Atleast I always thought so.
My belief has been repeatedly blown into smithereens during these so called prepartory holidays - by a person none other than our maid.
I pride myself on being an expert at reading expressions on faces – well, on expressive faces, at any rate. I can differentiate between a quizzical look and a blank look – the former I associate with a hunger to know more and the latter, with disinterest. I am sure it is a very logical conclusion any day, any time.
I never reckoned with that innate human desire to teach, preach and tell.
I grasped, quite late in the sequence of events, that my maid (let's call her the universal name – Veena Bai – though I feel that she won't ever read my blog, I can never be too sure. She's a kind of enlightened person, you know) equated my blank looks with incomprehension. Now, when I perform a post-mortem, I agree that is also a possible conclusion any one might draw but hey, this never occurred to me. Possibly because I am very vocal when I do not comprehend – actually I kick up a great deal of fuss.
So Veena Bai thought that I needed more information when I gave her a blank look when she was narrating about how Mrs. Sharma, who lives on the other side of the wall, fought with her mother-in-law in the street in front of the poor "thela-waala" selling vegetables.
Clearly wanting to oblige me, she put down her mop, which had dripped a considerable amount of water on the floor while she was talking, and sat on the floor, facing me. I observed, with a sense of foreboding that oh boy, she did mean to talk. She had hitched up her sari to her knees and made herself comfortable on the floor. I tried to show her how busy I was by pounding on my keyboard, but Veena Bai was unfazed. She's not for subtle hints, is our Veena Bai, even when the subtle hints make the very audible sound of keys being pounded at...
I have never mastered the art of conveying to people that I don't want to talk. Sure, I have been known to be blunt, bordering on being rude, many times but that works with real close friends only. Sometimes, finesse works with other sensitive people. What was I supposed to say to Veena Bai? She sure doesn't recognize finesse and I couldn't bear to tell her to get on with her work – after all, she's older than me and I have been brought up to respect all elders, despite their idiosyncrasies.
My non-committal grunts and nods seem to satisfy her, thank God. She is still happily perched on the floor, talking nineteen to a dozen. And I am apparently granting her a wonderful audience. I am making eye-contact every two minutes and saying things like, "Aur nahin toh kya! Aisa thodi karna chahiye?" and "Ajeeb log hote hai duniya mein!"
Poor thing, she is unaware that I am typing this while I am granting half-an-ear to her. I am simply not interested in why Mrs. Sharma threw a rolled-up blanket at her mother-in-law, who in turn, promptly threw a pillow at her. Gawd!
Uh, I am now aware of a lull in her monologue. Veena Bai is looking at me with a curious expression on her face. I am feeling pretty uncomfortable. Has she guessed something amiss?
"What story are you typing now?" she asks me. "Tell the story to me, beta."
Damn! No brilliant story comes to my mind. My own pathetic creations had sarcasm as a thick vein running through them and that's another thing Veena Bai doesn't recognize. She's a simple soul. Veena Bai is still looking at me with that expectant look on her face.
I throw caution to the winds and decide to settle with half the truth. In novels I've read that for people who have secrets to hide, this is a very successful approach. Let's see whether it actually works.
"Actually, Aunty," I clear my throat, "I am writing about Mrs. Sharma and her mother-in-law. I have obviously changed names but I found the incident very... interesting."
Ending # 1:
Veena Bai's eyes are twinkling with a simple pleasure. She says, very simply, "Please read it out to me. I want to know how you can weave a story out of something like this."
I want to crawl into a hole.
Veena Bai's eyes have widened. "Really!" she squeaks. "Then maybe you will like to hear the story of Mr.Saini too. You know what he did?"
I slowly shake my head and reflect that I'd soon find out. I open a new blank document and turn to Veena Bai with a dazzling but resigned smile. "What did he do?"
"Arrey, he drank a lot yesterday and he drove his car directly into Mr. Arora's wall. And you know what Mr. Arora said? He said.........."
What Happened Actually------
Veena Bai beams at me in simple pleasure. She said, "Oh, that's nice. Did you include the part when Mrs. Sharma threw a blanket at her mother-in-law?"
"What about the part when she slapped Mr. Sharma for bringing his mother home?"
I feel a warning prick at the back of my mind, but I ignore it.
"And what about the part when the mother-in-law threw Mrs. Sharma's suitcase out of the window? And what about Mrs. Sharma's departure forever to her parent's home?"
I don't think I managed to conceal my shock very well. If Mrs. Sharma was indeed going away forever, I was really disappointed. She makes lovely jalebis and she always remembered me when she made some.
I manage to stammer a "yes" again to Veena Bai.
Veena Bai got up, brushed her sari and said, "That's fine then, beta". She picked her mop and turned away, scrubbing the floor. I breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally over.
"Beta," she said over her shoulder, "next time you don't want to listen, just tell me. I won't talk. Do you really think that a person who makes lovely jalebis can slap her husband and be thrown out of her house by her own mother-in-law?"
I had no answer, and finally the audible sound of my keyboard becomes mute.
I told you, Veena Bai is an enlightened soul.