Smart solutions


As she was rather fond of gallivanting, she was very happy to run errands for me. If I wanted to send a registered letter (even in these days when email is the most preferred form of communication, a visit to the post office is sometimes unavoidable), or if I wanted a document photocopied, she would offer with alacrity as she welcomed any chance for a jaunt. Sometimes she would ask if I needed anything from the chemist because she was going there. She was ever ready to go to fetch groceries from the local supermarket.

While there, she would look around and tell about new stocks that had arrived and about the new discounts on offer. She was an expert at buying fruits and vegetables as well. Such a paragon is hard to find. I realised, to my dismay, such a gem was harder to retain. Just when everything was fine and dandy, disaster struck, like a bolt from the blue. Without preamble, she told me she was quitting. I was devastated. Was it a question of salary? No, it wasn’t. Had she taken umbrage by an inadvertent remark made by some thoughtless person? No, no one had said anything harsh. On the other hand, everyone had been most kind. Was the work strenuous? “Oh, no,” was the smiling response. Did she find the timing inconvenient? Not at all. I was truly baffled. I had exhausted every area of questioning. All my probing brought forth no convincing answer.

What else could I do except let her go?

I paid her salary. Adding a bonus for goodwill and appreciation for services rendered, I told her she was most welcome should she want to return. “I know,” she said smugly. I never did find out what made her leave. It still remains an unsolved mystery.

The immediate need was to find a replacement. That was fraught with difficulties. First and foremost, not many were interested. Problems galore arose at the very outset with the few that were. Either the timing was unsuitable or the salary demanded was a king’s ransom. One could spare just 30 minutes — no more. And she would do any shopping or odd jobs.

Seeing my plight, a family member decided to come to my aid, offering to take on the role of the treasure I’d lost. Somebody being better than nobody, I settled for the second best.

The morning I had to chop onions to make sambar, I appealed to the substitute for help. With great reluctance and a total lack of grace, he agreed.

To begin with, the simple task took an inordinate amount of time.The helper had to be provided with a handkerchief to wipe his streaming eyes. Discarded layers of onion decorated the floor. There were also complaints about the bluntness of the knife and the quality of the vegetable. Bad workmen blame their tools, I thought.

When it came to shelling peas, I was advised to buy the frozen variety as it was labour saving. Naturally, this kind of attitude made me diffident about seeking help to knead the flour. As I was about to tackle it myself, the self-appointed helper came up with a bright idea. “Why not buy ready-to-eat chapatis? All this time-consuming process isn’t necessary. The same time can be used to do something more productive.” How simple! Why hadn’t I thought of it? Coconut needed to be grated to make chutney. I called the helpline. The solution was found in a trice. “We could easily manage with chutney powder.” Brilliant! Only, it hadn’t struck me! What did strike me was that it was the last straw.

I decided to resolve the issue on my own. I started to look for someone to take the place of my wonder woman. All my negotiating skills would have to be honed. I would have to make compromises. There would have to be more give than take — higher salary, less work, more leave and probably compromise on quality too! It would certainly be tiresome, but a lot less wearing than relying on smart helpers who brainstormed me with bright ideas and smart solutions.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get the top news in your inbox
Comments (+)