<This story was published in Womans Era Feb 2nd Edition 2017>
Freedom is contagious.
It doesn't spread by touch, or microorganisms. It spreads by something more powerful - Self-awareness! I realized this recently when Sivamma came knocking at my door around mid-night to seek shelter for the night as she had left her husband. Sivamma was my maid.
"I think I should let her go. It is impossible to communicate with her. It is not going to work", I had complained to Arun nine months back. "You have to adjust with this one, Naina. This is the fourth one and you should now know it is not easy to get maids in this area", Arun replied calmly still typing on his laptop. He was right. Staying in a high end apartment can solve most but not all the problems people face in our developing country. We still need a workforce to help in our household chores especially when both of us are working. It has been just 3 months in Bangalore and Sivamma was my fourth maid. She spoke and understood only Kannada. I somehow managed using Google translator. Our conversation was limited to monosyllables and sign language. It was sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating but one thing was sure I was relieved that there was no gossip coming in or going out of my house. Our relationship was thoroughly professional and hence, Sivamma ended up working for all this time in my house until a day before when suddenly she told me that she won’t be coming to work from next day. I was devastated. I tried giving her a hike, vacation everything. But she wanted nothing and gave no reason for her sudden exit except a sad look.
We allowed her to stay in the servants’ room for a night. Next day early morning the doorbell rang again. It was her husband who was looking very disturbed. I recognized him as he had once come to confirm that Sivamma was indeed working as my maid and come daily for two hours to my house. But instead of fighting with her he was shouting at me. I could not understand a word when Arun, as always, pitched in as my savior and calmed him down. Unlike me, Arun had learned Kannada in this one year. Sivamma was crying incessantly. For half an hour Arun was talking to him with Sivamma interrupting them in between. I was standing like an innocent deer unable to comprehend anything and still reeling under the shock of the incidents unfolded before me. After sometime both husband wife seemed to patch up. Both apologized to us and Sivamma went back with her husband.
"He blamed you for his wife's behavior", Arun said thoughtfully. "Me? I didn't even speak much with her. And what behavior?", it was now my turn to be angry. "He told me that they were happily married for ten years. But after observing your lifestyle she has now started questioning him". "Questioning him? My lifestyle? What the hell does all this means?", I was still confused. "Look Naina, you respect your individuality and that resonates in our relation when I treat you as my equal. But still many women consider themselves as second fiddle to their husbands. In case like Sivamma, they even take to their husband's beatings and abuses silently". "What he beats her!! I should have understood that. That A******. Why did you let Sivamma go with him? Let’s take her to Women Cell and they will take care of this", I was infuriated at the mere thought. "Calm down my Bandit queen. He is back to his senses and remorseful. Sivamma never retaliated to his ego tantrums but noticing you she has conditioned to realize and make him realize her self-respect." I was in no mood to listen. "You don't know such people Arun. It is a psychological problem. Who hit once and then twice will hit throughout the life. Sivamma deserves to be free", I snapped.
Arun looked serious now, "Who knows it better than me, Naina. I have long been the witness to violence as a child.” I could not believe what I heard. The sounds of cough of his ailing father from the other room brought me back. “What! You mean your mothe..”. He nodded, “But she didn't leave him as she truly loved him and she knew he had no hope beside her. Nobody wanted to be with him, not even me - his son. But still she stayed with him like a rock and never deserted him. She had some higher insights, some other understanding for freedom and he not only reformed himself for her but started worshiping her by the end." He paused. "Sivamma is no longer tied to her husband, thanks to you! She has broken her shackles last night. But she does not want to run away from the problems of her life either. She values her ten year old relationship with him as she has shared some of her best times with him. Don't worry she is stronger than before just like the woman I loved the most". I was silent looking at the collage of his family pictures on the wall.
Freedom is contagious..
Its desire gets strong. But love is stronger and true love has the power to free the soul not for a life but forever.
* * *<Note: This is a work of fiction and any kind of resemblance is purely coincidental.>