Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cleaning Day

Have I told you about Oome, ever? That's not his name - but he's this deaf and mute man who comes around, has come around to do odd jobs for decades now.

His name is Mohd Something, but if he ever managed to communicate it to any of our households we have forgotten it. Oome is Tamil for mute and somehow (without the least intention to diminish, I assure you), that is what he has stayed. Or, if you prefer (as my maid seems to), Umesh - either  Sunita's attempt to civilise a name that appears insensitive to her or she likes to finish the word off properly.

Oome is a character - quirky, whimsical, self-willed... a fakir-like man. Silent for the most part - I don't mean that he can't speak because he's chatty enough when the mood seizes him - but keeps hisself to hisself. He has got the most amazing work ethic. Such a solid worker that his services are in demand across several colonies. He knows precisely what needs to be done, goes about hunting for the tools he needs (and knows which household can be tapped for large shears or that extra large hammer) and so enormously effective at any, but any task you put him to.

Once Oome's on a job, you can retreat to making him tea and snacks, coming back occasionally only for the joy of seeing him work - which he does with intelligence, economy of movement and quality. You know, the feeling that THIS is the best way to do this. He's a great beloved of Shweta's. She had a workshop for a while a few years ago and he helped her set it up with an amazingly intuitive understanding of what she required.

We have been asking for an afternoon of his time for a long time now. But the man has been ducking out of sight, crossing the road when he sees us approach and, when actually pinned down, has made several false promises. We are very sympathetic. He has been this way ever since my mother died. He really liked her, and so, inarticulate as he is, we can see that he can't bear to come to our house. But there is this ominous growth of peepal protruding out of our water tank - and we need it removed quickly. It's also a job requiring intelligence because we don't want to damage the wall or we will have no water tank. Oome's the man to do it.

He came today and it appears that he has decided to allot the day to us. We had four smallish jobs but he looked around and set his own agenda. Our yard and garden tends to be a little unkempt - mostly on purpose, because wild, leaf strewn surfaces have more interest value for the birds and creatures about here. But Oome didn't see it quite like that - he wrinkled his nose and set to work. So we have been engaged in supplying gampas, screw drivers etc and been called forth to decide on a dozen matters. Excuse me, while I deliver him some Roohafza.

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