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My house-help asked excitedly, “I am going for wedding. Can you let me wear your red & black saree? To be honest I was stumped for a moment; I didn’t know what to say but I still said yes.
I lent a gorgeous saree to my house-help for a wedding in her family. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
A few days ago she came excitedly to me, “I am going for a family wedding. I want to wear your red & black saree, Ill wash and give it to you after the function. Please can you let me wear it?”
To be honest I was stumped for a moment, I didn’t know what to say but I still said a yes. We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
My mind wandered back to a time when she came to our house wearing a brand new saree on New Year’s. She loves being complimented and I remember telling her that she looked lovely in the saree. She didn’t bat an eyelid when she answered, “Didi I think you’ll look beautiful in this. I’ll get it for you and you can wear it on some occasion someday.”
I was amazed at the ease at which she was willing to share her expensive and favourite saree with me. Would I do the same if I had to ever share my favourite saree with her? The answer was very clear to me in my heart. I knew if I discussed this with my MIL or my mom what they would say. It is something that not many are comfortable with.
My house-help interrupted my thoughts, “I know you don’t mind giving me didi but would your husband like it?” I loved that she believed in me that I would give her the saree. I casually spoke to my husband that night about our discussion. I told him that I had decided to give her my saree to wear. He didn’t seem surprised or shocked in any way. He told me, “Anyway most of your sarees are just lying. I think it is okay to let her wear.”
My house-help sent me pictures from the function and she looked resplendent in it. She showed the pictures to many of her friends who were working in other houses in the building. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
I love it when my house looks clean but let me be honest- I hate cleaning it! There are times I wash my clothes twice coz I was too lazy to hang them to dry the previous day. I also fold clothes once a week when I realize there is no more place in the basket to dump them anymore. It is impossible for a person like me to live without a house-help but I still managed quite well for two years of the pandemic.
On Diwali it was a relief to have Meena back. I asked her to take her time and clean at her own pace, I am not the type to walk behind a house-help and keep supervising her. I’d rather let her do things her way and I am happy to give her that freedom but alas I didn’t know that would come to bite me back.
When the day of Diwali cleaning finally arrived, I was asked to get my own cloth and start cleaning with her. She entered and started, “Come on, we don’t have much time. Let us start. You go and get the stool.”
I was then given instructions, “I’ll hold the school, you should climb up and start cleaning the walls. While you do it ill clean the lower portion of the walls.” People who know me would know that it is a struggle for me to say a ‘no’ to anyone so I accepted my fate and decided to clean. Well she was right about one thing that we would definitely finish faster if we both did it together.
I started off with removing the cobwebs then wiping the walls with a wet cloth but what was Meena doing? She stood near my stool and gave me instructions about how to clean. I was told that I’ve missed spots then I was told that I am not cleaning it properly and I should do it better.
Did I forget to mention I was wearing a long skirt that day for a change and I got heavily criticized for that, “What kind of clothes are you wearing?” she asked me. “Most of the times you keep roaming around in shorts and today you had to wear a skirt. How will you possibly clean well?” I started having a feeling that she’s not my house-help but the cruel MIL you see in Hindi serials. I wanted to run and hide but how does one run away from your own home?
As soon as I was about to go for a shower, she called me again, “Where are you going? It is going to be a while for this cleaning to get over and it’s almost lunch time. She asked me to make chapati and bhaji- aalu baigan to be specific as it was her favourite.
Coming back to the Diwali cleaning, we both finished it together in a week -me forcefully and she happily. Meena is my tea-time companion in the mornings, we both have breakfast together and gossip for a while. She is also my fashion critic who judges me on what I wear and often advises me what earrings and shoes go with my outfits (I have no dressing sense according to her). She is the one who pushes me to dress up at home, if I were given a choice I would live in my tank top and yoga pants 24/7. Since the pandemic hit us I’ve been wearing my yoga pants and t-shirts while at home, during bedtime, while exercising and even while going down for collecting parcels.
She also questions my husband’s choice of clothes. I remember he was all set to go for an all guys trip one weekend. He dressed up in shorts and a vest, we said our goodbyes till the lift arrived; just as I was about to close the main door, I saw my house-help running out in full speed rushing to open the door. “You go in the house right now and wear a shirt,” she thundered. My husband had no option but to go in and change. I just stood there wondering, “What is wrong with me? Why don’t I have that kind of power over my husband?”
This is not the first time she’s asked me to make something though. We have a ‘Meena Special Menu’ on weekends where we make whatever she asks us to. Sometimes its sabudana khichdi or bread rolls for breakfast or chicken gravy/ biryani for lunch; whatever she feels like eating and as per her mood. She tells me in advance on Friday to keep the ingredients ready and she comes at 10.30 am sharp to check if breakfast is ready. The days I sleep till late are the days I get lectured for not getting up on time.
Even during the pandemic I remember getting her call on Friday evenings, “Please make bread roll tomorrow and pack it in a tiffin and keep. I’ll come and collect it from your house.”
I remember the initial days of our marriage we used to binge-watch movies till 4 am on Friday nights and get up at mid-day. Meena had one set of keys to our house as we both used to leave home early for work and come late, she used to come and clean at her own time. One weekend we both were fast asleep and she entered our bedroom, pulled our blankets off and said it was enough of sleeping (Thank God we were just sleeping and we learnt to lock the door after that incident).
Meena is my house-help no doubt but over the years she has become family to us. She wouldn’t think twice before sharing her favourite possessions with me, so why should I feel any different sharing mine? If the same saree was asked by one of my friends, I would have just given it to her then why not give it to Meena as well. She calls me ‘Didi’ -doesn’t it mean sister?
Yes she drives me crazy at times, she even bullies me and controls my life in many ways that I don’t like, but I love her a lot and I can’t imagine my life without her. She calls me didi but she is the one who is like an elder sister to me. I always joke with her, “Meena tune mushkil kar diya hai mera jeena!”( Meena you have made my life difficult!)
Isn’t that what sisters are like? Can’t live with them and can’t live without!
Image source: Nil Battey Sannatta
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