Working Women

In the campus where we live, there are many working women. They mop the corridors of all the office buildings, clean the classrooms and sweep the leaves on the paths all around campus.

Whenever I see them, they smile and say, “Namaskara” (Greetings). I return their greeting, and inevitably a question follows, “Coffee aita?” or “Naashta aita?” or “Oota aita?”  Did you have coffee? Did you have your breakfast? Did you have your lunch? The question changes depending upon the time of day.

I give my one-word answer “Avudu” for yes or shake my head to indicate a “no.” Then I indian woman street cleaner images साठी इमेज परिणामask “Neevu?” “You?” And they also give their one word answer – Yes or No.  There is no meaning in the words or the answers, just a connection. We smile and go our ways.

The uniform for the ladies working in the executive block is dark blue shirts and matching trousers. It looks incongruent with the flowers in their hair and the bindi on their forehead. Do we have to wear western clothes to prove that we are professional in our cleaning?

The ladies sweeping the leaves along the paths have a different uniform. It is a blue salwar kameez set, or for some, it is a jacket to be worn on top of their sarees. The bangles in their hands’ jingle as they move their large brooms under the trees which seem to keep them busy by shedding copious amounts of leaves all through the year.

In the evening, I leave campus to catch a bus and see a long line of these working women at the gate. They are in their colorful sarees though the flowers in their hair have faded. The security guard checks their little cloth bags. What could anybody steal when they are sweeping leaves or mopping corridors?

I walk out freely and cross the road to wait for my bus.  There is another group of these working women there.  They smile at me and ask “Coffee?” I nod and ask them how long it will take to go home.  “Forty-five minutes” “Half an hour” “One hour.”  They travel to different places.

“And then?” I ask.

“Cleaning the house.” “Feeding the children.” ‘Washing clothes” “Cooking” “Buying vegetables” The list goes on and on.

I wonder about feminism and women’s rights.

My bus comes, and I jump in, lucky to get a seat by the window. I look out and see all of them, waving at me with glittering smiles.

“Divine Mother, bless them.” I whisper.

Sri Krishna Sharanam

108 day Vow: Day 107

39 Comments

  1. I could picture the scene. The conversations. ‘Thindi aaitha’ 🙂 I have always wondered about the working women around the city, security offices, malls, uniformed. How must it have been to keep aside their humble backgrounds and embrace the change?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for your sensitive heart Parikhit. It troubles me that we impose our culture – be it trousers-shirts, salwaar-kameez or language (English) upon them. It is almost like saying Kannada is not enough. A saree is not enough. Change if you want to earn money. Lose your identity to be part of a nondescript global work force. Hope i am not sounding too extreme. My heart aches for them.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “It looks incongruent with the flowers in their hair and the bindi on their forehead. Do we have to wear western clothes to prove that we are professional in our cleaning?”
    OH. MY. GOD.
    I talk about this all the time.
    Thank you for saying that. I hope more and more people read this post just for that one statement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was telling a friend of mine about your blog – magenta color smiling in Mylapore and she said — But that sounds like you. Is it you talking or someone else? he!he! i feel so blessed to know you! 🙂

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  3. I am not sure but maybe the uniforms they wear have a purpose.. That orange hue serves as a notice to the approaching vehicles that a person is here..like the traffic cone colour.. Correct me if I’m wrong 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks so much – yes, for the outside the jacket is fine…but inside the buildings, they have a uniform of pant-shirt to sweep the corridors. Indian women have been sweeping floors since eternity in sarees. Why impose western clothes as a uniform? They could have a same-saree uniform if they want to make them look “professional”? Don’t know if this makes sense to you. 🙂 I so appreciate your thinking about this and writing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Women’s rights must of course wait until the economy has reached the point where there are better jobs than sweeper. For now that is not so. But apparently one day.

    Strange to me some dress in Western clothing to perhaps emphasize not their own importance but the importance of the execs whose area is being cleaned. That’s humans for you! Always creating meaningless and arbitrary rankings. What apes!

    Nice post. Thank you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great gift of the internet – that we can share globally and expand our minds and hearts…i really feel blessed for that. And for your visit here too! Thanks so much. It means a lot to be able to have a conversation like this. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Indeed, the internet is a gift. When I was young, nothing like it — not even in science fiction.

    But now — now I hope someday when the politicians want another aggressive war for profit, the people will for once rise up and oppose it: “We aren’t going to fight our friends. We know people in the land you want to bomb.” It most likely will never happen that way, but who knows? There was a time when no one dreamed there would be a net, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love your Hope — Yes, that’s how it should be – when we connect like this, we learn so much about “real” people – not the ones shown by media or b&w images of good and bad. I love your idea of us, as people, rising up for our own friends around the world – May peace prevail. 🙂 Thank YOU 🙂

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  7. A beautiful picture of simple dignity and humanity…and so much to think about as your commentators explore! As for me, a person from the West, I am often ashamed at the imperialistic attitudes which still prevail…the assumption that other cultures are somehow less valuable. We have so much to learn from one another, somuch to cherish in each other, so much to honor in each other. And the ending of this piece…the Holy Mother…wow, what a shimmering reminder of our connection to each other, the essence of reality, thank you for penning this, sweet friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but you should not feel ashamed – it is not your fault – it is the nature of our times. We seem to focus more on the outside than inside – on that which we perceive as new, improved and somehow better. i so hear your words – each culture is a flower in the garden of God and there is such beauty and secret treasures all around – for all of us to learn and grow together as children of Mother Earth. Thank You for your gentle thoughts. Hugs and love. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, my heart aches when i see them – they have to work here and at home — yet, what sweet smiles they give, i always feel Divine Mother is blessing me in their smiles. I pray She blesses them always! To live in Her love and peace.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Shruti for stopping by and your word. The women i was writing about here are not literate and have no access to internet etc. Their circumstances force them to work so hard both at home and outside. Wonder if this makes sense?So happy to connect with you. 🙂

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