May 2, 2002


I am quite sure that you, good reader, have no other job but to read about my travails with maid-servants. After much deliberation, finally subscribing to the school of thought that there is nothing really wrong with employing a maid as long as one treats her with dignity, and that by doing so I am instrumental in one more woman financially independent, after moving to my apartment in Bangalore, I made the monumental decision to employ a maid.

As soon as I landed, probably prompted by what I call the idealistic halo and what they call the circle of gullibility around my face, my friends warned me to be careful with maids, and how if I dont they will clean me out. My zeal fueled and fed by all the books and papers I have read about lofty things like human rights, treatment of the poor, not lessened by these lectures, I promptly employed a maid, gave her work assignments and outlined compensation plans with the enthusiasm and vigor only a first time employer would and could have.

A well dressed young mother of one, she was quite all right. I was satisfied with the work she did and we even began to enjoy a little bit of chat about this and that during the coffee and an occasional breakfast we shared. And I was about ready to open my laptop and blast off a blog or two about my success.

Thats when she got work at another house. Now she had to juggle the two and probably realizing I would be more easy to manage, she was repeatedly late and couldnt finish before I left for work. She couldnt come in the evening of course, since it became dark and her husband, that drunken good for nothing fellow, didnt like it. Then there were incidents she told me about how her mother in law abused her and how her husband beat her. My neighbor kindly informed me how I was being fooled and despite an uneasy feeling that maybe I was being conned, I couldnt bring myself to fire her, for the fear of what if it were all true.

After she played truant for many more days, having had enough of the piled up dishes and dust, egged on by the uniform theme on the advises I got, I gave her an ultimatum. Show up on time or stop coming altogether.

She promptly stated that she was going on a pilgrimage the next day but not to worry, her sister will be coming to work for me. This was delivered with such smoothness that would shame Mark Antony that I found myself nodding quite dumbly.

The fun really started now. The sister, came accompanied with her mother-in-law, who sat in the hall like a matriarch you see in those over-acted movies, drinking the cup of coffee I offered with relish and commenting on this an that. For a few days there, it became hazy whose mother in law she was. She also had this peculiar habit of standing in front of the mirror, preening. I had to tell her everyday, that yes she had to clean every room, every dish. And, oh, I forget, they both had this habit of ringing the bell continuously, first thing in the morning till I opened the door.

Dear reader , I am sure you would agree that that was enough to show what a tolerant and gentle human being I am. Anyway, I fired her when after a week, I found her opening the closet.

So there I was dejected by these encounters with maids, starting to do the few dishes and dusting myself, chanting all the time, it was a wonderful exercise after all.

A few days later another lady, having realized that I didn't have a maid, came by to ask me if she could render her services. I agreed, quite reluctantly I must say. But there was something about the wisdom in her face that I liked. What a difference! she and her daughter share the work. They are thorough professionals - they dont waste time, nor do they make me repeat any request.

One day last week, she cleaned a particularly dirty patio, without me having asked for it. Here was the devotion, dedication that I was looking for. Here was the meaning of the phrase your work is your god. Overjoyed, I gave her a decent extra sweater I had.

The next day morning, she handed me a strand of kanakambaram flowers that one puts on ones hair, that she must have bought, stopping a few moments in her haste, probably even walking a bit more than usual, remembering me that morning despite the physically tiring day she must have had before. Touched by this simple, sensitive gesture of thanks, I wore those flowers for the rest of the day.

There may be days when we may get angry or unhappy or unsatisfied with each other, but those flowers will always be tucked away in my memory.

May 02, 2002