What defines Meena Maushi for me is her dance. Many of us feel shy or self-conscious about dancing in public. Not Meena Maushi! She doesn’t care if people judge her. She can shake a leg anywhere. All she needs is a Bollywood number to come up and there she goes - showing off her awesome freestyle dance moves.
Dark-skinned and beautiful, Meena Maushi is jovial - a trait that life’s challenges have not been able to grind away. She was a child-bride. She is a grandmother. She is 42. She works for four households - cleaning, scrubbing, washing and cooking - she does everything.
Meena Maushi is a byword for honesty. She believes “Uska lakh ka, mera khakh ka” - Precious but not mine - a sentiment most of us would adopt, if we could. Her relationships with the households she works for are long-term, to say the least. In some cases, they are over a decade old.
My parents celebrate their silver anniversary. We start the party with a Mehndi function. Some of our guests are busy applying lemon-sugar syrup to darken the shade of their henna while others are busy savouring the snacks. The party is taking its own time to warm up. Meena Maushi isn’t a fan of such slow-motion moves. She quietly instructs my father to put the Lungi Dance song on the record player and claims the stage. She flows and soars with the rhythm and the beats. She doesn’t hesitate even a bit in bringing on the stage whoever she wants; be it an intellectual college professor or a powerful social leader. Slowly, all of us join in and voila! The party has come to life.
Meena Maushi may not be well-educated, but I have rarely seen a woman as empowered as her. The women in her family earn more than the men do. I once overheard her talking to my mother. “My husband doesn’t earn well, so I’m going to have to take on more households to make up for the deficit. But if he expects me to earn better, he needs to sit at home and take care of the household chores.” Is it any wonder then, that of all the women I know, she is the one I admire the most?