First thing in the morning Jaya rushes to get dry laundry from our terrace, later arranging it in the bedroom. When she’s doing jharu-pocha, I sort and pack clothes for ironing in a special bedcover. Mr. Sharma goes through his mails, lazily sipping coffee on the sofa, I retire to the bathroom and get ready for office, letting home work happen side-by-side. We leave that bundle with disheveled garments in the car boot. Rafik, our driver, would give it to istriwala later and get it back by the end of the day. The office watchman greets us, grinning, ready to assist when we park. Yammu, our senior assistant, always picks up an apartment electricity bill. Working with Sudhir for last twenty years, he diligently helps in office and at home. Every time I call him, like a Genie in the bottle, when I can’t manage on my own, – be it pigeons in the balcony, broken pressure cooker or framing of photographs.
Unlike Ukraine, where you get things done on your own, in India, there are people around to help. Over the years every family and business build their support system, which is like a net, – when stone falls, everyone bends to take a pressure, decreasing overall stress.
Since childhood, I’ve been taught to do everything myself. Apprehensive of failure, I refused to accept any sort of kindness from others. Parents used to tell, that nothing ever is given in vain, earlier or later you will have to pay back, they believed. In college, I got my first jobs – first as a courier in an advertising agency, later in a business consulting firm. Receiving master’s degree in marketing at age of 21, and the design position in well-to-do digital firm, I thought, marked the beginning of adolescence for me. Wanting to unburden parents, I rented an apartment and started to live independently. Quickly I’ve learnt basic skills of survival – shopping, making meals, maintaining the house. I loved to be on my own and manage life with all responsibilities that came along. Coming from this culture of self-reliance, it took me years to accept Indian culture of support.
When I moved to Pune first, I lived in 2 BHK, which felt enormously giant to compare to my Kyiv apartment of similar size. Bathroom attached to every room, spacious living room and kitchen, – all to myself. Once someone rang the door bell. When I opened the door, there was a slender dark-skinned lady in viscose saree, uttering something in quick paced Marathi. Failing to understand, I said sorry, and in bewilderment shut the door. From colleagues in the office, I found out that it would have been a maid, offering her services, since I was new in society. She would sweep and mop the floor, do my laundry, and probably few other things for some extra paisa. It was really cheap but, coming from culture, where you do everything yourself, I didn’t find it relevant. Since then I used to spend most of my free time maintaining the house, – cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, dusting and cleaning the white-tiled floor. At home, in Kyiv, mopping is done weekly, in Pune you have to do it daily. By the evening you would see a thin layer of dust on freshly cleaned floor and surfaces.
It was easy until I got married and moved in with Mr. Sharma into a new house. Twice more clothes, a motley of things around in a place too spacious even for two. New responsibilities of wife, daughter-in-law, and mistress of the house, besides the work in the office, consumed all of me, and all the time. Shopping, preparing meals and cleaning made me feel exasperated too soon. I disguised my weakness behind continuous whining, hating to admit that I’m not a superwoman anymore. Resisting own stubbornness and prejudice, I reluctantly gave in and asked for help. Sudhir agreed to arrange for a bai, who would come for half an hour in the morning and clean the house.
“Don’t expect that she will do everything, the way you do.” – he warned lucidly. The idea of delegating work and managing it without a common language sounded overwhelming and exciting at the same time. But I was finally ready to move on and surround myself with the first, very own support system in India. Now after so many years, I’ve learnt to accept, appreciate and enjoy it, just the way I love being independent.