Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shilipi



We have been away from home for almost a week now, and what a week to have been gone. According to a Google search, I am approximately 8,653 miles away from Boston. Given the horrific scenes of Monday, followed by the conclusive events on Friday, my head and heart are still somewhere lost over the Atlantic. I hope, however, to slowly drift back to the bay of Bengal shores and the work at hand. 

The directors of the trust have been very gentle with us these past few days while we recover from jetlag and have not taken us many places. We are staying on the “Beacon Hill” of Bangladesh known as Baridhara. Baridhara is the most prestigious neighborhood in the area, complete with a gate and guards at the main entrance. However despite this, every fifth building appears to have been demolished by things I have decided not to fully investigate. (Dad,  stop googling)  And, while our apartment wouldn’t necessarily be considered luxury by American standards, it is well above the definition of luxury to the Bengali people as it consists of 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a full living room, dining room , kitchen, remote controlled A.C., Wi-Fi and a servant whom for the remainder of my writing, will be referred to as our helper, Shilipi.

When I visited Punta Cana last year with my college friends we bought the elegance upgrade for a small additional cost, and the part I remember we were most excited about was that the package included a butler at our beckon call, should we want a bath drawn or a pillow fluffed. So while fluffed pillows and lavender drawn baths sounds perfect in an informative booklet, Vladmir met us at the door to our suite upon arrival and then was never to be summoned again, because it was a lot less work both mentally and physically to just fluff our own pillows then to sit and watch someone else do it.

That brings me back to the absolutely lovely Shilipi who is scheduled to be with us every day in the morning from 7a-10a and again in the evening from 5p-9p, but who we always let leave a couple hours early. Shilipi cooks us breakfast and dinner every day, does our grocery shopping and then cleans every inch of the apartment on a daily basis. I got out of the shower yesterday to find her folding all the clothes I had ferociously thrown on the floor while searching for a culturally approved outfit that wouldn’t make me sweat more than a bikram yoga session. I have since tried to be more mindful of the messes I leave behind. 

While Shilipi is employed by the trust to keep us “comfortable”, she has probably had as much effect on my mental comfort as she has had on my physical comfort. Being one of only 5 people that recognizes and smiles when she sees my face in this new world, she is becoming a fast ally. And while we are not at the level where I would ask her to play with my hair or discuss boys , she will sit on my bed while I skype and has already met the majority of my friends and family. It occurred to me how ironic it is that the only word I know in bangla is “dhanyabada”, which happens to translate to the only word she knows in English…thank you.  So Shilipi and I walk around continually thanking each other, which seems like a pretty good definition of friendship to me.