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They are working for us as we work for our employers. Don’t deduct their salary for their leaves. Even you get many leaves for your illness and pleasures.
Being brought up in a joint family with a 24×7 available mother, I did not know much about house helps before my marriage. However, the one thing I knew was most people considered them as a poor class or illiterate citizens. I have seen people speaking to their househelp disrespectfully.
After I got married, I was all alone at home. As a work-from-home woman, I needed some help with household chores. For the last two years, I have been taking their help.
I thought I was better than others as I always spoke to them politely and never shouted at them for anything. They are professionals at work, and we are their employer like any other corporate setup.
However, my recent visit to my help’s house opened my eyes and made me think how disrespectful we can be to them without even knowing it.
Kaushalya has been working for me for the past four months. She is the best at her work. Whatever I tell her to do, she never says no. In her soft voice, she always says, “Ji didi ho jayega”. She is in her early twenties, and I treat her like a younger sister.
She invited me to her house several times, and I could not go because I was too occupied. Then she stopped asking until yesterday. She asked me again yesterday, and I did not have much work to do, so I said, “Okay, let’s go today”.
I got ready till she finished work at three other homes. During that, my mom video-called me, and when she saw me in new clothes, she asked where I was going. As soon as I told her, she said so many things that we people generally think about our house helps, like why are you going to your maid’s house, what if she kidnaps you, what is her religion, do you even know her well, how can you trust these people, and so on.
I felt infuriated but did not say much as she is my mother and watches a lot of news on TV (which is always full of shitty things).
Anyway, Kaushalya was back in 30 minutes, and we left my house to visit hers.
First, she took me to the auto stand, holding my hand while crossing the road like I was a little girl. She was so caring during the entire trip. We could not get an auto, so we had to take a bus (ladies special).
On the bus, I saw many women working as maids in houses or in housekeeping departments for offices. Suddenly, I felt proud to be a woman after watching them. Women in sarees with flowers in their hair all looked beautiful. Even the conductor was a lady. Being surrounded by so many working women made me feel proud that I have a job too, and I am an independent woman like them.
Suddenly, the bus got overcrowded, and a lady came to me and asked if she could sit with me. Two women already occupied the seat, and she sat with us. After seeing this, Kaushalya immediately said, “sorry didi, aapko aise aana pada”. I smiled and said that it was absolutely fine.
In my past, I had travelled a lot by bus and that too not in ladies’ special ones. Therefore, it was not something new to me.
We got off the bus after 20 minutes and took an auto to reach her home, which took another 10 minutes. She took me through her streets with a smile on her face all the time. I bought ice cream on the way for her family. We reached her house after walking for 5 minutes.
When I reached her home, everyone was happy to see me, and they all had smiles on their faces. She lives in a joint family with her aunts, uncles, naani and cousins. Due to the language barrier, I could not talk much to her aunts and naani. They only spoke Telugu or Tamil, and I speak Hindi and English only.
Her house was not something I had imagined of. It was beautiful. The one thing that made me respect her more was the decorative pieces in her house.
Because they were all discarded or thrown away in the trash by people like us. She says that when she finds anything beautiful thrown away by people in the society (where she comes for work), she takes it to her home and cleans it.
There was one white clay pot, a white-coloured Budha statue, Ganesh and Parvati idols in bronze colour, miniature clay elephants, and so many things.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Isn’t it?
After giving me a tour of her tiny yet tidy and beautiful house, she brought me some chips and a cold drink, and as she insisted, I stayed for dinner.
She cooked so simple yet delicious vegetarian meal for me. She cooked sambhar, bhindi and rice. Her maama (uncle) brought curd for me to eat with rice. I sat on the floor with her and had dinner. Soon after, I took an auto for home as it was getting late.
She called me three times until I reached home safely.
On my way back home, there were so many thoughts in my mind.
Why do we give them (house helps) only our leftover food while they cook fresh meals for us when we visit them?
Why can’t we trust them while they trust us daily when working alone in our homes?
Why do we never ask them if they reached safely while Kaushalya called me thrice to ensure I reached safely.
Why do we act so differently if we say we consider them equal?
I request everyone (especially women as they spend more time with their maids) to treat their maids as an equal.
Don’t give them leftover food always, but ask them to eat with you or for a cup of tea whenever you can.
Don’t always give them your used clothes, but buy some new clothes for them once in a while.
If nothing more, just be a good employer to them.
I have started doing that from today onwards.
Your behaviour can make their work and life a lot easier.
Image source: a still from the film Nil Battey Sannata
I am on the Women's Web because I believe in gender equality and feminism. Being a writer, I find it a wonderful platform where I can share my thoughts, ideas and views with like- read more...
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