One of the key things that has made it worthwhile to move from the peace-and-beautiful-weather-of-beloved-Bangalore, to the hustle-and-bustle-of-noisy-Mumbai is: you guessed it - the help.
We were lucky enough to have wangled an apartment with a Sea View on Bandstand. It was on the first day of unpacking, when we were admiring this view from the living room window - we were just standing there- side by side, basking in the quiet contentment of husband and wife, enjoying a brief respite between harried moments - when the silence was shattered by a blaring, high pitched voice which rang through the apartment.
Disembodied voice (unnecessarily high decibel): MAIN TUMHARE LIYE CHAI BANATEEE?
Trembling with fear, we turned towards the door of the living room and the offender stepped out of the shadows. A sari-clad wizened old creature around half my height, stood gazing challengingly and authoritatively at us.
Vijay(taking charge of the situation): Chai? Haan, haan, chai. Par...aap ho kaun?
The creature suddenly seemed to remember her manners and attempted an ingratiating grin: MAIN ZAREENA. ISS BUILDING MEIN MAIN-ICH KAAM KARTEEE. SAB FLOOR PE MAIN-ICH. EK FLOOR, DO FLOOR, CHAAR FLOOR, SAB FLOOR. (in a revealing tone) TUM TEEN FLOOR PE HO.
Dumbfounded and unable to argue this fact, we nodded assent. She discovered that we didn't have tea in the house, so she went to the floor above and used the raw materials and utensils there to bring down two steaming cups of tea for us. I was immediately impressed by her resourcefulness and decided she was exactly what we needed. While sipping the tea, I was quick to quietly but firmly impress upon Vijay that he shouldn't try his negotiation tricks and drive her away (since his usual idea of negotiation is to bid 1/25th of the initial ask price and this tends to turn some people off). He reluctantly agreed.
After the brief discussion on payment which she won, she demanded of Vijay: MERA CHAABEE KAHAN HAI?
Vijay (wary from past experience with shady Maids in Bangalore): Chaabee nahin dega.
Zareena (Shocked and hurt): KYOON?
Vijay (searching for inspiration): ....Uhh....Ek hi hai!
Zareena (With a condescending guffaw): MERE KO DEYO. MAIN BANWA KE AATEE, NAA. PHATAFAT BANWA KE AATEE.
Vijay, defeated, handed over the key mutely. Soon, she was back, with two extra copies of the key which she gave to us. And then, she proceeded to take over the house.
We were quickly delighted to learn that Zareena would not only cook for us, including early morning tea, breakfast and dinner; but also take care of the other household bores like cleaning, buying veggies, etc. It really is quite fantastic - it's like having a live-in maid without her living in.
She has her drawbacks, of course - the chief of which is her disinclination to fold up clothes and put them into cupboards. She much prefers to put them straight into the washing machine, regardless of whether they need cleaning or not. I have bought many new clothes, tried them on once, left them on the bed, only to find them hanging out to dry the next day. And since she enthusiastically and indiscriminately bungs in everything into what is clearly her favorite invention in the world, more than one wonderfully expensive new shirt has been tainted with the bright color of a cheap undie (Vijay's).
The other drawback is that once she gets into a chatty mood, it's difficult to end the conversation.
Zareena (out of the blue, while I'm reading): MAIN SAARA HINDUSTAN KE LIYE KAAM KIYA.
Me (genuinely impressed): Achha? Saara desh mein?
Zareena ( confused): NAHINNN! TUMHARA COMPANY KA SAARA LOG YAHAN REHTA NA..KITNA SAHIB AAYA-GAYA - SAB KE LIYE MAIN-ICH KAAM KIYA.
Me (understanding): Oh, achha. Hindustan Lever ke log ki liye.
Zareena (not one to bother with detail): HAAN - SAARA HINDUSTAN -TUMHARE PEHLA, KAUNSA MADRASI YAHAN THA? MOTA SAHIB?
(Cue for the beginning of Never-Ending game of us trying to establish who lived here before us - and who before them - and so on - ending only when it's sundown and time for her to go home).
Overall though, she has been quite a catch - has a heart of gold, works efficiently, and most importantly - today, she made us Methi Paranthas for breakfast.
And with a Methi Parantha inside you, and the sea in front of you, Mumbai doesn't look so bad, after all.