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Troll Calls Tilottama Shome ‘Flop Actress Who Looks Like A Maid’; She Invokes Dignity Of Labour

Indians typically treat their domestic helpers with disrespect as we have no concept of a dignity of labour, as acclaimed actor Tilottama Shome found when a troll called her a 'flop actress who looks like a maid'. Read her answer

Indians typically treat their domestic helpers with disrespect as we have no concept of a dignity of labour, as acclaimed actor Tilottama Shome found when a troll called her a ‘flop actress who looks like a maid’. Read her answer.

One would imagine that after months of lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions since last year, the Indian people of privilege would finally learn to acknowledge and respect people from various social and economic classes, without whose expert assistance their day to day activities had come to the brink of chaos. If not for their being human beings and equal citizens, then at least for selfish reasons.

But, no. The oppressors refuse to better themselves.

This was proved again by some troll on social media who thought comparing Tillotama Shome, the critically acclaimed actress, to domestic helpers was an insult.

This person exposed their internalised classism and casteism when they called the actor of highly acclaimed films like Sir (2018), Death in the Gunj (2016) and others, a “flop actress who looks like a maid”.

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Tillotama Shome had the perfect question in response. She asked “how is that even mildly insulting, given my situation?” She also used the hashtag dignity of labour to bring light to the dismal situation in that regard.

The absence of dignity of labour makes domestic workers an easy target

But why does the country refuse to grow and afford people their fundamental right to equality? The plight of domestic helpers, particularly female maids, in India is deplorable. One of the first groups of people hit by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures were the domestic helpers who found their entry to urban gated communities barred. The blatant classism and casteism behind this practice was thinly veiled by the language of medicine and social distancing. But the intent was obvious. They were being blamed for COVID, even though the economically upper strata contributed to the spread of the virus.

Even earlier, domestic helpers have always found themselves kept at an arm’s length. Staying in separate ‘servants’ quarters’, using separate utensils, the privileged employers have implemented draconian classist and casteist ‘pollution’ codes. They are often blamed for any and every untoward incident within the household, as the state and its labour laws continue to not recognise domestic workers as workers with rights. Their struggle for dignity of labour is a constant battle against the caste and class hierarchies.

Plus the problem of colourism

In Bollywood, in particular, and the rest of the society, too, in general, colourism remains a deep-rooted problem, as indicated by this deplorable comment.

Colourism and casteism are inextricably linked in the minds of the privileged, casteist population of the country. After the Black Lives Matter movement last year, the light skin bias and the otherisation of dark skinned individuals was shed light on in India, too. From the popularisation of ‘fairness creams’ to the criteria of ‘light skin’ in matrimonial ads was discussed at length.

While some corporations producing ‘fairness creams’ that cater to colourist traditions and promote light skin privilege and pretty privilege tried to adapt to changing times, albeit inauthentically and unsuccessfully, the society at large remains disconnected to the conversation.

It is a shame that we still have to remind people that classism, casteism and colourism are deeply unethical and atrocious practices. The Constitution of India prohibits discrimination on the basis of these problematic traditions and notions. And calling somebody a maid is definitely not an insult!

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About the Author

Kamalika

An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy read more...

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