I Love Life Stories

by Anita Menon

As a Stay-at-Home mom, I do have the privilege of time on my hands every time my baby naps. So, I try to catch up with the Sitcom marathon of Friends, Sex and the City ( yes, I love that one too!) , 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. These days, I am bent upon, obsessively, finishing the 5 seasons of HIMYM. And I must add, I am hooked. I am currently watching the 4th season and I am already sad about the fact that there is just one more season after this. Like all the fantastic sitcoms, this ones a masterpiece too. Beautiful friendship and stories form the core  and make this one so ungiveupable ( if there is such a word but then I know Barney would have appreciated my creativity with words).

Yes, stories – tall, unbelievable, touching, inspiring, disgusting, appalling , LillyandMarshall stories, Barney stories, Ted Mosby stories and Robin stories. They have this fabulous tradition of sitting at the favourite bar and exchanging stories. Flash back and back again, lesson learnt and mistakes made again, been there, done that and doing it all over again. This sitcom captures the true essence of how life should have been — for me atleast

When I sit back to think, I have no stories to tell right now. Does that mean my life is not happening at all. I am sitting somewhere and life is happening somewhere else. Then why don’t I feel despair. Somehow I don’t. I feel I am too old for stories now. I am 30 and right now at this stage I have my priorities charted out. It’s all good. But I have no stories to tell. I have no friends for that matter to tell them too. Even if I had stories to tell, I am not sure, my friends, if any at all will be patient enough to hear them. So story telling is done with. I do not have anything to tell anybody. Moreover everybody is so busy. Who has that kind of time?  I don’t either!

Just some trivia– As a kid, my all-time favourite story was “The Thirsty Crow”. I used to make my dad repeated the story over and over again at all meal times and bed times. Now I feel I can imagine him ripping off his hair every time, I might have asked him for that story. But thankfully, my daddy’s mane is all intact which means there is a possibility that he did not actually get too exhausted telling me that one if it meant getting me to eat and sleep on time.

Back to the baseline. Yes, How I met your mother is a fabulous sitcom that tells stories in each episode and at this time point in my life I feel I have no stories to tell anyone.

But enter my Srilankan Cook. That tiny framed, wispy haired, broken english speaking lady fascinates me. Padmaji as I call her is a not as fantastic a cook as she claimed to be. But she is fascinating. This lady has worked as a cook in Europe , Americas and the Middle East. And this lady has some stories to tell. As a girl barely out of her teens, married to much older man, she crossed continents to leave her homeland and stay with a British couple in London. She learnt their ways and polished up her Srilankan English and according her pleased her mistress to no end with her hard work and dedication.

Each day when she came home to cook, she had different stories to tell.

Once she told me about the American gentleman where she worked as a cook and as a cleaning lady. She was pleased to no end by the generosity of her employer who used to tip her apart from paying her a monthly salary. He felt such gratitude to her for cook and cleaning for him. Once out of curiosity she asked him the reason. He told her that he was married once to a very dominating woman who would not do anything around the house. She would not leave him alone. Made him do all the chores, cooking, cleaning and still kept taunting and jibing him for no reason. He tried to break off the marriage but could not as his wife would not leave him alone and kept emotionally black mailing him. Finally he fled the country when he got a job in another state and changed all the personal details in his life so that his wife would not be able to track him. He did not even file for a divorce because he was scared to get in touch with her.  So when he watches Padmaji doing all the chores that he did once, with such dedication, he feels a lot of gratitude. The sad part is his wife caught up with him and he had to go back to live with her. Padmaji had to move on.

She also told me about her Russian Employer, a lady who sang in night clubs. Apparently, this hot diva put on a lot of weight after bearing two children with her Canadian husband. She grew frustrated as no amount of efforts helped her losing that “baby” fat and then she started eating excessively due to depression. Then she started vomiting out whatever she ate. Padmaji told me as if this was funny story emulating the vomiting action that her employer used to do. It got so bad, she says, laughing, that one day she fainted. They had to take her to a doctor. Imagine! ha ha !

I do not think, Padmaji had the faintest idea that her Russian mistress was bulimic.

She told me stories about her British employers and how they used to throw lavish parties and everything was so extravagant. Elegantly dressed people came to attend the parties, sipped wine through the evening, danced, spoke of business and pleasure and then departed only to meet the following weekend. When she told me this, I could easily imagine the finely dressed men and women, the exquisite dinner sets laid out, the etiquette at display. That is the kind of life I always wanted but do not think, I can ever have. But the she said, ”I could not understand how can they enjoy meeting the same set of people every weekend and talk about the same things?” She said, she grew weary of them very soon. She then realized that her employer was a businesswoman and needed to network and make contacts and apart from that she was too lonely and these parties made her feel happy.

So the stories continue even now when she comes each day to cook and iron clothes. I listen to her in such rapt attention that she feels encouraged to tell me more. Things about people she has not told anyone before. I actually look forward to her 2 hours of cooking at my place each day.

Oh! Did I mention her age. She is 60. She is clearly, not too old for stories and it turns out she has many more to tell. And because she has stories to tell me, I have stories to write.

Beautiful arrangement, isn’t it?