She is rail thin, and looks spiffy in her blue uniform. Her hair is always oiled and tied into a bun at the nape of her neck. I haven’t seen her wear a bindi yet.
We started talking when I heard her complain about something in Tamil; I butt in their conversation, made a wisecrack in Tamil, making her happy that one more person understood her language. She says “good morning, ma” and “naashta aacha?” (“had breakfast?”) when I stomp into the washroom every morning with a major case of helmet hair. She becomes all shy-shy when I hold the door open for her when we leave the washroom at the same time. She pointed at my green hair and giggled.
Last week, after I got only a watered down “good morning”, I asked why I hadn’t seen her around for some time. She quietly handed me a photo from her pocket and said that her son died. He was only 21, she hiccupped trying to swallow a sob. I stood there like a fool, shell-shocked and tongue-tied. What happened? How? She said, I don’t know. He went for a friend’s wedding and they say he drowned. “They say” he drowned?! I wanted to shriek, why wouldn’t someone tell a mother exactly how her young son died? But I held back, not what she needs right now, I thought.
So I held her close while she sobbed for a bit.
And then she went back to mopping the floors.
And I stood there, useless.