It is interesting that after a long hiatus, I choose this topic to start my second spell.
Well it is none other than the ubiquitous maid/ paid help scenario….
Boring…C’mon…Don’t you have better things to write about?
In Tamil we have a phrase; aracha maavu…to indicate a topic that has gone through the wet grinder of thought processes and has been pulverized infinitesimally!!
I don’t intend to grind the same stone, but hope to show you another perspective.
As all story tellers like to do, I now take you on a trip back to nostalgia. I vividly remember my childhood days in our sprawling suburban house, with its scarcity of neighbours. To maintain such a house, my mother surely needed help, and my earliest memories are of this family of 3 who stayed in the small outhouse that went with our house.
Mother, father and a grown son, were employed. They came right out of the village, and I know for sure they disliked living in the city and the disconnect they felt with the job they were required to do.
What used to fascinate me was the food they would eat, and the manner in which it was cooked. I remember peering into their quarters to take a peak at the wood stove that was all black and burned and would have some soot covered vessel bubbling on it. To watch the Son eating was an event by itself. Huge mounds of rice would be heaped onto a plate, then sambar would be generously poured on top, and this mini volcano would be consumed by the robust, village bred son of the soil!
They moved on and another came. Her story too stands out in my mind, as is true with most women who turn to domestic labor for their income. Abusive husband, suicide attempt, and 2 children is hers in a nutshell. Scars ran down one side of her face, burn marks.
We also got to play with her son, naughty chap who covered himself with tar once. His mother had to painstakingly remove it with the help of kerosene.
Many more followed, paid help are as whimsical as the cotton tufts floating in the breeze; work here, work there, and gone somewhere!
Freshly married, we actually enjoyed sharing chores. Weekends saw us brooming and moping, so no hired help there. Then with additions to the family, I decided it was way too stressful to try to do this alone, what with help available though at a price.
I remember each one of them, as they not only worked for us but also left some indelible quirk, for us to talk about later.
There was one who we called "tak tak", the reason was this hilariously irritating way she had of knocking on our front door for us to open it. The door bell was too passe, and I think she believed it would disturb us, so that loud banging of the door latch to attract our attention.
Much later, we had one who would delicately wipe our floor with a mopping technique that i believe she invented! The mop cloth would be folded over a bathroom swipe and then she would expertly drag this around our house.I was slightly in awe of her as I felt she had more grace and pizzazz than I could ever have.
Finally, I have left an adorable helper in Kanpur who encouraged me to spend lazy afternoons lolling in bed as she cleaned and chopped and even acted as my companion on those dreary days I would despair I had nothing to do.
Coming over to Bangalore, the inability to find hired help and the exorbitant cost of things, once again sees us managing things on our own.I am not complaining. In fact this brings me to the point. I feel liberated in terms of doing things on my own time, and not having this person to wait for. Independence is a value I cherish, and looking back, I have not felt happier!!
Will this wear me out in the long run? I dont know.
But I do know that self sufficiency is a virtue we Indians need to ingrain in ourselves; deeper and faster. As the world is moving ahead, technology assisted independence is the absolute way to go.
Yet....I still need some one to mop and sweep...its tiring to do that though....