(This Story was first published on The Weekly Knob at Medium)
“Renu, get ready! Come with me to the Big Bazaar”, Memsahib called out. An instant smile broke out on Renu’s lips. She loved going to the Big Bazaar because she got to push the shopping cart while Memsahib dropped packets of daal and bars of soap into it. She quickly finished ironing Memsahib’s starched blouse and pulled out the plug. Rest of the pile will have to wait.
She pulled out her dented tin trunk from under her folding bed in her 7.5x8.5ft servant room and fished out the lemon yellow dress that once belonged to Memsahib’s 11-year daughter Diya, who was a year older that Renu. Both Diya and her 9-year old brother Rohit were at least four inches taller than Renu — their dad’s genes, Memsahib used to proudly say. Renu was the natural and humble recipient of Diya’s hand-me-down clothes.
She had her eyes on the golden buttons of the yellow dress since the day Sahib brought it for Diya’s birthday, two years ago. The hems were frayed now but the buttons still glinted. She hungrily slipped it on, washed her face, oiled her dirty hair and tied them in two neat plaits with pink ribbons, and smiled approvingly at herself in the mirror. Memsahib always instructed her to be tidy and presentable when accompanying her.
At the Big Bazaar, she expertly steered the cart as Memsahib did her regular weekly grocery shopping. Memsahib also dropped two Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate bars for her kids into the cart that day. Normally, she let the Sahib spoil the kids with candy and such. At that moment, Memsahib’s phone rang and she started an animated conversation with her friend — discussing the upcoming spring kitty party with the green theme. Green saris, green cutlets, green napkins?
Renu had seen a flurry of TV advertisements for this new Cadbury’s candy bar while sitting on the living room floor — and her mouth started salivating. Her 10-year old wisdom said ‘No’, her heart thumped violently but her hands grabbed one Cadbury’s chocolate bar from the shelf and hid it under the bulky rice packet. Please, God.
Memsahib was still on the phone when she gingerly swiped her credit card at the register. Renu’s breath calmed down a little but her prayers didn’t lose fervor. Once home, she was ordered to empty the trunk of the car and carry the groceries as Memsahib traipsed inside. She pored through the bags and slid one chocolate bar under the plastic cover lining the trunk.
Later, she walked out with a dust cloth and the car keys telling Memsahib the car needed a good cleaning inside out after the shopping trip in the dusty streets of New Delhi.