In an ideal world, Laxmi would not be sweeping the floors.
She is a smart girl about to cross the 16 year landmark in a couple of months.
The sporadic usage of English in her speech is impressive. It impresses almost everyone, because no one expects anything better from her.
A maid knowing a few words of English is wonderful. No one thinks it is in any way needed to help her to, or even expect her to improve.
‘When elders get cozy, youngers don’t put nosy’ – a crazy phrase spoken by Ajay Devgan’s character in the movie Bol Bachchan. What he was trying to convey was that youngsters should not interrupt or interfere when grown-ups are talking.
Anyway, the point is we were watching this movie where the ridiculous usage of English was part of the comedy.
Laxmi was watching also watching it with us.
“Is that what I sound like?”, she whispered to me (in Hindi). “Does everyone laugh at me behind my back? Should I stop trying to speak English?”
Laxmi used to go to school back in her village till about a year and a half back. She used to live with her grandparents there. Then her parents decided to bring her to the city with them.
Suddenly, the carefree school life was gone and she was working as domestic help.
Before she started working at our house, she had been working in the city for about six months.
At times, a random comment from her like, ‘Money is no guarantee that a person has manners’ would imply that she had some not-too-good experiences working in the city.
Once in our house, she settled in quick. Within a year, she had become an indispensible part of our household schedules. And her struggling English speech made us feel proud.
We would correct her once in a while if she made a mistake, but more often than not we are too caught up in our own lives.
When Laxmi whispered her insecurities to me, I realized that we did not expect any better from her, because she worked as a maid. It struck me how unfair it was that her broken, spattering usage of the language and her passion for wanting to improve, did not make us want to help her learn better.
At times we forget how little things can make big differences.
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