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Domestic workers commonly known as ‘maids’ in India are indispensable to most urban nuclear families. Yet, do we value her too as a working professional?
As soon as my domestic help enters my house today, she makes an announcement, ”Tai, I will not be coming for 15 days from 15th of this month, I need to attend my niece’s wedding.” Her words leave me petrified! Imagine how your day would be if your maid does not show for a day and here my maid is asking for a good fifteen days leave.
Currently in India, almost every person of a family works to support it. When all the members are busy and fully occupied with hectic schedules, managing various household activities such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of the house and kids become a taxing affair. Many a times we find it difficult to keep a balance between household and professional activities.
In the past, extended families shared the chores but with the new set up of nuclear families comprising of just father, mother and children, the services of either a part time or a full time maid has become a necessity for urban families.
If we try to lay out our set of relationships, I mean those people who contribute to our success in a job and in managing our home, we have to acknowledge one such important and essential relationship that enables us to handle the work in and out of our house, yet – we fail to even consider it.
It is none other than the maid of our house.
If both the parents are working, at times grandparents are pitched in with child-rearing but not without a maid.
It is not only an important relationship but also the most demanding one.
Not everyone is fortunate to find a maid who is a perfect fit in our homes.
In today’s fast paced world this relationship is on the rocks. We, the urban literates are not used to doing manual work at home; nonetheless we somehow manage for a few days in case of an emergency.
We sometimes use the words servant (Bai) to describe her. We conveniently forget to think that she is a working professional like us who is paid a salary for her services. Many a times we complain if she goes on a long leave or comes late. But, at the same time, we pay her more when we realize that finding a replacement would be difficult. There are many examples of people having a happy and cordial relationship with their maids wherein both the employer and the maid are genuinely fond of each other knowing perfectly that they are mutually dependent on each other.
In many cases, the maid behaves as though she is the boss of the house and is fully aware that she is indispensable.However, many times such dependence is resented, but still we have to put up with the maid’s attitude, thinking that we won’t get a better help. The basis of such a relationship is the principle of ‘Known devil is better than the unknown’.
A maid also at times continues to work even if her services are not compensated well, thinking that she won’t get a better employer if she quits.
We also cannot overlook the cases wherein the maids turn out to be cheats, liars, thieves and our relationship with them become all the more strained.
No matter what is the nature of our relationship, she has her own life, mostly coming from a poor and illiterate background, she lives hand to mouth. The full time one leaves her family and stay with us and the part time one has to dash to her home and do the same chores all over again. Very few of us value that even she is the woman of her house with the same responsibilities of managing a home and a job.
In today’s world, a working woman has to struggle to get a maid and retain her while juggling between home and work.
Thankfully now, various maid service agencies have come up which provide pre- screened, experienced and verified maids. Having an accessible and reasonably priced maid through these agencies has proved to be a boon for working women. Moreover these agencies also provide professional cleaners, who can be hired on one time basis. These professional cleaners are a boon to us especially during the cleaning spree when festivals like Diwali are round the corner.
In a nutshell, I would say that our relationship with our maid is one of the most important ones because if she does not come ‘IN’ to work at our house, we cannot do our work ‘OUTSIDE’ it.
A maid enables us to do lucrative work while she manages the household errands of cleaning and cooking. Depending upon the requirement and the economic status, each family has maids. A middle class with one or two, in case of well off families and celebrities the number of maids exceed the number of people residing in the house.
We in India, cannot survive without a maid!
So, it is about time we show a bit of respect to someone who makes our daily domestic chores easy and hassle free.
First published here.
I am a homemaker, voluntarily retired from job, with a passion for writing and fortunate
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