The Secret of Beauty by Kodavatiganti Kutumbara
Telugu original by Kodavatiganti Kutumbarao. Translated and posted with permission by Ananda Kishore.
Prakasam wasn't a big earner. But his house - rented - looked as if a great art director decorated it. All of us used to praise his wife, "She deserves to be paid enormous sums for such housekeeping, she is really slogging without a salary."
Prakasam used to agree with us, making deep philosophical observations, "Life should be beautiful. Even the wretched poor could make their life beautiful. It will be like a revolution when our poor folks learn this art."
But we were always puzzled why such a person employed such an ugly housemaid as Dhanalaxmi. If there was anything ugly at all in his house, it was her. He probably employed her because she didn't demand a high wage. Her wage was fifteen rupees per month - enough to get some cheap food for five days. Who cared what she ate the rest of the month?
I visited Prakasm one day and found his house in a mess. The floor needed sweeping, there was a pile of laundry in a corner, there were dozens of dishes to do in the kitchen, there were unwashed mugs strewn all over.
"What's this Prakasam?" I asked.
"The wretched maid had stopped coming since yesterday; apparently her husband was hospitalized," he said irritatedly.