Anarkali is not a piece of fiction.
She is an actual person that is a part of our life daily. As you read this, she is probably sweeping the floor of our house. Or someone else’s house in our building. Most of the stuff I wrote is true, at least it is how she has described to me. Some of the part is creative license. The part about her mom telling her what age she should say (her mom told us she was 12), the part where I implied her dad used to drink and beat her mom. That is fiction, but I do believe that in no way did it add to the already dire situation that she faces. To this I apologise to her dad in writing.
But this one thing is true. I have never seen anyone enjoy the task of jhaadu / pochha so much. She does have her moods, especially when she comes in late. But she really cannot tell the time since I doubt there is a time piece that she sees before she comes in to our house. She doesn’t know much about the days of the week (all days being the same) and every Saturday we tell her to come late the next day (we’ve learnt from experience). D tried teaching her the months of the year, but she gets confused between the number of days in a week and the months in the year, and her standard answer to both is 10 (saves time). In another life, she’d probably be an engineer. But in her good moods, which are more common, she’s the most talkative kid around. Her amazement at the concept of the microwave, is seen to be believed. Though she’d rather have us buy a TV, since we could then see movies. The “Camputer” is something she has learnt. (It is a testament to how much India has developed as a software center, that she does not know what a desktop is. All the houses she works in have laptops.) All music is Radio Mirchi (brand conscious kids) and so are speakers.
What haunts me though for some reason, some haunting reason, is that she is smiling when she enters our house. You’d think she actually enjoys sweeping floors. And here’s the strange part. Around the time she comes in, I am on my way to get bread and I see kids from our building going to school.
Not one of them has a smile.