The Unsung Heroes





This Independence Day of India, the 15th of August, I want to talk about those unacknowledged Indians that run like a network of capillaries beneath the skin. The underlying support system. Those men and are often berated as being greedy and opportunistic but then who isn’t?

***

Some 14 years ago, I was a new mom in India who wanted to pursue her career. Working from home was unheard of. Clock-in and out times were strictly enforced and monitored. Work and motherhood loomed like a nebulous cloud.

 Then, this woman named Sandhya was referred to me by a friend. Could I trust her deep-set black eyes and the quick smile?

This woman became the sunbeam to me and the first mother to my son. He used to happily wave goodbye to me in the morning from the crook of her elbow but wailed inconsolably when she left in the evening.

 I was a tad jealous, but so content. Love’s touch and tenor are not lost on babies.

She also made me a cup of tea in the evenings though it was not her job. She knit colorful hats and socks for my son from yarn she brought from her home.

Sometimes, she asked me for Dettol or Band-Aids to tend to the purple and red wounds inflicted by her husband in his drunken rage under the cloak of the night.  The morning after, she stood smiling at my doorstep ─ hands around the newspaper, hair in a neat bun extending her arms for my son.

 I saw India in the bright vermilion she wore in the parting of her hair and in the dancing knitting needles in her hands.

***

Three years ago, my father broke his hip and was bedridden. My sister hired a nurse, Alice, who arrived promptly at 7:00 AM, sponged him, changed his diaper and left him smelling fresh and fragrant. She was also called other times when his sheets were soiled.

 Sometimes her starched sari was drenched under her raincoat when she arrived on a rainy monsoon day but rain or shine did not deter her.

I heard India in the distinct sound of the brakes of Alice’s scooter at our gate every morning when I visited.

***

A year later, when fathers health worsened and he needed a full-time attendant, Alice referred this young and sturdy man, Arvind.

By that time, dementia had corroded father’s brain. He used to shout and lambast anyone who approached him. This man ignored the invectives and patiently helped exercise father’s limbs, emptied his urine bag and tended to his bedsores.

 He also ran errands for mother, took care of beehives and pigeon nests that lurked in the nooks of air coolers.

Mother rolled her eyes when he pleaded her to lock the gate when he was leaving. Times are bad Amma, he always said.

I remember the day when mother asked Arvind to accompany her to the hospital for father’s check-up. He eased father into the car, loaded the wheelchair and then came running back in to get father’s shoes because his feet often slid from the footrests on the chair. None of us, his family, remembered that detail.

He read the newspaper to father and shared highs and lows of life with mother over a cup of tea when father slept.

I tasted India in the homemade walnut cake he brought us in a hand-decorated bag on Christmas. I was lucky to have visited that time of the year.




 ‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Linking up with #MondayMusings

Comments

  1. Wow great way of admiring the heroes we come across in daily life. Without whom we might feel clueless of what to do sometimes... You inspired me to write about such hero of my life. Thank you for writing such wonderful post.

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    1. Thanks Keerthi for the kind words!Do wrote about your hero!

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  2. ITs really a WOW post for the WOW initiative!
    We do see, hear and taste India as you had mentioned, but have never realized it till I read it! Salute to all the unsung heroes!
    Fantastic read! A must read by all Indians, I must say!!!
    - Anagha From Team MocktailMommies
    https://mocktailmommies.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Anagha!

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  3. I loved your honest from the heart writing about the hired help whom we generally dismiss casually everyday! Its so heartening to see you acknowledge their efforts with such love and respect.

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  4. I love this, Sara. It's always the quiet and unsung heroes who inspire me! Happy Independence Day to you and yours.

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    1. Thanks Corinne, wish you the same!

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  5. Happy Independence day Sara. Nice examples. Everyone have many unsung heroes in our life for which we should be grateful for.

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    1. Yes and we forget to acknowledge them.

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  6. I agree. There are many such heroes. I don't know a Sandhya or an Alice, but there were a few Arvinds who were a part of our life, and that helped a lot. It's not easy to do their jobs and know that we may never really acknowledge them. But they do. And that's really amazing. Unsung heroes. Yes.

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    1. You are right,Vinay. They need some appreciation and respect too!

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  7. These are real life heroes and heroines who make the beauty of a country and any country for that matter, Sara. People who deserve our respect and you are admirable for speaking about them. Belated Happy Independence Day to you, too.

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  8. Thanks Vishal, I am glad you think like that too!

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  9. As someone who grew to love the woman who helped care for my grandfather, I love the people in your essay. What would we do without those who love our loved ones with us? If I could make one suggestion, it would be to draw these stories together at the end. It felt a bit abrupt at the end and it was such a lovely collection of people.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Michelle.I should've thought more on the last part of it.

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  10. Wow, this is such a delightful post, an ode to all the heroes in our life who make it a little more easy by their huge effort!

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    1. Thanks Zainab, yes they are the real heroes.

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  11. It's easy to see the gratitude you have for the roles these people played in your family's life. My only critique would be that it seems to end a little abruptly - it could use another few sentences to tie the stories together, or connect it back to the theme of the support network you mention in the beginning. I also would have liked to see a little more related to how you defend them from accusations of being "greedy and opportunistic" - they seem like lovely, selfless people here!

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    1. Thanks Laura, yes I should have added more detail to the accusations they face.Knowing it all too well caused me to ignore that detail.

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  12. I love these frames: I saw India in the bright vermilion she wore in the parting of her hair and in the dancing knitting needles in her hands; I heard India in the distinct sound of the brakes of Alice’s scooter at our gate every morning when I visited.; I tasted India in the homemade walnut cake he brought us in a hand-decorated bag on Christmas.

    You did a fantastic job showing a caregivers dedication in the things they did (sewing hats, remembering slippers, giving dignity) and also in the things they didn't say but could be seen (bruises and being drenched). I felt I could see and understand their love of care.

    The ending felt to me like a line was missing to tie it all together to the opening. I refreshed my page thinking that it hadn't all loaded. FYI at first I thought I would be reading more about greedy opportunistic people because of the last line of the opening paragraph.

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    1. Thanks, yes the end seems abrupt to me too now.I was consumed by the details and did not consolidate them well.

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  13. You created three lovely vignettes, small character sketches in broad strokes. It gave an outsider an intimate view of middle class (?) life in India. I wanted to say it was different than here in the US, but I'm afraid people often look down on those who do those care giving jobs. I know how grateful I was for the women who took care of my mother in her final years.

    Details like "from the crook of her elbow" and "took care of beehives and pigeon nests" give us a vivid picture. I also loved the contrasting elements, like her smile right after the previous night's abuse, and the starch right before the drenching rain. I loved the premise, but like previous commenters, I wanted the ending to bring us back to the theme.

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    1. Yes Margaret, I am so thankful for everyone's feedback on this.Will try to incorporate these in my next piece.Knowing the subject too well impaired my ability to elaborate more.

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  14. What a lovely tribute to these unsung heroes who made a difference to your life. Thank you for directing me to this post. I am glad we had/have support.

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