(Based on a true story)
Working at a five-star hotel in Mumbai has its advantages. The who-is-who of Bollywood come here for a coffee. Black coffee. They dine here. They sleep here. The rich and the suave, in their shining suits, hold their business meetings here. And you get to see all of them up close. If your stars really shine upon you once in a blue moon, they notice your existence and even throw an occasional 100rs note at you without a glance. That is more than what a floor-cleaner can ask for. “Clean and clean until the moon shines on the floor” was the message given by the floor supervisor. This included the bathroom floors too. She often wondered why the moon should shine in a bathroom. ‘Maybe, the rich had private moons in their bathrooms, you never know’, she often told herself.
Today, Sarika wished her stars shone upon her. She wished it was blue moon today when everything went well. But it was not supposed to. She was accused of stealing. A terrible crime anywhere in the world. She lady in the shining white suit and colourless stones was hysterical and constantly yelled at Sarika. She wasn’t allowed to respond. Even to the blows or the two rough-handed slaps that landed right across her face. She stood there in the corner of the room and wept. Her empty stomach bawled and did a triple somersault within. But, she could not move. The cold room and their colder stares hammered her there.
White suit: “FIRE HER RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW! YOU CAN’T KEEP BEGGARS AND ROBBERS FOR WORK!”
Supervisor and G.M (in unison): “Y-ye-yes ma’am! W-we’re extremely sorry about this! We assure you of quality service next time ma’am. Kindly forgive us this time and give us another chance to exhibit our best-in-class service to you. We are committed to the cause of giving you a world-class experience in this hotel”
Sarika: Whimper. Sob. Weep.
Supervisor: “Do you want me to physically throw you out now or will you get out by yourself?”
Sarika decided to walk today. Walk the 15 miles back home. She cursed herself for that moment her hands went to that table. What would she tell her blind sister and her bedridden mother? A hundred questions invaded her mind. The hotel provided her with food for the time she worked. And she never even so much as had a coffee from outside. Maybe that 5rs could be used to buy medicines for her mother. Or buy thread to sew a torn sweater or an occasional vada-pav for her sister. When she went to sleep every night on an empty stomach, she told them that she had her dinner at the hotel. Her stomach filled with satisfaction that her mother and sister could eat their dinner without stealing or begging. Remorse took over her now.
After all, stealing an apple is a crime. It is the guest’s privilege for staying in that hotel. An apple.
Sarika walked in the cold night…