It was one of those days when Madhu accompanied her mother Meena, who was called early for work at A- 240, the flat in the posh apartments where she worked as a part time maid. Usually 6 year old Madhu stayed at home while her mother went away to work but on longer days like this one Meena took her along. A big car screeched to a halt just when both of them were rushing towards the gate. The mother and daughter stood aside, wide eyed at the size and shine of the car that had just halted. Three children and their mother alighted from the car as the chauffeur opened the doors. Madhu couldn’t take her eyes off the kids – two boys and a girl. One seemed much older to her, one younger and one must have been her age. “Oh! They all look so nice – so fair and wearing such good clothes and shoes” , Madhu thought while unconsciously pulling her old, faded frock and hiding her rubber chappals. Nobody was noticing her but Madhu suddenly became conscious of her shabby self. The residents of A-240 came out of the lift to welcome their guests. “So, these are the people because of whom we are here early today”, Madhu’s little brain reasoned. Madhu and Meena were asked to help in carrying the luggage to the lift which really excited Madhu. She ran to select the ones she could manage from the big heap of fancy looking bags and suitcases. Madhu could only respond with a nervous, shy smile to the enthusiastic “Hi” of the children who had just arrived.
All of them reached the flat in the lift and Madhu quietly went behind her mother into the kitchen while the guests spread around the living room and excited conversations followed. Gifts were being opened and exchanged and so were the hugs and the ‘thank yous’. Madhu perched herself in a small balcony adjoining the kitchen. She was able to hear chirpy tones from the house and was wondering why such guests never visited their place (they had come from America, her mother had told her). Meena had always made it a point not to allow Madhu to work at the places she went to. Engrossed in her own little world Madhu fell asleep as she was sleepy because she had woken up early that day.
“Madhu….wake up….it’s time to leave”, she opened her eyes at her mother’s call. She mechanically sprung up from the floor and started following her. The living room was full of stuff that looked sparkling and new. The kids were tired and asleep and their mother gestured to call Madhu and asking her name (and not waiting for an answer!) handed over a 100 rupee note to her. Madhu hesitatingly took it and moved out of the house with Meena. From the door of the house to the lift (which must have taken not more than two minutes) when the note was in her hand Madhu’s long list of what she would buy was ready – a pink frock, a doll, multi -colored bangles, blue slippers, a chocolate and a fancy hair clip for her mother! They entered the lift and Meena taking the 100 rupee note from her hand tied it to the end of her sari. She couldn’t hear the sound of Madhu’s dream shattering. .…. “But it was mine” wondered Madhu.
On their way back home Meena stopped at the ration shop to buy rice, dal, aata, sugar (her list was longer than Madhu’s), proudly handing over the 100 rupee note to the shopkeeper. “A good baksheesh today it seems”, murmured he, passing the packet to Meena. Meena then gave him a one rupee coin and asked for two toffees which she gave Madhu as a treat. Unwrapping them happily Madhu’s wait for another such day when similar guests will arrive at some other flat began. In her life of 6 years her dreams, desires and lists had learned to wait for a sunny day.