Today was an average day. I had a meeting, then work, then some training and then more work. One of those boring days when everyone and everything feels ‘meh’.
So around late afternoon as I was freshing up, I met Dipti Di, one of our housekeeping staff. She is super sweet and her Hindi is impeccable. We chatted up as usual and the topic of Malti Aunty came up. Malti Aunty, too, is from the housekeeping department. She is a middle-aged lady with a short height and a round frame. Her hair is always tied in a neat bun and she adorns a round red bindi on her forehead. I thought she was really stern when I had first joined. But, eventually I warmed up to her. She was like the Indian aunties we all have. A little strick with the sweetest smiles.
It has been over a month since I last saw her. So I asked Di if Malti Aunty was on a leave or was put up in the company’s other office. Di said she was asked to leave. The admin heads thought she did not work hard enough and just sat around.
Di continued… She said that Malti Aunty did as much work as there was around to do. Due to her age she had to take breaks and that is understandable. However, this is not something everyone wants to understand. Efforts made are seldom considered.
Dipti Di was one of the people close to Malti Aunty and knew her story first hand. Malti Aunty’s husband has a mental disability that makes employment hard for him. She has two kids and she alone has managed to get them through school and now they are in college. For a very long time, Malti Aunty has and still is the sole bread winner. There were times, as per Di, when Malti Aunty would break down in tears thinking about the future of her kids. And this broke my heart.
Apathy. That is what I see. An individual’s struggle has no impact on others as it is easier to look the other way. The fact is, I have people around me at work watching Zumba and cooking videos all day long while sitting on a chair, not working and fighting with the management for the silliest of things and are still tolerated. These people are paid a very generous paycheck as they contribute nothing to a project, and are still tolerated. But, when it comes to hardworking people, scrubbing toilets everyday, showing up in heavy rains and clocking in 10 hours daily, ultimately are treated like replaceable resources.
When I asked Di what was Malti Aunty doing now, Di said the agency that arranged for them to work here has gotten her a job at a mall. Both of us hoped she was doing well.
(Originally Published on The Zainab Experiment: https://bit.ly/31khhYJ)