A group of teenage boys tags after an elderly woman, probably in her seventies, laughing and shouting, “Maasi WikiLeaks! Maasi WikiLeaks!”
The sprightly woman retaliates with abuse, “WikiLeaks your mother! WikiLeaks your sister!” She has no idea what they are talking about.
I was standing outside the mud-plastered house of my maid, Maasi Ameeran. She had not come to my house for work for a few days so I had gone to inquire about her.
I stop ‘Maasi WikiLeaks’, which does not seem like a good idea as she starts throwing things at the group of boys to shoo them off.
“What happened, amma?” I ask politely. “None of your business. Go away! I can handle those spoiled brats on my own,” she scowls. Just then, Ameeran introduces me. This mollifies her anger. Ameeran scolds the children and lets Maasi WikiLeaks and me into her house.
Maasi WikiLeaks’ name is actually Kamalan. Her royal countenance and arrogant demeanour is not easy to ignore. “Aasia, get me tea now,” she orders Ameeran’s daughter. She is crude, yet endearing.
As she sips her tea, I muster the courage to ask her again about her peculiar title. “How do I know [why they call me Maasi WikiLeaks]?” she says. She takes another sip and pulls a face – I can’t tell whether it’s my presence that is bothering her or her tea.
Ameeran pitches in. “She is very good woman and a social worker in a way.” Kamalan is a good midwife, a matchmaker and is also known to be a handy quack in the neighbourhood. “I’m not a backbiter,” adds Maasi Wikileaks.
“But you are known to be one,” Ameeran argues playfully.
“You tell me,” she addresses me. “If I am warning you about the shortcomings of other people, is that backbiting?” Kamalan had once advised Ameeran to not get her daughter married to Karim Bux because he was a drug user. “You did not listen to me and now your daughter and her five children are dependent on you,” Maasi WikiLeaks tells her.
Ameeran doesn’t give up. “But why does the whole neighbourhood come to your house for gossip?”
“Because I need an outlet too,” admits Kamalan, with a hoarse burst of laughter.
A lawyer living in the neighbourhood has named her Maasi WikiLeaks as she knows all the secrets and skeletons in people’s closets. Earlier, she was known as Maasi BBC.
Kamalan knows how many women are expecting babies, who beat his wife today, who doesn’t treat their daughter-in-law right, who is ‘interested’ in whom, according to Ameeran. “She also knows whose goat is expecting and whose hen was stolen – and by whom.”
If you want to spread a rumour in the area, just direct the grapevine to her ears.
A rather bashful Maasi WikiLeaks giggles. “That’s not true, you liar. Now, I am leaving because I have to check on my daughters-in-law and see what they are up to.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.