Thursday, April 1, 2010


She would come every day with her brows furrowed deep, looking thirsty and resolute. Brown wrinkled skin that had slogged incessantly under the Indian sun for many summers, a stooping aged frame that shook to her mercurial tempers….receding white hair that she was obnoxious enough to colour an abnormally thick boot-polish black with cheap dye when she managed some extra money....that was Lakshamma for me.

She faught with my brother all the time.

It would start with a thump. Dropping the broom to the floor, she would proceed to argue in her throaty high-decibel squeak. I would leave them to it, knowing that it would conclude sooner or later. Sure enough, she would stomp out of the room irritated, her small frame shaking to her temperamental tantrums. My cheeky brother’s continuous stream of harsh criticisms were what caused this. They would constantly irk her to no end. She would show her anger on the broom, sweeping in a maniac frenzy, her ageing frame bending over.

Lakshamma was never impeccable in her chores---a fact that she wouldn't accept even if the evidence stared at her right in the face. There was coarseness to her shabby work, completed with hasty impatience. She was the busy-bee who always has too much to handle on her stooping shoulders and she never cared enough but to reply with a very blatant “no” if we occasionally complained about the quality of her work. Of course, her work wasn’t anything exciting, she never received promotions. Lakshamma was just the typical housemaid—tough, quick with a mercurial temper, shabby, hasty and gruff.

But nothing I’ve ever seen is more beautiful than the innocent heart of hers.

She was the somebody that had never grown out of childhood. Happily unaffected by the complex chaos that was the world, she had developed into a very pure-minded individual with clean hands. Her mind held the same childlike wonder towards the world…..although she never made any sincere attempt to learn. There would forever be that curious kid in her--- the one who looked at vehicles as marvels, and who didn’t know why aero planes flew or how many continents there were. For her, the world was just a very big puzzle not worth solving. She would admire from afar when god granted her the time. When he didn’t, she would get right back to work, following the bland routine. She would stare at walls and think deeply when we handed her the filter coffee in a steel tumbler. I often wondered what she thought about that much.

It was true life had been unfair to her. Her husband ran away, leaving her to face her world alone. She had seen hard days. And had survived through raw grit and endurance. Life had given her her blows very early and she had accepted the challenges. One thing that stood out about her personality was that she wasn’t the resigned, fatigued spirit who moaned about the injustice in her life. She was ignorant, that is true, but certainly not pessimistic although she had every reason to be. Every single day was survival for Lakshamma. And she knew that she had to work very hard to maintain a crumbling family. Burdened but never submissive to the ways of the world, she would slog under the sun, ignoring the weather. She was a fighter.

I shared my name with Lakshamma. My food. My dreams. I shared a lot. Although she gave me absolutely bizarre advises (like tattooing symbols on my forehead, for example), she sometimes slipped me snippets of her life. I found her a fascinating person to talk to. Her simplistic, honest-on-the-face and gruff habits pleased me in the weirdest of ways. And her antics were even more amusing. I had grown with the house, and Lakshamma has been part of the house ever since I can remember. She, in fact, has been part of my life ever since I can remember as well. She has seen me grow up, but she hasn’t for me. I might grow taller by the inches, but she’ll always look taller to my eyes. Somethings don’t change.

As I unveil my soul scrolls, I see that I have shared quite a bit with this woman---she’s integral to everything that defines home….she somehow has to be there in the background of any significant memory….because she’s always stayed there.

She was my first pillion rider, (that’s a story I would someday share in much more of a detail), and such an amazing flatterer. It was utter delight when I accidentally spotted her walking with those furrowed brows in Hawaii slippers down familiar streets. “There is somebody I know” I would say, if anybody asked. Doing that made me feel warm.

Lakshamma!” I would scream, no matter if she could hear me or not. Acknowledging her presence in my world has always seemed important to me.

Ultimately, my brother’s criticisms weren’t unjust you know. She was inefficient. She was hasty. She was sometimes really stubborn. But she was also somebody who didn’t give up. She was my friend.

