Monday, March 13, 2006

Maid In India.

I am one of those lucky kids who had never had to stay away from family, but for the occasional visit to cousins during vacations. So I grew up watching the everyday running of household very closely. The one thing I understood from this is- the one person who held the strings to my mother's perpetual happiness and peace of mind was not my dad. Not even my grandparents. It was our home maid, the person who came during particular hours of the day, usually twice a day to help mom with the household work. And we have had our fair share of eccentric and egocentric maids.

As kids, we used to have morning school. By the time we got back at noon, mom's face would always tell us if the maid had turned up that particular day or not. I've seen her irritable and grumpy, shouting and screaming at us for no reason, but she has always gone out of her way to be cordial to the maid.

Wait till you take charge of home. You will realize how important it is to have a good rapport with the maid for your own good- she would say.

Maybe. I've never had much interest in the household duties unless something was specifically assigned to me. Naturally, I wouldn't know.

My earliest memories go back to.... what was her name? Yeah, Laxmi. My mom is one of those I-Forget-Everything types when it comes to safeguarding money and valuables. She keeps bunches of 50 rupees bills tucked under the mattress or beneath the table cover and forgets about it. She is the emotional kind who would be so engrossed in watching a movie that she will start crying even when the hero is asking God- “Yeh kahaan ka insaaf hai?”, and beating up his head on the temple walls. In this process of forcibly upsetting oneself (a kind of masochism according to me), she would keep her earrings or money someplace and forget it. Naturally, Laxmi used it to hone her kleptomaniac ability to such an extent that she soon made a small fortune out of the things she would pick up from here and there. One summer, dad fractured his leg and had to take a month's leave. Now dad is a person who should have been in the FBI. One look at you and he will know what's going on in your mind. Naturally, Laxmi was so much into stealing things from the palatial 2,600 sq.feet home we used to live in that she had to quit once dad stayed at home.

Our next maid turned out to be a not so very maid-ish female. Barely 5 years my senior, she is one person I will remember for my life. We used to have a great time after her work. I used to teach her Bengali while the little bit of Telugu I speak is due to her. She used to hire a cycle and we would go for long rides. I did not know how to ride a cycle back then,and she had made quite some effort in teaching me that. God bless her, she had almost scared a guy who was stalking me when I was in sixth grade. She was almost like an elder sister

Dad got transferred and we shifted. Our new maid was a TV addict. She wanted to have unrestrained hours on the TV. She had cried when Julie had gotten herself pregnant and was being rejected by everyone in Julie. She had punched the bad guys, her fists moving in air when Amitabh Bachchan had beaten up those thugs in Deewar. She would smile coyly whenever hero heroines would kiss in the parks, a huge dahlia flower covering their faces. Thankfully, she left us before the Tip Tip Barsa Paani movie released.

Our next maid one day made it clear that she wanted to have food with us while we dined. The next one had a husband who was blind. And they still managed to have eleven kids. Gandhari would have turned in her grave. She wanted a Benarasi sari during the Pujas every year. Mom had just two of them in her wedding trousseau, and in her entire married life. 

By the time the next one came, my mom got herself a mixer grinder. Previously, it would be the maid doing the excruciating work of grinding the spices. Now, the roles got reversed. The maid used to bring all the stuff needed to be ground from her home and while she did the jhaadu-poncha, mom would grind the masala in the mixer for her.

The next one would change names for every home she worked in. For us, she was Pushpa. For Bose aunty, she was Bhagirathi. For Sen aunty, she was Sarita. Since she would take long leaves without prior notice, this was just to make sure that no one knew what other homes she worked in.

Well, there are numerous incidents that I could write about. There have been so many, and each one was peculiar in her way. Maids have come and left us, but mom has always been so nice to them. She has been rude to us, has screamed at us, but the maids always got the royal treatment.

Our newest one- She is a nice lady. Nice as in she comes at a specific time (you could actually adjust your watch when she comes, she is so timely), finishes off her work in 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon and goes away. She is not a habitual leave seeker. She doesn't give us any nonsense about gifting her benarasi sarees or making mom grind spices. Her level of gossiping is also tolerable.

Last week, she came and told us- Please save a number.
Mom- What number?

Maid- My new cell phone number.

With that, she proudly showed me the Nokia set she had got. Incidentally, I too use the same set. She has even used my charger twice. And when she decides not to turn up, she gives us a missed call. 6 months back, I was shocked to see our local vegetable seller with a mobile. 

The advent of technology and the influence of the maid in our daily life are the two things that amaze me constantly.



Abhi said...

Man , how can any child brought up in India not agree with this ?

When I was a kid , Mom used to shout at me when I dint take a bath.So I would run around , dodge her , jump on the bed and yell "Mumma , imagine I am Kali".Thats coz our maid , Kali , was the only person on earth attracting any kind of cordiality from my ma.

And any remnants of my "pride comparison with a maid chart" were blown up when my mom told me this - "munnu , these days finding an MBA is as easy as peeling an orange compared to finding a kaamwali."
It almost killed any career dreams I had.

Ps - your maid has the model you got ? she needs to urgrade.Now.

Abhi said...


Ps - Just a ploy to increase comments.Clever me.

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Munnu bhai, good idea... ye le sunshine ek comment!

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

I think we've had that name-changer lady ourselves! Well, we'll never know

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Ye wala aise hi comment badhane ke liye!

Babu Moshai said...

ha ha,well written, as hitler's soul said,all of us can identify with the household maid stories.
and yes, keep writing just as well,my vocab is improving after reading ur blogs!!!


Do you know "sunshine" why our Indian maids keep their names as "Lakshmi", "Durga" , "Kali" , "Bhagirathi" , "Ganga" , "Yamuna" and all names of Gods/Goddesses and names of Holy Rivers ??????

Reason : So that when they go to various households for domestic work, we cannot curse them with their names or call them by any funny names. Thus they safeguard themselves by those names.

Jeevan Baretto said...

This is bad, I've been reading your blog since long time and when I felt like commenting, you delete my comment...!! :-(

Well, at my place, we've never had a maid. We used to do our work our selves. In fact, me along with my sister used to share all the work and clean up the house. I enjoyed it though.

Nice post.

Mayank said...

I couldn't agree with you more. My mom's life revolves around the time our maid chooses to come. So does her mood.

sunshine said...

Goodness, Munnu and Sudipta, you guys are absolutely crazy!!! For the rest, I am sure everyone of us would have similar experiences to share. BTW Jeevan- I have never deleted your comments. What on earth gave you that idea?


rachana said...

ohh maids are unseparable parts of indian life!

Jeevan Baretto said...

I had actually posted a comment on your previous post, but when I came back to see the reply it was not there. Hmm neways...