“You know, I’m a very generous person. I’m kind. I’m considerate…very giving, you know. I’m always thinking of others.” – Anitha Rajwani
Ravi came home the following Tuesday afternoon, carrying in the mail. As was his custom, he left his jacket on the sofa, his shoes by the stairs and his briefcase on the dining room table on his way into the kitchen. Serena, Anitha and Annabelle were preparing to have dinner when he arrived. As he sifted through the mail, he grunted his displeasure at the sight of one particular envelope.
“Ugh. The mail man left us a Christmas card,” he miffed.
“Why would he ever do that?” asked Anitha in amazement.
Ravi paused and thought for a moment.
“It’s because he wants something back.”
“Ugh! Now we have to go out and get HIM something. How inconsiderate!”
Annabelle stared at the pair of them in disbelief.
“You know, maybe he just wanted to wish you tidings for the season,” she opined. “I really don’t think it was anything more than that.”
“Well, he should know that we don’t celebrate Christmas,” countered Anitha.
“Maybe so. But I don’t think you should feel obligated to get him anything in return. Just accept it as a gift,” Annabelle reasoned.
Ravi and Anitha looked at each other and laughed.
“No, no. You don’t know these people. He’ll definitely be looking for something back.”
Annabelle sighed and continued her search for her own dinner. There was no point in carrying on this conversation. After all, the Rajwanis knew their mail man better than she did, didn’t they? She retreated to her room soon after that.
An hour later, Anitha knocked on her door. Now that they were “bosom buddies” again, it was okay for Anitha to speak to her – other than through text messaging.
“I never got a chance to tell you about my day!” she huffed, flouncing herself on Annabelle’s bed.
“Oh. Okay. How was it?”
Anitha began by telling her about a non-profit that she volunteers for and gives money to in Clarkston. It’s a shelter for refugees, many of whom are Somali. This is where she had spent her afternoon.
“You know, these people from third world nations and Africa come here and want to be waited on hand and foot,” she groused. “They never want to clean up their center, and they expect me to do it for them!”
“Anitha. I highly doubt that they don’t want to clean up their center,” Annabelle countered. “And it’s unfair to say that all people from Africa don’t want to work.”
“Oh no, no! I don’t mean YOU, Annabelle,” Anitha replied, catching herself. “YOU work very hard for your money, but these other people from third world nations just want to be looked after by other people of…a certain class.”
“What are you really talking about, Anitha? Are you concerned about your taxes going to help the less fortunate?”
“No, that’s not it at all. I just want them to clean up after themselves, and they refuse.”
Annabelle paused for a moment. She didn’t bother to choose her words carefully, because she doubted it would matter. Reasoning with Anitha is often like reasoning with a brick wall.
“My friend runs a non-profit, and within every non-profit there is a hierarchy. There is someone whose responsibility it is to make sure the center is clean, and that responsibility is not yours.”
“I don’t think that applies here at all Annabelle,” Anitha said, as though she were speaking utter rubbish. “Every non-profit is different.”
“That may be so, but every non-profit has officers with specific jobs.”
Anitha carried on about poor, lazy Africans for another few minutes before Annabelle stopped her.
“Anitha. You’re speaking in generalities. Not all Africans are poor refugees, just like not all Indians are running around barefoot, eating curry. You of all people should know this.”
Anitha was taken aback.
“I don’t think the two comparisons are the same at all!”
Annabelle had had enough.
“You know what, Anitha? You’re a grown woman, and you control your money. If you don’t want to give to this organization, no one is forcing you. I think I’d like to go to sleep now.”
Anitha stood and left the room, still muttering to herself about how she was going to get these people to clean up after themselves. It was as if Annabelle had never spoken.
“Shut the door behind you – please!”
Annabelle rolled her eyes when she heard the door click.
Ravi had been traveling on speaking engagements for the last week and was happy to be home. He was exhausted from the toll that flying had taken on his rotund frame, and was looking forward to some quiet time. Anitha was glad that he was home too. She had arranged for them to meet up with friends that evening in the city. She sent him a text to inform him of the engagement while she was out shopping for an outfit with Serena. He did not respond.
Knowing that her employer was weary Annabelle made every effort to keep quiet as he slept. An hour into his nap, Anitha rushed into the house and went pounding up the stairs.
“Hey! It’s time for you to get up,” she yelled.
“Anitha…I’m tired,” he said pleadingly.
“You see? This is what I mean! You have your priorities all wrong! We are supposed to be going out!”
“I’m not going.”
“I said ‘I’m not going’!” Ravi repeated angrily.
Anitha screamed and left the room. As usual, she sought out Annabelle.
“Ravi’s family is not a priority to him…even Serena! He’s always traveling on his stupid speaking engagements. I’m so sick of it!”
Annabelle regarded the woman silently, and then looked around her gilded house. Did this woman not realize that her husband was working as hard as he was so that SHE could work part time and live in such a lovely home? Annabelle had seen one of the checks that Ravi had brought home, and it was nothing to sneeze at. Suddenly, she felt sorry for the broken man upstairs. She felt proud that he had stuck to his guns and decided to stay home…although he was certain to pay for it later.
Later that evening, after the family had eaten and gone to bed, Annabelle prepared her plate and began reading a book at the dinner table. The sound of heavy footfall came down the stairs. It was Ravi, looking for something to drink. He seemed startled to see Annabelle there.
“You look so peaceful sitting there…with your book,” he said wistfully.
Annabelle looked at him, and spoke before thinking.
“That’s because you have to create it in this house!”
Ravi stared at her for a moment, got his drink, and retreated back upstairs without another word. What else was there to be said?