Little Amu came running . ‘Amma!!Amma’!! calling out loudly to her mother.
Her mother Savitri was sitting on a small plastic stool ,washing utensils. Hearing the voice she stopped & looked over shoulder. She saw Amu standing behind her. Savitri noticed her soiled hands and feet. Her dress was torn and she was sobbing. Savitri hurriedly put down the glass from her hand and wiped her wet hands with her saree.
She got up immediately and took Amu in her arms and said ‘What happened to you? Why are you crying’?
Amu hugged her mother. Streams of tears ran down her cheek. Savitri lifted her ,made her sit on a nearby wooden bench. Amu was still crying. Savitri got up, opened the water tap and filled a glass with water. She turned to give it to Amu,who by this time had stopped crying and was wiping her tears with the back of her hands. Amu held the glass in her little hands, took a sip and then gave it back to her mother. Savitri put down the glass and turned towards Amu.
Softly she said’Now tell ,what happened?’.
Amu started ‘Amma, Paresh and Jatin Bhaiya pushed me. They said that I cannot play with them, I am poor and dirty. They also said that they do not play with children who don’t go to school. See what they have done to my frock’.
Amu showed her sleeve.The frock was already in tatters and now the sleeve had also came out.
‘Amma, why I can’t play with them? Why don’t you send me to the school like Paresh and Jatin Bhaiya.’
Amu had so many questions for Savitri. Savitri was quiet. She was well aware of her financial condition. She was illiterate and doing household works was the only way to make her ends meet and feed her little daughter. Sending Amu to school was out of question.
‘Ammma say something’!! said little girl.
Savitri wondered, as what to say to the poor child. Savitri’s thoughts wandered back to old days. Savitri’s husband died in an accident. That time Amu was 3 yrs. After her husband’s death, her in-laws snapped their relation with her. Savitri herself was an orphan . She only had a distant aunt to call her own. It was only because of her aunt, she was able to get some work in houses.
Since she was honest & hard working she got a full time job of cleaning, sweeping and sometimes even taking care of children at a big bungalow. The bungalow belonged to the Mehtas, very famous businessmen in the city. It was a huge family of four brothers, their wife and children. But the main person who controlled Mehta family was Daadi amma, mother of Mehta brothers. She was the commander-in –chief of the house. No one in the family dared to go against her orders.
But despite of her strict behavior, everybody had a great respect for her, as it was only because of her efforts the family rose to such a glory. Paresh & Jatin were her grandchildren from two elder sons,Third had a daughter and youngest was unmarried. Amu had often seen Paresh & Jatin playing or reading colorful books. She too,like any other child of her age, wanted colorful books and good clothes like them. Only that day she mustered courage to go and ask them to include her also in their game.
Savitri too wanted Amu to go to school and enjoy life like any other normal child of her age, but due to financial constraints she was not able to fulfill her little daughter’s wish. Sometimes she thought of taking help from her aunt but her self- consciousness never allowed to do so.
‘Amma!! Amma!!’ you are not listening.
Savitri came back to her senses.It was Amu,shaking her hand.. Savitri realized that this time Amu is not going to leave this topic. Savitri, in the past, had managed to ignore Amu many times. Savitri clasped her little hand and walked towards the garden. There was a seat under gulmohar tree.the tree was full of red flowers. Amu liked this place very much and used to play there alone. Both of them sat on the seat.
‘Amma, I want to go to school.’said Amu.
Savitri took a deep breath & after a pause said ’listen Amu, I have told you many times that you cannot go to school ,you can’t have ice creams and chocolates and you can’t have new dresses like Paresh or Jatin. Your amma is poor , she doesn’t have money to buy all this stuff. Okay?Is that clear?’
Amu’s face wore a puzzled look and in a very low voice she asked ‘But why can’t..??’
This time Savitri immediately interrupted her. ’Look Amu, I don’t have time for your silly questions. I have lots of work to do. So you better play here alone otherwise I will not bring you here from tomorrow onwards. Got it??? Now go & play’
Her voice was loud. She got up and rushed towards wash area where she had left unwashed utensils. Amu saw her mother going and with a gloomy face she sat on the bench. It was 5’o clockin evening. Savitri finished her work .It was time to leave for her own house which meant some more work like preparing food for herself and Amu, washing clothes and buying some grocery items. She called out for Amu. Amu came running from somewhere. Savitri saw that Amu had forgotten all that happened in Afternoon.
Holding her hand, she said to Shanti bai, another maid in the house ‘Didi i am leaving.i have some important work and will not come tomorrow ,please tell this to dadima.’
Savitri was planning to go to her aunt’s house and ask for some financial help. ‘Ok”.Said Shanti bai.
Next day, Savitri got up early as usual. She finished all her house hold chores , took a bath, prepared breakfast for herself and Amu. Then she went to Amu to wake her up but the little girl was not in mood to get up so early. After much of cajoling, Amu got up . Savitri said ‘we are going to Vidya kaki’s house today,get up immediately,take a bath and eat your breakfast.We will go by bus.’
“BUS!!!” said Amu with delight. Amu loved to travel by bus. She was so obsessed with Paresh’s school bus that she too wanted to go by same bus to school. She immediately got up.’Amma really??’
