Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Not a bad job...

It's not a bad job, cleaning toilets, she tells herself each morning when the alarm goes off at 5. Correction - it's not a bad job, cleaning toilets at this office, where most women remember to flush, to 'wipe the toilet seat', to 'leave the sink area clean and dry', and to 'leave the toilet the way others would like to use it'. Plus, she gets to wear gloves, fresh ones each month.

She gets lunch and a snack as part of her package, and tea, too. The men she hangs out with - other cleaners in the big office - are generally polite and friendly. She even makes some extra money making small alterations for clothes - word got around and now most of the women hand over little jobs to her, freeing up 30 minutes of their own time and helping her earn an extra 20-30 Rupees a day.

The office is huge, impressive - the lobby alone larger than her little home by the train tracks. Paintings hang on the walls and soft yellow lights line the carpeted corridors. Most mornings when she walks in, a man is contemplatively setting up the day's flower arrangement. It's a large bouquet, adorning the receptionist's desk. When he's done, he uses some leftover stalks and buds to create a small arrangement for the toilet. She takes it from him, wordlessly, and carries it to the bathroom, carefully positioning it at the halfway mark before the wide toilet mirror, under the bright lights.

At the end of the day, she peels off her gloves, changes out of the striped uniform into her graceful salwar kameez, and gathers up the stems of the day. She loves the days he uses rajnigandha in the arrangement. She breathes out the phenyl, breathes in the flowers and freshness, and walks out into the evening.


6 comments:

eve's lungs said...

people we take for granted but never acknowledge as part of our office lives ..

Anonymous said...

Hey Anamika, i am commenting after a long time. I love the way you personalise the stories of people who have been rendered invisible in our society - the auto guys, this sweeper...

You write beautifully. Loved the previous post also. It's books for me too - i mean the actual physical ones. But without an e-device thing like the computer and the internet, i would never have found your writing :)

Warmly,
Anjali

Thinking Cramps said...

Eve's Lungs: Yeah, the invisible yet vital support system.

Anjali: Thanks. And yes, I'd never be able to say all this to the virtual world without technology, nor hear your warm words :)

sukanya said...

you are back, Ana with your beautiful posts. loved it.

Thinking Cramps said...

Thanks Sukanya :)

Sue said...

The cleaners at a South City toilet were complaining among themselves last month: they are no longer provided gloves (salaries also come later and later) and one girl's hands were peeling and raw. I told her, buy your own gloves, but she said that her supervisors would insist on her sharing them with colleagues when not on duty (and gloves that last are expensive).

Thanks to your little story now I have an idea. Let me see if I can implement it.