Last month, returning from a close friend’s wedding in Uttarakhand, I called up my father on my way home from the Mumbai airport to share with him my experiences at the functions. In the middle of the conversation, he sensed that I was a little edgy and asked me if something was bothering me. I thought for a while and, on an embarrassing note, told him I was utterly disappointed with my cook, who I had to confront as I reached home.
My cook is an aged woman, who’s with us for more than a year now. She prepares simple and delicious dishes that we refer to as ‘ghar ka khana’ (home-cooked food), fondly. Of course, she is well mannered and pleasant. During her daughter’s wedding, my husband and I gladly helped her financially and otherwise.
However, over the past one month or so, I began to notice that some items from my kitchen groceries and stores were going missing. For a while, I dismissed the thought of my cook’s having to do anything with this development but when the frequency of the unwanted happenings increased, I was rudely shaken out of my belief. I had always trusted her, and it was hard for me to accept that she had begun to take undue advantage of it. I felt angry and hurt.
Coming back to the conversation with my father, I realised that subconsciously, I was afraid of facing the unwanted probability of noticing anything amiss once I got back home. So I changed the topic back to the wedding and told him casually that my friend’s mother had gifted me a huge box of a delectable assortment of home-made shaadi ki mithai. My father replied, “Share with your cook a generous portion of sweets from this box.” I was appalled. I questioned the logic of it, especially when I was so troubled by her actions. In disbelief, I blurted out in protest, “No, Papa.”
My father responded calmly, “Your sharing the sweets with her is independent of her taking away your groceries. Don’t suppress your natural character.”
I thought it over. Though not 100% convinced, somewhere in the broad horizon of the ideal and the practical, I knew my father was right. So, the next morning, just as I was leaving for office, I took out the box from the fridge, scooped out a generous portion of the sweets, filled an empty bowl to its brim and offered it to her. I said softly, “Aapke liye (for you),” and walked away.
That was the moment. I instantly felt as if an enormous weight was off my head. I could not believe that the solution to my stress was so simple. That is the power of a good deed – it does not require a functional mind. Good deeds are the simplest to execute because they only require a functional, large, warm heart.
Today, thanks to my father’s vision, my cook and I share an unspoken camaraderie. Whenever she falters, I check her and move on. Her misdeeds, if any, do not determine me. I do what I would do in the normal course of things, irrespective of the flaws around me. I do what is right, what my values demand of me. Today, I am at peace with my cook because I am at peace with myself.
This article was published at Hindustan Times.