She is as integral to your life as your work and friends. Some even call her ‘family’. Your routine gets upset if she doesn’t turn up. And while you feel it’s easy to throw your weight around at her, you probably need her more than she needs you — your domestic help/maid.
You may not be the boss from hell but a far better employer than your boss; however, unlike your year-end appraisal, you have probably never sat her down and asked her for feedback. In an attempt to comprehend their situation better, we (Your Squire) sat down for a talk with HELP. Here’s what they want to tell the didi, madam, bhaiya and uncles they work for.
- If you expect me to do a good job, provide me with the essentials.
How am I to work if you give me a quarter of a soap bar to clean a mountain of dishes? Suruchi, 32, says, “I have been telling my didiji that I need washing powder and a little more soap to clean but she routinely ignores me and has the gall to scold me when the dishes aren’t cleaned properly. Moreover, the dirty pans are never soaked in water. It makes it harder to clean. A bar costs not more than Rs10 and while she can spend a bomb on clothes and jewellery, she cringes every time I so much as mention it.
- Our mere presence won’t contaminate your food.
It’s sad how much of a difference being ‘in control’ can make. Sneha Yadav, 35, mother of two and housewife says, “I don’t eat when my maid is doing the housework. The mere thought of her looking at what I eat makes me feel like she is casting spells.” Sneha is a graduate from Delhi University, an MBA, and was working for a software company before her sabbatical and current preoccupation.
This is nothing new, as Greeshma, 29, points out. Her madam ensures she uses steel utensils when eating and always washes it with hot water. Also, she is not allowed to wash it in the same basin. And that’s not it; she has to have a shower before she starts cooking every morning. The shower bit doesn’t seem like a problem though since the water supply in her area is dodgy, she says while laughing. However it hurts and is ironic when she sees the family treating her like an untouchable when she’s actually the one putting food on their table.
- Like you, even I need time off.
Anita, 35, has been working for 10 years and can count the number of leaves she has taken on her fingers. Ten to be precise! She says, however, that this year she is ensuring things change. Her daughter fell sick three weeks ago and it obviously required visits to the hospital and taking care of her child. When an obstinate and clearly heartless madam refused to give her three days’ leave, she said goodbye. Anita says, “For Rs1,000 for mopping and sweeping she hasn’t bought me. I decided after this incident that wherever I work next, I will ask them to give me two days a month as leave. In the off-chance that I don’t take the offs, they should then carry over.”
All her friends look at her with awe and think it’s a brilliant idea.
- Treat me like a human being
For most full-time maids, the problems are aplenty. Krishna, 48, was harassed by her memsahib. The memsahib worked for the UN and often had social-worker friends who would drop in. What her friends did not know was that memsahib would never flush the toilet after using it, and was so sick in the head that after Krishna had taken off for two days on account of being sick, she came home to find the commode full of rotting waste. The mother-daughter she worked for would routinely give her leftover food and she wasn’t allowed to eat fresh food that the part-time maid cooked.
After a year of mental torture, she finally quit when she had saved enough money to send back to her village and take some time off.