Seema was cheerful. It was a special day. She got dressed in the oversized still nice salwar kameez which once belonged to Arunima didi. The garment hung on her; pretty tones of orange and pink complementing her complexion making her look lovely despite the size of the garment. She combed her long hair and made a braid as she was always instructed to do. She loved wearing her long hair loose but she hardly had a say. Arunima didi did not like her dressing up. She did not like her looking pretty around her husband, Manoj. Dressed she came out of the room and got into the car, clutching little Saloni and putting her gingerly in the car seat.
She looked at the upscale place with moony eyes. The well dressed women made her shrink inwards. She suddenly felt conscious of her own faded, oversized clothes. She felt a few faces turn to her and snigger. She shrunk further. Saloni had begun whimpering. She immediately took her in her arms and got up to rock her.
Manoj and Arunima looked very pleased. Arunima was dressed elegantly in a pretty sari. Though plump, she dressed tastefully and today was looking rather glamorous. Manoj was good natured and did his best to cover his huge paunch under an oversized shirt and jeans. As Seema took care of Saloni, first rocking her and then as she grew quiet keeping her engaged with toys, Manoj and Arunima ordered the food after having a round of cocktails.
No one asked Seema. Seema had already eaten dal chawal at home. It would be preposterous to think that she would be fed in a star-rated eatery. Who was going to pay for a sitter’s meal? Seema had since long accepted this reality. She was shocked the first time she was told to eat at home before heading out but was used to it now.
Today for some reason, she felt sadder. As they ate sinful gooey chocolate mousse, she felt her mouth water. She averted her gaze and tried to coo to Saloni who was fast asleep in her car seat. She kept her gaze away and tried to forget that it was her 16th birthday today. Stupid as it sounds, she had somehow expected them to know. Of course, that was silly of her. She did not matter to anyone beyond bringing some comfort in their lives.
She was missing her family back in a tiny village of Jharkhand terribly. She hadn’t spoken to them for a year now. They did not have a phone back home for her to call. She knew that they must be missing her as well especially today. Amma made her favorite kheer on her birthday every year!
Arunima didi had promised her that she would get to go back home for 1 week in another 6 months’ time and she was counting days. She needed the little money that she made here. Most of what the employer gave was kept by the agency in Delhi. But this is the best she could do to ensure that her two younger sisters and brother had food on their plates and could study as well. She had to drop her studies when she came to work as a babysitter. She had asked Arunima didi for some books to study in her spare time or at night. Her demands were brushed aside brusquely. She had to look after baby Saloni. Where was the time to study?
A tear quietly slid down her eyes. She quickly brushed it away with the back of her hand. In this room full of people, she was utterly alone and helpless. Yes, it was her birthday today. But who cared!
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