‘We sometimes underestimate the influence of small things’ Charles W Chesttnutt
I felt a pair of eyes piercing into me, as I caught sight of a giant fuzzy apparition in the periphery of my vision. My brain took a few seconds to process the information and what followed was a blood curdling shriek. Looming before me, the hairy monkey snarled in defence which elicited another scream from me. He reciprocated by edging a step closer to me.
It seemed completely surreal. There I was, stood smack bang in the middle of my living room, high up on my 9th floor penthouse in Delhi with a huge monkey in front of me! A massive scaffolding was erected in the centre with rusty, dusty steel poles that were precariously held together by bits of frayed ropes. Balanced on them were uneven lengths of plank that looked like they had seen better days. This contraption looked almost sculptural as it dominated the heart of my new home. It was comparable to a work of art that makes people scratch their chin and intellectually nod their approval although secretly they haven’t the foggiest idea about what it is trying to convey.
A few days earlier, I was greeted with this unintended sculptural object as I first turned my key in the door. Exhausted after an arduous journey, I sighed in resignation as I braced myself for the challenges that lay ahead. The tradesmen had assured me of completion nearly four months prior when I was frantically skyping them from the UK so that I could spare myself the agony of having to walk into a ‘building site’. Moving home and country is hard enough without having to face the added stress of dealing with workmen. It made settling down that much tougher and in retrospect, something I would never put myself through again. Upon investigation, it appeared as though it wasn’t anybody’s fault as fingers were always pointed to somebody else. The scaffolding that had been left abandoned in my living room by the painters/decorators was apparently not their fault. They were held back by the waterproofing guys who needed to first sort out the terrace garden that the builder had clearly overlooked. Unfortunately, water seepage seemed to be the least of the builder’s concerns as he hadn’t bothered to water proof the terrace garden; as though hoping that by some miracle all the water from the garden would evaporate heavenwards. Sadly, reality took a different turn and had resulted in the Living room ceiling (which was directly below the garden) completely saturated with all the moisture from the terrace above and had blown up like a balloon, ready to burst any minute. The Waterproof contractor was quick to absolve himself of any blame for it was the soil removal people who had put the spokes on his wheels of progress. They in turn promptly pointed their fingers to the Van hire company that never showed up, thus leaving them stranded and unable to carry on with their mission. Solving this blame game riddle was like getting sucked deeper and deeper into a mysterious black hole.
Anyhow, stood amidst this scaffolding now was the monstrous monkey who aggressively bared his teeth as another piercing shriek bounced off the walls. This time it was my terrified nine-year old son who had only ever once seen such a creature, safely exhibited behind the bars of a zoo in England. In an instinct of self preservation, I fled to the adjoining bedroom to seek help from Deepali, my newly appointed helper. In my moment of terror I temporarily forgot my maternal instincts as I left my petrified son rooted to his spot in absolute horror. Alerted by the chaos, my teenage daughter appeared but wasn’t much help as she excitedly fiddled on her phone to capture a great snap chat story. I can imagine the popularity of such live action on social media where people thrive on others miseries.
Howls of laughter suddenly filled the air, as Deepali clutched her belly while her tiny frame shook vigorously as she chortled. I was later told that she had never witnessed any employer of hers in such a helpless state and that the look of terror in my eyes was a sight to behold! Thankfully her chuckle distracted the monkey who stopped dead in his tracks and looked thoroughly confused.
Undaunted by this scary simian, she marched up to him like a brave soldier. The broom with which just minutes ago she was sweeping the room served as her new weapon. Nonchalantly she approached the monkey, armed with the broom and in her soft voice, she uttered the words ‘shoo’ with a degree of assertion. I watched in utter disbelief as this terrifying creature that seconds ago looked like he was ready to pounce, quickly cowered under the command of this diminutive lady and meekly retreated out of the balcony. With the spotlight on her heroic deeds, Deepali’s shyness dissipated momentarily as she lifted her chin in pride soaking up the praise heaped upon her by an immensely grateful me. This petite woman, who was smaller in size than my nine-year old boy had definitely scored a few brownie points and was off to a good start with me.
It is often the small things that make a big difference. All it took was a pint-sized woman, a little broom, heaps of courage and the magical words – ‘ shoo’ !