One evening in Lucknow, a party was in progress at one of the posh bungalows. A concert was playing, while at one corner lay an array of fire-crackers ready to be burst by the revelers. In the dining hall preparations were underway to serve a sumptuous meal. The venue was teeming with police personnel. The bungalow belongs to Mr Bagchi, the superintendent of police. Mr Bagchi has been promoted in appreciation of a case that the police had won a few days ago. The party had been organised to celebrate Mr Bagchi's promotion. Such celebrations were an everyday affair here. Musicians, willing to perform for free, were readily available; fire-crackers were obtained for free; fruits and sweets could be had at half their price. Where others would have been required to spend hundred rupees to organise such parties, the party here could be held for mere ten rupees. There was a full battalion of police constables to do all the running around in the management of the party, having been called off from their policing duties. And what was the case that the police had won? Well, it was the case in which few innocent youths were convicted on the strength of false evidence!
The concert ended and the guests sat down for the meals. The workers and porters who had been hired at low wages to help in the decorations or fetch things from the market went away cursing under their breaths; one old woman, however, still remained at the venue. Unlike the other workers who performed their tasks unwillingly, this old woman had shown much alacrity; when ordered to execute any work, she had performed the task enthusiastically. The woman was Madhavi who had come in the guise of a worker to put into motion her plan for revenge.
The guests left; the party was over. The place was cleaned up. After the hustle and bustle of the party there was now complete silence; but Madhavi remained seated on the ground.
Mr Bagchi noticed the woman and asked her, "Old woman why are you still sitting here? Have you been given something to eat?"
Madhavi: Yes sir, I have received my food.
Bagchi: Why, then, don't you go away?
Madhavi: Where can I go, sir? I have no home. If you permit me to remain here sir, I can at least be assured of some food.
Bagchi: Would you like to work?
Madhavi: Of course I will work, sir. That is what I want to do.
Bagchi: Can you take care of children?
Madhavi: Yes sir. That work is after my own heart.
Bagchi: Very good. You may start work from today. Go indoors and do whatever you are asked to do.
One month has passed since. Everyone is happy with Madhavi's work; she performs her duties diligently. But the mistress of the house is of dour temper; she lies on her bed all through the day, and abuses the servants at their slightest mistakes. However, Madhavi tolerates the behaviour calmly. Until now, no nursemaid had worked in the house for over a week; Madhavi, however, has continued to remain, putting up with the insults without a murmur.
A number of children had been born in the house but all of them, excepting the last child, had died in infancy. Children are born healthy but some illness or the other besets them and they depart after only a few months in this world. The surviving child was, therefore, the jewel of its mother and father. The parents would be grief-stricken even if the child was assailed by the most minor of ailments. Although both the parents were educated, they did not hesitate to take help from humbugs who claimed to cure children through sorcery.
The child had taken such a great liking for Madhavi that he did not wish to be separated from her even for a moment; he wailed inconsolably if Madhavi had to leave him even for a while. The child slept when Madhavi caressed him into sleep, drank milk only when Madhavi was there to feed him, played when she was his play-mate; the child had taken to Madhavi as his mother. The child had no one in the world other than Madhavi. The father, who showed himself only a few times in day, was a stranger to the child. The mother, owing to her laziness and weakness, could not take the child in her own laps and play with him; the child felt insecure in her presence. The servants did not show tenderness while lifting him; few of them would lift him above their heads which frightened the child very much. The child was scared of the servants. Only Madhavi could understand the child's needs; she knew what made the child happy. The child was, therefore, attached to her.