The Toilet Woman

I was hustled through the Taj Mahal. All that exhaled breath, discoloring and destroying the marble. Mumtaz could not be pleased. Loved the beaches at Trivandrum, Cochin, Mumbai. The Arabian Sea is warm as bath water. Traveled from Bangalore to the Punjab, to Calcutta and Goa. The entire time I was in India, I was haunted by expectations of the bathroom facilities that would be available to me, especially after my encounter with the monkey bathroom on the way to Goa. That is a story, though, for another time.

After staying in every sort of hotel, from five-star to no-star, I took a flat in Delhi, occupying the top floor, with a veranda, while the landlord and his wife lived on the second floor, and the landlord’s elderly mother lived in the ground floor flat. My flat came with a gardener (to care for the potted plants on the veranda and the balcony), a housekeeper named Saraswati, and the Toilet Woman, whose name I never knew.

I was never to ask Saraswati to clean the bathroom; that would have constituted an insult. I was never to allow the toilet woman to enter the apartment, eat or drink from any of the kitchen utensils. The bathroom had a lock on the outside of the door, on the side facing my bedroom, that I was to lock and an outside entry door that I was to leave unlocked for the Toilet Woman to enter daily to collect and empty the trash and clean the sink, toilet, and shower. All of my servants were dark-skinned, so I didn’t think skin-color made the difference in how they were treated. They were all of the Shudra caste, the gardener a bit fairer than either of the women. It was the Toilet Woman, however, who caught all the hell.

Asha, my landlady, would berate the Toilet Woman daily. I never knew what wrong she had committed, or even if she had done something wrong. Asha always seemed to yell at her as the normal tone of address. I felt for the Toilet Woman and wanted to know more about her, but speaking no Hindi, this was difficult.

One day, I offered her a drink of water from one of my glasses. I asked her inside, after Saraswati was long gone, of course. She spied a chocolate cake I had sitting on the counter and indicated she’d like a piece. She wanted me to wrap it up for her, so I did. She told me, in pantomime, that she had a child who would like it. Another time, she indicated she’d like to have a pair of jeans she saw hanging to dry. Saraswati did my laundry and hung it on the veranda from lines she rigged up especially for the task. I gave the Toilet Woman the jeans.

I learned that many female workers and their children lived in abandoned, crumbling housing without benefit of indoor plumbing, electricity, or running water. Yet, every day the Toilet Woman appeared clean and freshly pressed to cart away my garbage, clean my bathroom, and catch hell from Asha, all for the low price of 150 rupees…a month. At the time, that was equivalent to about $3…a month. At that rate of pay, I figured the Toilet Woman had to clean an awful lot of toilets to make her living. Every day. After watching Saraswati clean the counter tops, dust, and mop the floor with the same dirty cloth and the increasingly dirty water, I couldn’t understand why she was considered better than the Toilet Woman.

Suddenly, Medical Care is Different

I posted before that diagnosis of AS was too expensive a service to be provided to the poor. Also, the focus is on children, as if people born with this neurological difference came into existence only after the difference was included in the DSM.

It took 17 years to get a correct diagnosis of a family member who was taken to psychologists from childhood. Now that health insurance for poor children has been tweaked, no child in California should have to experience this type of denial of service or provision of poor service because of lack of funds.

I filed a complaint with my insurance about being denied a consult with a neurologist early in the year. I do not understand why psychiatry has commandeered the treatment and diagnosis of AS. If they merely want to push pills, patients should not be forced to see them if they do not have behavioral problems requiring drugs. Big Pharma shils do not impress me.

My complaint and avoidance of my primary care provider might have had some impact on what happened the other day, but I think something occurred at the management level because when I went in to ask for a second opinion and to see the neurologist again, my request was granted without a squawk. Staff changes were apparent and the process was a bit more streamlined. Whatever happened, I’m glad of it. Age and income should have no bearing on the receipt of medical care. Rationing health care, especially to those without adequate funds, only costs all of us in the long run.

Overwhelmed to Speechlessness

What is wrong with the world? Conflict and clashes everywhere. Dry land turned to raging torrents in one part of the world, no rain falls on dust bowls in other parts of the world. Even the animals no longer behave as they once did. They, too, are adapting to the new state of things.

Ebola. Abuse. Yet another crime drama presented for our entertainment. Terrorism. Air strikes. Bibi is a schnook. Children who think they’re grown. $800 for a phone. Homeless vets. Starbucks salute. Mindlessness, disconnection, indifference, fear.

Why did the President win a Nobel? Flood Wall Street. Economy still stagnant. Permanent, perpetual war with enemies who were once frenemies and in our employ.

Money in politics. Diminution of civil and human rights. Police brutality. Continuation of excess death. Desperation.

And the band plays on.

Todos los Dias

Every morning, no matter how I try to avoid it, I am forced to listen to the crazy woman across the street rant, rave, and rail at her children. I believe she is mentally ill. She has referred to herself as a time-bomb, ready to explode. I guess these morning outbursts are the prelude to the major eruption. Is this the new motherhood?

This household is thug central. Too many have died prematurely from this house. Too many from this house have made jail and prison their constant domiciles. Thieves, murderers, drug dealers, gun runners, abusers. These are the fruits of this household’s family tree.

After listening to the morning harangue, which lasts from 30 to 45 minutes, I’m in a mood most foul, and I wonder how the children feel. The past two weeks, for example, I have never heard SB, say good morning, I love you, have a good day. I’ve never heard her ask do you have everything you need, is your homework in your backpack, do you need lunch money? Instead, I hear her screaming about how much work she has done cleaning the house, how the utilities are all still on even though she doesn’t have a job. Oh, I do recall her telling her daughter that she had love for her, but that she didn’t like her at all and wanted her to move out though the daughter is only 15.

Now, I think I must be quite odd because no one seems to be disturbed by the madness except for me. Perhaps no one else hears what I do. Acoustics are such that if SB has her front door open when mine is also open, all of her noise comes into my home. If I close my front door, and stifle in the heat, I can still hear her through my bedroom window that is all the way at the rear of the house. Her voice is always filled with angst, rage, and screeching. There is no escape.

So, I listen and wonder why I have been chosen to witness this new behavior that really isn’t new any more. This new way of parenting has been a staple of lower-class life for a couple of decades now. Fewer and fewer of these families exist in the community because they have been forced out by losing property that belonged to their parents, or they’ve died out. But the few that are left more than make up for the loss of the others.

Keeping a cheerful spirit is difficult when in the midst of the maelstrom. I don’t judge. But I am negatively affected by all I’ve observed coming from that house. If ever I get enough money together, I’m outta here. Thirteen years of observing bad luck and worse behavior is enough.