Sharada was deeply immersed in the book she was reading when her assistant (household help) Leela spoke to her hesitantly:
“Akka, I was actually considering quitting at the end of this month and so when you told me yesterday that you had dreamt the situation, I was shocked, taken aback that I could not reply then.”
Leela’s faltering words succeeded in seizing Sharada’s attention totally from the book she was reading. Sharada kept the book aside and turned to Leela. She had no inkling that Leela was considering quitting. In fact, when she had seen the scene in her dream that of Leela making the announcement that she was about to quit, Sharada was more amused and had recounted to Leela her dream. She had been confident that the situation would not transpire. Sharada was jolted when Leela announced that she was indeed considering the option.
Leela had seemed most content and Sharada too was very happy with the former’s honesty and efforts. Sharada believed that she had been treating Leela with respect and dignity. Sharada asked her to clarify.
Leela hesitantly murmured:
“Akka, everywhere else where I work, they have increased my pay bit by bit. Its only here that the pay has remained the same since the past 5 years… In fact some of the others where I work have even begun grumbling that I’m working for you for much lesser than what they give. And the prices have increased so much that it has become very difficult to pull on. Last month was very difficult what with my father- in –law being hospitalized.”
Leela’s voice was breaking by now.
Stung with remorse, Sharada was at a loss for words. Actually, she had wondered each time she gave Leela her monthly wages, if she shouldn’t be raising the amount, but then since she had begun with a fairly good value, and Leela seemed quite satisfied, she had taken it for granted that Leela would mention if it wasn’t enough. Sharada admonished herself for not having thought of it on her own.
“Leela, I had not realized your predicament. I just assumed that since you did not mention anything everything was fine. I realize now that I should’ve done the needful earlier and not brought the situation to this point. I wish you had told me. You mean that if I had not actually told you about this dream of mine, you would’ve just quit at the month end and I would have never known the reason?”
Leela smiled sheepishly through unshed tears. She struggled to find her voice.
“Akka, it is very difficult for me to put in words my dire situation and helplessness. I was hoping you would observe and come to the decision on your own without me having to make a request.”
Sharada was filled with guilt. She understood that Leela’s tears were not because of her poverty or difficulties. It was more about having had to speak about her helplessness to her. Sharada felt ashamed that she had allowed the circumstances to reach this juncture. She decided to make amends at the earliest, however she would’ve to discuss with her husband too. Sharada assured Leela that she would let her know of her decision the next day.
Sharada waited for Leela to come the next day.
“Leela, both my husband and I feel that we have not done the right thing by you. We should have raised your pay without your having to bring our attention to it. We are terribly sorry for the lapse and we would like to make amends by paying the surplus for last year. Please accept it.”
Leela smiled, “No akka, please don’t feel bad. And please don’t misunderstand me, but I cannot accept the payment for the past months. Just give me the raise from next month onwards. That will be enough.”
Sharada tried her best to persuade Leela to accept the pending payment but Leela politely refused. Sharada was left holding the money in her hand and her heart was filled with admiration for this woman of dignity and self respect.
Sharada was grateful for the dream that precipitated the turn of events or she would’ve lost a good, honest assistant and missed knowing a person of such dignity.