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“Can Domestic Help Work During Lockdown?” Let Me Answer Your Question

Posted: April 29, 2021

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When someone on my housing complex WhatsApp group asked if domestic helps are allowed to come work between 6am-10am which is when shops are open for essentials, I had to call out their entitlement.

Karnataka, as you know, is in lockdown for 2 weeks.

Yesterday, on my apartment WhatsApp group, some people started asking if helps are allowed to come in during 6am-10am, because that is the time when shops etc are open for buying essentials.

Only six women spoke on this discussion, including me. Four of them essentially said, “why shouldn’t we?” The fifth said that since she was working from home, she needed the help, and that individuals should be allowed to decide. The sixth woman seconded the fifth, adding that “their community has better immunity- God given”.

I slept on it but couldn’t digest it. The sheer entitlement, othering people, and the selfishness!

I wrote a long post on the group answering this. Not sure if it will help sensitise people, but I feeling a bit proud of myself for calling out such entitled, classiest, elitist and plain inhuman behaviour.

This was what I wrote

Dear all, the conversation here about ‘allowing’ domestic help to come to work had me thinking all night.

Yes, I have chronic insomnia and I think. A lot. Here is what I understand, and I am saying it here because we are a community, and this situation at hand is a collective responsibility, so let me put down these points for you to think about.

~ Lockdown has been imposed for a reason; makes sense to stick to it.

~ Are we stepping out of the safety of our homes unless absolutely essential? Then why do we think it is okay to ask our helps to do so? Everyone is entitled to the safety of their homes, at these trying times. Because every life matters.

~ People are dropping dead like flies. Everywhere. Irrespective of their station in life. Irrespective of any kind of ‘community’s immunity’ of the domestic helps that was under discussion; whatever that means.

~ Othering people is never okay. Just because we are privileged does not mean we impose our entitlement on others.

~ ‘Movement’ of people does not merely mean transportation. Ingress and egress into a community of people is movement, not just about goods being transported.

~ The idea is to restrict mutual exposure by reducing footfall. Let us be an ally?

~ Most of us are working from home. Which means we are managing office work AND household chores, as best as we can. I’d also like to highlight the fact that ‘we are working’ is bordering on gaslighting for those who do not work at a job.

I do hope I have made some impact on the thinking of those who were not keeping in mind the well being of the domestic workers. They’re human too, and are just as, or worse affected, by this pandemic. Let us do our bit by being more humane and understanding of their lack of privilege.

Image source: a still from the film Thappad

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Antara is an Applied Behavior Analysis professional, a retired Indian Air Force Officer and an

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