The sharp bell rang for a second time, with one girl on my lap and the other clinging to my kaftan I opened the door. There she was, a short petite girl with a big smile and twinkling eyes.
“Hello Didi” she began in a warm voice, “Auntyji upstairs has sent me, I’m a beautician” I could almost feel that beautician was in italics, she just said it with a ring in her voice with a tinge of pride!
Caught a bit by surprised I looked at her again and noticed the big plastic bag she was hauling, her shoulders stooped under the weight. Sweat marks were marking her otherwise crisp but faded suit. I immediately asked her to come in under the fan. By then the baby on my lap was fidgeting and the toddler clung tighter to my thighs and looked at the new intruder to our house with curious eyes.
So on that summer afternoon Kanchi entered our lives, bringing with her quick home solutions for the unkempt harried mother of two! Waxing, threading, henna, facials … oh how I had missed the pampering in the last 3 years. Now while the toddler played and the baby slept under the warmth of my hand, I could get Kanchi to spruce me up. Vivid Bharti played soulful songs, she made coffee for two and I actually looked forward to her time. At least I had adult conversations for the rest of the time I was either singing Humpty Dumpty for the nth time or spouting gibberish !!
Months rolled into years, the girls went to preschool and I had better control of my time and a new job. A neighbourhood parlour had opened up and like moth to a flame I went there on week ends to enjoy the air conditioned comfort and the options of a wide catalogue of services.
Once in a while when Kanchi came knocking I ushered her in but suddenly the work started to seem sloppy, the room was getting messy and the feel and buzz of other customers was missing. When I started avoiding the now not so young, trying hard to smile to mask her tiredness, shoulder still stooped under the big bag, the tough little beautician, I don’t know.
To avoid her hopeful eyes, I gave her few leads to pursue with good recommendations, which she thanked me for profusely. Soon enough I would glimpse her going around the neighbourhood and walking fast paced past our home. In my mind I thanked her for understanding and in having moved on.
Five years had zipped past and out house lease was over, we decided to move to another locality and as we packed up I found a large blue plastic backpack, possibly a freebee from a conference. Suddenly Kanchi popped to my mind, and it struck me that I couldn’t remember when I had last seen her. I kept the bag out to gift her and asked my neighbour how and where Kanchi was.
She looked at me with a puzzled expression and said “don’t you know she went away to her village? “
Turned out she was in a troubled relationship and her partner had runaway with all the money, valuables and her scooter. Broken she had borrowed money to go back to her village. Stunned I could not digest this …. This young cheerful girl who had brought me so much relief had not come to me for help in her time of crisis? How deeply must my indifference have hurt her. How wrapped up was I in my new found job and mobility that I had turned blind to changing equations. Wearily I searched for anyone who had her address but none of us even knew of her family or her village.
The blue bag sits in my store even today after 19 years as a lesson for me not to take relationships for granted even when they outlive their time and I yearn to meet the lovable Kanchi to give her the blue bag and actually much more than a bagful of apologies…