A maidservant becomes really essential when you are handling two kids at home. My sister was born 5 years after me and taking care of me was really strenuous for my mother. And so Bimala Maasi was introduced to us.

She was a widow in her late 50s when I first met her. She became a full time maid for us. She was very soft-spoken and I liked her. Soon she was our confidante. She took care of me but was also a very good cook and gradually my mother and Maasi became very good friends. My mother started discussing everything with her, even her problems with my father.

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My father was a teacher and used to take tuitions in batches. Every morning before going to school he would take 3 batches of an hour each, then 4 batches after school. So he was always busy. He wasn’t a bad father, as he always took care of the entire family, but he had no time. This was the problem my mother discussed with Bimala Maasi time and again. Maasi used to empathise with her.

Gradually, they bonded so well that my mother stopped cribbing about my father being so busy. They would chat about anything and everything for hours, just like a husband and wife usually do. They used to go for shopping together with my sister and me. We had become a team; fun and laughter was the only thing we knew.

Over the years, as I grew up, Maasi wanted to leave, as she had purchased a plot of land and built a house. Her son, who grew up in the village with relatives, was now earning as well. So after much persuasion, my father said it was ok for her to leave. My mother was not happy, but agreed, as after all Maasi was nearing 65.

Even after she left, she used to come every day in the morning when her son went for work and stay with us the whole day. The fun continued still. One day she didn’t come and my mother was worried. In the evening Maasi’s son came to tell us that her gas stove had burst and she was in the hospital. We rushed to the hospital, but were not allowed to meet her. A day later she died. I had never seen my mother cry in such a manner even when my maternal grandma died. She was crying, “Whom will I talk to now?”

I understood the meaning of a communication bond between individuals that day. My mother from then on became a woman of very few words. And as time passed she also became hard of hearing. She would talk with my sister and me only if she had to vent. My father was, as usual, busy.

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In 2004, when my father retired, all of a sudden things changed, as he was no longer busy. He then took to talking with my mother to pass the time. By now my mother was least interested to talk, as she was happy with her own life. And since she had developed a hearing problem, my father had to repeat himself many times to make her understand, which took the charm out of the conversation.

The craving to talk with her partner had died in my mother, while it had just started for my father.

My mother never behaved ill with my father or vice versa, but there was a deep communication gap. In the past, when my mother wore a new saree and looked for a compliment, it was Maasi and I who were there to give it, rather than my father. Today, when my father compliments her even without her asking, he has to compensate for his past errors by repeating the compliment at least three times to make her understand. I sometimes play the mediator, as my mother seems to lip-read my speech better than my father’s.

Try talking to your partner now, before it’s too late and you can no longer communicate.

After our children left, we learnt to communicate all over again

When married to an emotionally distant spouse

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