I stood back and surveyed the window. I had spent the better part of an hour getting it spotless and the result satisfied me. Suddenly the door bell pealed and my best friend, Maya, stood at the door.
“Oh no!” I thought, “Not now.” Now don’t get me wrong. Maya is my best friend, but as she is also an incurable gossip, with an extremely inquisitive streak, I was in no mood for her company just then.
My misgivings were justified, because the first thing she said was, “My God! Sunita! What happened! Your house is absolutely sparkling!”
She saw the withering look I gave her and hastened to add, “No…no… I don’t mean that otherwise your house is a mess, but well, let’s be truthful….you are not exactly enamoured of housework are you?” and when I reluctantly nodded, she added, “So? What’s the occasion? Who’s coming? Your mother-in-law?”
“No one’s coming,” I replied. “Can’t a woman keep her house clean if she wants to?” It was obvious that she did not believe me but before she could start up again, I steered the topic away from my over clean house.
“Come on, let’s have a cup of tea shall we? And tell me, Maya, when is Jayshree’s baby due?”
“Oh dear! That’s what I came to tell you in the first place. She delivered this morning! Twins! Imagine that! And now it seems she knew all along but she didn’t want anyone to know…..hey!….Sunita….what’s the matter? You have not listened to a word of what I have said. And why are you looking at the clock so often? If you want me to go, just say so. I know when I am not wanted,” she said in a hurt voice.
“No – it’s not that. It’s just ….,” I began rather reluctantly, wondering whether I should tell her the truth. But Maya was already out of the door muttering something about the treachery of friends.
As I stood at the window, I saw Mrs. Ghosh call out to Maya from her vantage place at her window. From their various gestures and with a little bit of lip reading, I gathered that she too was curious about what was happening at my house, because I knew that she had seen me at work since early morning, which was quite unusual for me.
I realised that I should have told Maya the truth because within an hour the whole neighbourhood would be aware of the fact that I was expecting an “important visitor”.
And if I knew Maya well enough, she would not be at peace until she knew what was happening or who was supposed to come to my place. Sure enough, she dropped by in the evening, still wearing a slightly injured air. She entered the living room and sat on the sofa in silence. I sat in silence myself, wondering how long it would take for her curiosity to get the better of her.
I did not have to wait long. In less than two minutes, Maya burst out, “Are you going to tell me or not?”
“What?” I asked feigning innocence.
“You know perfectly well what!” she cried. “Who was your visitor?”
“Visitor?” I said in a surprised voice. “The only visitor I had today was you, my dear Maya.”
“Oh! And it was for my benefit you had the house all spruced up?” Maya asked sarcastically. “Come on Sunita, who was it?”
“Oh!” I said as if I suddenly understood what she was talking about, “you must mean Pushpa!”
“Pushpa!” she echoed. “Who is she?”
“My new maid!” I said rather triumphantly.
“Maid!….but why did you clean up the house?”
“To ensure that she keeps it that way. If she would have found the house in a mess, she would have thought that I would have tolerated it if her work was not up to the mark.” I explained.
“But why didn’t you tell me?” Maya asked.
“Because my dear friend, you would have gone around telling everyone that I am getting a maid; and knowing what a problem it is to get a good maid these days, someone would have stolen her away even before I could engage her.”
“But now what will I tell everybody? If they ask me who your visitor was and if I tell them what you told me, they will have a good laugh at me!” Maya wailed.
“Serves you right!” I said laughing, “It’s time you learnt to shut that big mouth of yours sometimes,” and immediately had to duck to avoid the cushion that Maya flung at me.