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Maid In India by Tripti Lahiri shines a bright light on the murky world of the live in maid, and the abuse by employers that is common.
Maids are as great a boon as much the bane for most of us. A good neat and clean maid who does all chores as directed is a dream and those of us who are lucky enough to find such gems usually try to keep them happy. But a day off and all comes undone with piles of utensils at kitchen sink and dust on the floor.
I have always had maids who finish work in few hours in morning and return for the second round at evening. I prefer not to have a maid all the time at home so that my privacy is not compromised. And at the risk of being labelled a snob, I would still say that my home has been much better organised and cleaner even when I was on a 9 to 5 job with a part time maid, than those with an in-house maid. But then I have handled a few chores myself. Also a maid who is separated from her family and stays all time with the employer seems to me a huge responsibility.
I have friends in Delhi who hire maids from the agency on a yearly contract at a pay packet which seems a little too much to me. These maids cook, clean, wash, dust and take care of the kids while the husband and wife are away on their jobs.
Maid in India is a book which looks into these in-house maids who travel to the promised land of Delhi in hope to make enough to send it back home. Written by Tripti Lahiri, Asia editor of Quartz and winner of Society of Professional Journalist award for reporting on Bangladesh’s dangerous factories and Ramnath Goenka award for civic journalism, the book is well researched on the life of domestic helps.
As I read on, I was appalled at the stories that emerged of the ill treatment meted out to the domestic helps. I wouldn’t say that I have never scolded my maids, of course I have, I have even cut their pay if they have been absent for more than a week without informing me – but physical abuse? This was news to me as I turned pages of the various accounts.
The various subdivisions of the book give an insight into the difficult circumstances which force the women and young girls from far flung places to head towards the capital city in search of work, sometimes on false promises. The book brings to light how some families cheat these women of their rightful pay or prevent them from meeting their family members or threaten them. Some of these poor women vanish from the face of earth with no possibility of being traced or rescued.
The author having researched extensively laments that though certain clauses exist regarding pay, working hours and short breaks in the contract while hiring the maids, most are disregarded even in posh localities where employers can afford to pay, but choose to squeeze out as much work.
The situation is not all grim with a few employers being very considerate of the welfare of their domestic helps and going out of way to involve them in family. But some of these maids have learnt to take care of their interests and move on to work with expatriates where they earn more for lesser working hours. Eventually it is the aim of every person to better their life and some domestic helps have managed to improve their lifestyle.
The book brings out the harsh reality that exists in every urban household. There have been instances of maids duping the employers, stealing, and even falsely incriminating the employer for sexual abuse but there are fewer such cases.
The need of the day is that the employer behave humanely…after all it is the right thing to do as humans. No one has the right to physically, mentally or sexually abuse another human being even if we pay them for services.
This book is a must read for an eye opening revelation and improve our relationships with our house helps.
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I graduated as an architect and after working for three years decided to be a homemaker and bring up my daughter. I love to travel, read history, paint and now I maitain two blogs http:// read more...
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We are conditioned to normalise domestic violence out of fear of abandonment. Thinking that 'trauma bonding' is better than no bonding holds us back from speaking up!
(Trigger Warning: This post may be triggering for survivors of domestic violence. This post has been published especially to honour the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women.)
Everyone said my perfect husband was like Lord Ram…. but this is how he took unfair advantage of my tolerance!
My grandmother was very fond of my husband whose name is synonymous with Lord Ram’s name. Every call she made to my husband started with the bhajan “Aaj sab mil mangal gao, Awadh mai, raam aye hain“. (Hail everyone, sing praises, Lord Ram has come in the kingdom of Awadh.) It was a mandatory welcome song whenever she met him or even spoke to him on the phone. Yes, his attributes were like that of Lord Ram. His attitude, chivalry, persona, fair skin, smile, height, physique and charm illustrate the perfect image of Lord Ram.
He was a generous man but she hardly knew much about the investments or their financial health. A couple of times, she had asked him and he had been vague. Now when she thought about it...
He was a generous man but she hardly knew much about the investments or their financial health. A couple of times, she had asked him and he had been vague. Now when she thought about it…
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Chandrika R. Krishnan is one of the winners for the November 2021 Muse of the Month, and wins a Rs 750 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. The juror for this month, Anuradha Kumar commented, “This introspective, quiet, story with its depiction of the relationship between two relatively older people is quite impressive. A lifetime spent together can bring familiarity and still allow for many mysteries and secrets. Also, the structure of the story, shifting from an external perspective to an internal monologue is well-done.”
The importance of a maid - a domestic help - in women's lives cannot be discounted. These women take care of our drudgery, and free up time for us.
The importance of a maid – a domestic help – in women’s lives cannot be discounted. These women take care of our drudgery, and free up time for us.
I was in the dilemma whether to go or not to go to the grocery shop. I didn’t have choice but to go as I had ran out of wheat flour for making chapattis for lunch. After calculating the time required for going to grocery shop and coming back home, I decided to go with a heavy heart.
I bought groceries at the speed of light, paid the bills, and caught an auto. I asked the autowala to drive faster. At the signal, when he was waiting for the green signal, I kept reminding him to drive faster when the signal turns on. Finally after reaching home while I was paying him money, he asked, “Madam, itna ghai nahi karneka. Ghar pe Saas datengi kya late ho gaya to?” (Madam, you shouldn’t hurry so much. Will your MIL shout at you at home if you are late?)
Recently, at a resort’s swimming pool, I saw a family splashing about in the water, yelling to each other and in general having quite a lot of fun. I also happened to notice, a young Filipina lady, obviously their maid, standing off unobtrusively in a corner, keeping an eye on this family’s belongings. With all the action going on, surely, this woman must have felt left-out and lonely? She must have missed her own family, living many miles away, don’t you think? I felt sorry for her. But come to think of it, she might actually be in a better position than many of her compatriots.
Take the case of 23 year old Indonesian Sumiati, who came to the Middle-East, eager to work as a maid. After only a few months all she has to show for it, is a bruised and battered body. Her employer has been accused of several atrocities including “cutting off part of her lips with scissors, scalding her back with an iron, fracturing her middle finger, and beating her legs until she could hardly walk.”
Sumiati’s is not an isolated incident. Just a couple of months back, Ruyati, another Indonesian maid was beheaded brutally in Saudi Arabia. And then there is Lahanda Purage Ariyawathi, a 49 year old maid and a mother of 3, who was sent back home to Colombo, where doctors had to remove 19 nails, which were allegedly heated and hammered into her body by her employers. Or 25 year old Nuan, also from the Philippines who has “permanent whipping marks on her arms, legs and the side of her face from belts and electrical cable and has deep red scars on her leg where a hot clothes iron was repeatedly pressed into her skin.” Not enough? What about 26-year-old Angelique from Congo?