I was standing outside the gate, nervous and my hands were sweaty. My Mavshi was standing next to me. Her hand over my head, she said, “Don’t worry, don’t tell them the truth. You will get this job”.
I nodded. The idea of lying about my age for a job did not appeal, but the last time when I told the truth, I did not get it.
Mavshi continued, “Just let me do the talking”. Again I nodded.
We were standing outside a huge house, it looked like a palace. The door was opened by a lady. She looked very strict. I bowed my head and said, “Namaste”.
She replied, “Namaste, come in. Madam is waiting.
Mavshi nudged and told me, “She is the cook”. I was surprised, as her look showed that she owned this place.
I had seen such a house only in movies. A garden, a swing, and a swimming pool could be seen from the living room.
A beautiful lady wearing a white kurta and Jeans was sitting on the sofa. She looked like a queen with such a nice complexion. Her hands and feet looked so beautiful with pink color nail polish, I looked at my hands, felt ashamed, and quickly hid them behind my back.
A boy of 6 or 7 years was sitting next to her eating cake. I had seen him in many advertisements and in a movie.
The lady asked my name before I could reply, my mavshi said, “Payal”.
The lady smiled and she looked more beautiful. I wanted to stare at her beauty. I knew I had to make an impression, somehow she should like me.
The lady asked my age. Now I couldn’t look at her and lie. I put my head down.
My mavshi replied, “She just completed 18”.
The lady was quiet, I felt her stare. She said softly, “Are you sure, I don’t want anyone who is below 18 to work”
My mavshi said, “of course” with so much confidence that even I thought I was 18.
Actually, I wasn’t sure of my age, we didn’t have any record, but I got my periods 2 years back, so I might be 15. Of course, I am tall and looked 18.
The lady continued, “She has to be around the whole day with my son. My mother-in-law is old, we have a nurse but Payal should stay here and help with other chores. You will be given a separate room, also you will have to take care of my babies, I meant my dogs”.
I looked up and smiled at her, desperate to have this job. She smiled back.
My mavshi was about to answer, I held her hand and replied, “I am ready to stay and I love dogs. I will learn everything”. I was surprised at my own answer, but when you need something desperately you will go to any lengths to achieve it.
My mavshi continued, “She lost her father one year back and her mother is very ill. She has a younger brother and a sister, Payal takes care of them and looks after the whole house. She is a hard worker.”
Again lies, some part of it. I lost my father one year back but my mother married again, she and her new husband just sit and drink. So she is forever unwell. Her new husband is not a nice man, he has touched me in many places and wants to sleep next to me at night.
My mother shouts at me saying that I should respect my father. I get so scared to be alone with him. My mother is just not bothered as he brings the usual bottles for her.
I told this to my aunt and my grandmother. My aunt kept my brother in her house and my grandmother kept my younger sister. They told me the money which I earn will be used for their education.
I didn’t get the previous job because I told them I was 15. So this time, my Mavshi told me to be quiet.
Just then the lady got a call. I can understand little bits of English and can speak few words.
She was laughing and said, “Thanks. Yes, the shoot took place a few days back. It was for Children’s Day. It will be aired today. Ok will inform you”.
She kept the phone and looked at me. I thought she knew that I was lying about my age. Her eyes were scrutinizing me.
I wanted this job for many reasons, plus away from the hell which people call home. If I told her the truth about my age, she won’t give me the job, even though her son who is younger than me is working, One day he will be an actor. For him, it is a profession, for me survival, but everything is justified for the rich, who are we to question that.
I gathered my strength and told her, “I will work hard and you won’t get any complaints from me. Please give me one chance.”
My aunt was surprised at my confidence, for that matter even I was. Maybe the aura of that lady and the kindness in her eyes gave me the confidence.
Now only if she doesn’t ask my age, I felt bad lying to her.
She smiled, told me “You can start tomorrow”.
She went inside and gave me a big piece of cake.
I told her, “I will eat later”. I wanted to give it to my brother and sister.
Mavshi and I left happily.
At the door, Rohan called out, “Didi, Happy Children’s Day”.
I smiled and waved. Yes, today indeed was the best Children’s Day for me. A start of a journey from darkness to dawn for me.