharing this tribute for Noora's hard work and caring. Many of us have experienced the hired help who with time, become an integral part of our family.
Wish that more people realize and pay them their due respect.

sabiha
Posted on Monday, March 20, 2017

Thanks Navniit.

Navniit Gandhi
Posted on Sunday, March 19, 2017

Very touching, and beautifully written...
Cheers, Sabiha!!!

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