Savitri just smiled and nodded her head in affirmation.
’Yipeee!!’ said Amu.
Suddenly ,there was a knock on door. Savitri mumbled ‘Now who’s this’, She got up and opened the door. She recognized the person standing at the door. He was Govind kaka, one of the oldest and senior most servants of Mehta clan. He was like a family member to them. He had often helped Savitri in times of troubles. Savitri smiled and asked him to come inside.
’Savitri beta, bada Saheb has called you .’ Kaka ,although of same age as dadi amma, used to call her Bada Saheb. ’And yes,give me water to drink’.
‘Yes! Yes! Kaka 1 min, but I am on leave today and had told this to Shanti didi. Something important?’ said Savitri while giving glass to kaka.
Kaka gulped down the whole glass and said.’ That I don’t know, but it seems sahib is angry. Parshu got rebuked today as he came late.’
‘Arre but kaka,I have to go to Vidya kaki’s house today and…’.
‘See I told you I don’t know anything.If you want to come with me you are welcome otherwise its fine.i am going.’Kaka interrupted her.
‘OK, Ok wait,I am coming’.said Savitri. She was confused as what to do. Little Amu was watching all this.
‘Amma we are not going?’ wailed Amu.
‘No Amu,not today,some other day,Amma has some important work .Ok?’.
Amu’s face dropped.She looked at her mother with tears in the eyes. Savitri was helpless,she said ‘Look dear,this time amma has some work,next time we will definitely go to kaki’s house. ok?? And I will get you a new red frock ’.saying this she tickled Amu.
Savitri knew this was impossible. Amu immediately agreed .She was desperate to have a red frock which she saw in a shop. Holding Amu’s hand Savitri sat in the car. While on the way thoughts started wandering in her mind as what could be the reason, what has she done. Her heartbeats increased when they reached main gate.
’Beta you get down ,I have to park the car.’said Kaka. Savitri got down from the car and with fast steps started moving towards the bunglow.
“Savitri! Savitri!” somebody called her.It was Shanti bai.
’Yes,What’s the matter?? Didn’t you conveyed my message to Dadi ma??’said Savitri Shanti bai was panting.
‘Savitri listen, first go and meet dadi amma,she is waiting for you in her room.I have to go as I have lots of work to do.’saying this Shanti bai left in hurry without even listening to what Savitri was going to say.
Savitri mumbled,’what has happened to these people and rushed towards amma’s room Now Savitri was standing before Dadi amma’s room with Amu in tow. Savitri knocked twice and in a very low voice she called”Amma”.
A strong voice came from inside after few seconds’Whose at the door?’.
‘It’s me Savitri ‘
With trembling hands,Savitri opened the door and asked Amu to stay there and wait for her.There was Dadi amma sitting on her chair.She was wearing cream colored crisp saree,beautiful pearl necklace adorned her neck.while on her big eyes rested gold framed glasses.She was leaning on something,with a pen in her hand. On her bed some packets were lying and some books were kept alongside the table.This was the first time Savtri had seen daadi amma. She had only heard about dadi amma from other servants as a tough lady.
‘Amma,I had taken a day off today,I had conveyed it to Shanti didi.’
”Where is your daughter?” said dadi amma ignoring her.
Savitri looked puzzeled. ‘outside.’ said Savitri
Another tension crept in her mind. Definately Amu has done something. She turned and opened the door.and called Amu inside. Dadi amma glanced at Amu. Then in a loud voice she called out to her youngest son Vijay. He came immediately. Paresh accompanied him.Now Savitri was sure that something wrong has been done by Amu.
“Savitri” in a stern voice dadi amma said ‘from tomorrow ,I should not see this little girl in this house.’
‘Has she committed any mistake amma. ‘said a teary eyed Savitri . ‘Please forgive her.i will make her understand’.her head was bent.
‘Yes!! She has committed a mistake’, said Amma and smiled.
Savitri got confused.and looked towards Amma. ‘From tomorrow, Amu will go to school with Paresh.’
Savitri couldn’t believe her ears.her mouth was open Amma continued ’ I heard both of you talking yesterday. Paresh also told me what happened’, and she glanced at Paresh. Paresh wore an apologetic look on face. ‘Savitri I have done all the paper work ,have talked to school authorities.You just need to go to the school with Amu once.’
Savitri was speechless.She was in total loss of words.It looked as if she was dreaming all this. ‘Take this parcel with you.these are the school books’ said amma and handed over the parcel to Savitri. ‘Amu’s education will be supported by Mehta family,Smiling ,she looked towards her son who was standing there quietly and listening all the conversation.He too smiled and nodded in affirmation. ‘After all Amu is also our family member’. ‘Am I right Amu?’.amma said and looked towards Amu.
Amu didn’t understand what all was happening and she hid her face into her mother’s paloo. Dadi amma and Vijay laughed. Savitri who could barely say anything managed to say thank you and turned towards the exit.
“Savitri WAIT.’” Amma turned towards Paresh and signaled for something. Paresh took a packet from the bed and gave it to Amu. “I am sorry,this is for you Amu”said Paresh. Amu looked towards Savitri.Savitri asked Amu to take the packet and say Thank you to all. At home Amu opened the Packet.There was a frock.the same which Amu saw in the shop.