I don’t get to meet her often anymore. She doesn’t work for us from the time we moved here. But if I do get to spot her on the streets, I wouldn’t forget to frantically call to my first pillion rider and acknowledge her presence in my life and growing up.

And I know that she’ll turn right back to smile at me, unforrowing her brow with recognition and throw a friendly wave at me before her Hawaii slippers carry her stooping, aged figure into the streets, her mud-caked feet disappearing into the common masses.



Laksh......once leave me speechless......absolutely amazing......I take up the simple people.....or simple things of life..and make them sooo special..........WONDERFUL......I bow down to thee!!

ARJuna said...

As always the vivid details blow me away. It's as if Lakshamma had always been a part of my life too. Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory of yours with the blogosphere.

praneshachar said...

rememering and writing about lakshamma is a great tribute her. I wish someone will tell her u wrote about her in internet?computer and that too with her photo. she will be delighted to know and perhaps see her photo in net/computer. really true these maids of olden days are part of families. My memory went thro maid of my house in Hospet yellakka humble and as many have tuff time in running thro the life. she is no more but still we remember and talk about her
lakshmi I am proud of you for this post

Anonymous said...

its just so beautiful...

aravind said...

im speechless.....y do u write so well ??
OMG !!!

Darshan Gad said...

Nicely compilied :)

Darshan Gad said...

Nicely compiled :)

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

@Anusha: Thank you sweetheart! :) There is a lot more i need to learn, from you, from lakshamma and from the world. So keep your head held high! :)
@ARjuna: Heeey! Thanks for the comment! Delighted to know it caused you to relate to what exactly I'm talking about! Thanks for being a faithful follower of the amateur's attempts. You don't know how grateful I am for that! Cheers and thx fr reading! :)
@pranesh sir: Thaaank you! You know, i do plan on letting her know...although i doubt she will be that excited...because she doesnt exactly seem to get the relavance of people writing about her...she never learnt how to write herself. But it might certainly delight her, to know that i atleast did something for her...she views that itself as something nice, rather than knowing what exactly i wrote about her...:) if my aunt spots her on the streets, I would want her to tell sure she will be very happy to know...:) thanks fr the comment.
@Vibsy: Thaaank you sweetheaart! I'll be hopping by your blog sooN! :)
@Marty: :D Dude, I write so well because you can write even better! I just try to get to your standards you know. ;)
Go man, einsteinji!!! :D We all have different things we're good at.
for you, its everything.
For me, i need to carve out my own zone of comfort...hence. ;)
thx fr the comment. I'll look forward to seein u here! cheers!
@Darshan uncle: thank you and thank you! real happy to see you comment!

ZARDY said...

I find this very touching. I see how close and important she has become to you after so many years of memories. I wish I could recognize her on the streets of Bangalore, just with the help of this photograph, and I wish she could read this.But I doubt that either of that would be likely. This is indeed a wonderful tribute to Lakshamma, wherever she is right now. She will always be an essential part of your memories. And that's what matters. :)

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

@zardy: true!! You know, i've sorta grown really attached to this woman. she wasent the type of person who displayed affection..she was real gruff and rude sometimes. But still, is is such a lovable person! :) I would love to let her know about writing about her...its the least i can do! if you do spot her, you can say hi, im lakshmi's friend!! :) I'm sure she'll recognize and acknowelde that! this time, im srsly hoping to get to see her!! thanks fr reading, btw.

VoID said...

Awesome ...truly..:)...sometimes it makes us wonder y dnt all of us ve a similar outlook towards lyf lyk her..:)tht wud make all things very simple..:)...neways gr8 post..:)

Omkar said...

Its amazing, how u remember and show your gratitude to the people who have served you in the past. Its even pleasing that you decided to share about these people in this blog. I regret for not showing my gratitude to few people who have hoped for my success and goodwill in the past. I request the almighty to give me one more oppurtunity to show my concern towards them.