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     Volume 4 Issue 35 | February 25, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

The Spa mic Touch

Richa Jha

I have recently been appointed the PA to the Madam, wife of a distinguished gentleman in Dhaka. They wanted an 'English-speaking' secretary because the other Madams in the social circle have Bangla-speaking ones. It is both fashionable and important for Madams to hire secretaries to manage their packed social calendars. They need someone to keep track of their kitty parties each day, dinners each night, parlour appointments, dressmaker appointments, card games every evening and so on. It is not easy to be rich and famous at the same time.

Both The Hubby and I applied, but they settled for me because Madam was more comfortable with a female in the house. I have been at this new place of work for over two weeks now.

On the second day of my duty, Madam said she had a prophetic dream that night. Not having worked with Madams in the past, I felt odd that she should want to share her personal life with me. And at the same time, didn't quite know the appropriate response in reply. I wouldn't want being caught overstepping my limits so early on in my job. So I just waited.

"I want to do something for my country. And you know what? My dream showed me the path."

"Yes, Madam. How fortunate for us." I was certain I was making the right noises because Madam seemed pleased.

"I want to open a health spa in Dhaka. I miss it here. I can't keep going abroad every 15 days for relaxation therapy. It is not fair on my servants here. They shouldn't get used to such frequent breaks. They may start getting withdrawal symptoms for lack of things to do."

I nodded. But secretly I wished she'd rather continue doing that. Can't say about the domestic aides in the house, I certainly wouldn't mind it. And, in the capacity of her PA, if she decided to take me along everywhere…just imagine! I would have to somehow convince her that opening a spa here was a flop idea.

"Madam, spas mean big time investment. What with your mansions coming up, and children's education abroad, and time for the monthly change in your fleet of cars, I don't think you can think of any new avenue for spending." I thought this thorough homework of mine should impress her.

"What do you know of my personal finances, young lady?" she said sounding visibly offended, "you have been with me for less than 24 hours."

"Sorry, Madam. But truly, Madam, opening a spa is not simple…" I went on to give her my understanding of the key problem areas.

"Why do I get this feeling that you don't want to see this spa coming up? I don't like such opinionated subordinates. You will have to start liking my ideas, young lady, not vice versa," she growled. "And besides, I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for my country."

I submitted. "Very well, Madam. I understand.

We roamed the by-lanes of Gulshan, Baridhara and Banani. Madam had her mind set on these locations as she felt that a health spa and the rest of Dhaka didn't quite go well. "It's all about the image, you see," she explained. There is, indeed, so much the important people need to keep in mind when going about their daily business.

Just as we turned around the corner at one of the quieter roads, her eyes lit up. "Stop, driver. That's it. What a perfect location! My spa will come up here."

I froze. "But Madam, there is a school running here!"

"So what? Today there's a school. Tomorrow there'll be a spa. Who knows, if my experiment doesn't work out, there may be a mall here day after tomorrow!"

"But Mad…"

"Progress, dear. Can't you see? It will be a fashion statement, the only one of its kind in this country. In any case, schools are a dime a dozen in this area, but there will be only one spa. Oh I'm so excited! Can't wait to see it happen! Hello…?" The next moment she was busy briefing her husband and from the sound of it, it appeared that, being the influential man that he is, he assured her of quick execution from his side.

"How long, dear?" I heard her ask.

"Lovely," and then turning towards me, she said, "two days, he says. Oh, I can barely wait!"

"Madam. You will notify the school authorities, I suppose?"

"Why waste energy over non-essentials? We'll deal with them if they complain."

"But, people will be shocked when they hear this, think about the future of these students. There will be a big furore…"

"Public memory is short my dear. And it betrays all norms of empathy. You'll see…"

Two days later, Madam took me to the site. The educational institution that I'd seen that day no longer existed. The building, the furniture, the play ground, everything had been razed. I wanted to know about the future of the school, and not just the physical entity, but didn't probe. Couldn't jeopardise my own future, could I? And in any case, there would be enough parents and teachers worrying about that.

The roaring bulldozers and ground levellers were hard at work on this flattened piece of earth. Suddenly Madam realised her vision was being obstructed by a most luscious patch of green along the boundary walls. The contractor was immediately pulled up for having left those trees there.

"But, Madam. These are trees. Old ones. Don't you think this gives a natural backdrop to your spa setting?" I butted in.

"Who would want to come to a jungle for a spa therapy, silly girl? Wait till you see how I transform this place."

As predicted by Madam, the public apathy to the truculent brazenness of the entire episode is shocking and distressing. Two days after this incident, the newspapers dropped this news item from their column spaces because of lack of its newsworthiness. Outcries were much less than I'd expected. Few letters decrying (or lauding!) the act ever made way to the editors' mail box.

Frankly, I couldn't risk it myself. The lure of lucre- they pay me well- is far weightier than the call of conscience. Now 10 days on, the nightmare has stopped visiting me, and I am beginning to dream of the 'strong' foundations of the new entity instead. This spa, I am convinced, is bound to do well. Who needs education these days, anyway?

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004