She came every day to clean our rooms and take our clothes for washing. My roommate and I called her “didi” but never talked to her much. She also went about her work quietly. So it came as a bit of a shock when she started crying after we told her we were vacating our room.
She lives in a slum area in North Delhi dominated by Hindus. Being a Muslim, she said that she has to face discrimination regularly from her neighbours and they do not leave her family alone. Her husband is working but his income is not enough to supplement the family’s needs, so she had to start working too.
Her tears came when she started telling us about her children. She has 2 sons, both of whom are losing their vision at an alarming rate. I could feel her helplessness as she told us how they did not have enough money for their check-up since they could barely make ends meet.
But her problems did not end there. She told us how her body ached as she went on with her work but could not take a day’s rest as she feared that she would be fired. She did not want to go to a doctor as she preferred saving money for her sons instead of spending it on herself. She explained how she remained constantly scared that one of the tenants would file a complaint against her for not doing her work properly.
We could feel her sorrow. We could sense how much she wanted things to get better for her family, how much she wanted to tell her story to someone.
The tears started flowing again as she told us something which really riled us up. One of our neighbors would take extra pleasure in making things hard for didi. She explained how – when she cleaned his room – he would just throw things on the floor and then scold her for not cleaning up properly. He would throw his chappals at her kids when they created a ruckus and shouted at them frequently. But she never said a word, just because she needed this job and was scared that she would be the one who would be told to leave.
What kind of society do we live in??? I seriously cannot believe that we have gone down to such a level that we would harass another person just for fun! I used to read about such incidents in the newspaper, but now hearing about it myself, it felt really shameful to be a part of a society where these things can take place.
In the end, after we consoled her, she just asked us to forgive her if she had ever made a mistake. She asked us, if we ever went to a temple, to pray for her children.
I could sense the pain in her Voice as she said it. I sensed the fear in her eyes as she looked at us. And I felt ashamed of myself. For so long, we just went about our work, never thanking her for the help she was providing us.
I felt I needed to share this story. I owe it to her for taking care of our needs diligently. But more than that, I wanted to highlight the oppression that people from minority communities face.
Please don’t make others’ life difficult for your own sake. They are humans too. They have feelings. You just need to look them in the eye to see all the emotions within.
Sometimes a child’s voice can go unheard too. But these children don’t care. They still dream big. Here is their story:
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