Monday, September 24, 2007

Privileged Leave

Among the many things the Brits left behind is a litany of curious terms and phrases. The ones to top my RankleList - "Yours Obediently" (yup, look up Wren & Martin), "Gripe Water" and ..."Privileged Leave". I suppose most of their origins could be worked out. What's been a little puzzling for me has been the last one. Try as I might, no leads. Till last Sunday.

The watchman knocks, and informs me, "Mangala( our maid) ne khabar diya.. aaj woh nahi aayegi. Parson se zaroor aayegi." Noticing me turn sullen he added, helpfully, "Unki beti guzar gayi, kal raat".

And true enough Mangala was at work Wednesday morning, 8 am (half hour late). No melodrama. No tears. Just rang the bell, walked-in and quietly resumed her routine.

Mangala is what you would call fashionably, a Single Working Mom.
4 kids. Alcoholic/missing/abusive/all-of-the-above husband. Father - cancer, at her home. A year ago, her 8 year old (and brightest) daughter is also diagnosed with cancer. For a whole year she has taken her for chemo. She couldn't afford chemo for her father and daughter. She, stoically, chose daughter. Never once did she discuss her plight or hint at an "advance". Never once did she skip work for this reason. Until it was all over. And until she took 3 days off from work.

I think I now know what Privileged Leave means. Privileged to give her Leave.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"..and the seat next to me is empty."

Almost all noble souls who have attained Nirvana have listed years of rigor and penance as Syllabus for its attainment . I have had it easy. It came and slapped me on my face and went on its way.

There was this Lakme ad that ran on TV a few years ago. Its set in a plane. Our Hero is sitting right at the back ( in Economy , didn't telecheck earlier for front seat, loser ). And he sees a woman enter the plane . And can't help notice how beautiful she is , and as she walks closer he is hoping she'll sit next to him in the empty seat... yadda yadda yadda.( To cut a long story s, she does).

Cut to me . A decade later. Sitting in the Subway.Riding upto Penn Station from SoHo ,no less. Lady WASP gets in carrying groceries . All seats are taken save the couple next to me. She rides 10 minutes. All the way to Penn . And doesn't take the empty seat.
My friend smirks when I recount later. "Its not you", he says. "Its your beard". Being brown and bearded in NY today is tough. How would I know? I am just a paapan who grew up in Madras.