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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Me, Maid and Madness!

Busy, crazy, hectic, stressful. Some adjectives describing my life and yours!
Domestic chores; surviving unruly traffic on potholed roads; deadlines, grumpy bosses & difficult subordinates in office; scouting for good school for kid and her admission tensions, participating in her various games & activities, attending birthday parties; entertaining guests, socialising on weekends...Wooof!!! Multi-tasking is the name of the game!!!

Imagine you were granted a wish...something to get respite from this madness...What would you ask for? If in India, (as I am), it would surely be a LIVE-IN MAID!!!!! A much in demand 'commodity' in today's urban nuclear families who do not have the support system of the joint family our previous generations were so accustomed to.

Once you are fortunate enough to 'acquire' one, life would be a cake walk ...or so you would think....!

The other day my husband and I were discussing the day’s editorial on the current economic scenario- recession looming over our heads, leaving no industry unscathed. (These days, we wake up to stories of joblosses, paycuts, recruitment freezes splashed all across newspapers and media every single morning). My husband stated in his characteristic deadpan style that the maidservants were the ONLY recession-proof professionals in the current scenario!

Though it was a statement made on a humorous note, the words struck a chord and made me think….

I tried to analyse my maid's case. For convenience, let's call her M.

Working Hours :
For five days a week, M's working hours are five-six hours per day. Her employers (i.e WE!) are out of home at 9AM and back only after 7-30PM). On certain occasions when my husband / I have come home unannounced during the afternoons, we’ve found her either watching TV or sleeping. Sleeping so deeply that we’ve had to wait for five to ten minutes before she obliged us and opened the door…looked at us groggily in her sleepy daze and stated point blank that we hadn’t informed her that we would be coming home (in a slightly offended manner conveying her irritation at having her afternoon siesta disturbed). On one ocassion, I just couldn’t tolerate her insolent tone and subtly rebuked her that lest she’d forgotten, the home happened to be mine and I was free to come and go as I pleased!!!!!

Phone calls. To her mother, daughter, cousins, uncles spread out all over the country...M has informed her umpteen relatives to give her a 'missed call'. She has gleefully told them that she would call back!!! I wanted to scream and tell her ...lady, it's our hard-earned money that you're blowing away to maintain your social network!!!! My plight (refer to Para 1) was such that I could only mildly admonish and tell her to restrict her calls to a total value of Rs.50 a month. the next telephone bill told me, my admonishment had indeed fallen on deaf ears!! Upon reminding her, I was told with a non-chalant shrug that she has no control over emergencies.... Well well welll!!!!

Employee Health Benefit (beauty, nutrition): 'Health is weath' is M's motto in life! We discovered this over a period of time, accidentally!
My sister, during her visit, noticed her applying something on her face during afternoons and nights. I enquired and her reply left me speechless.
She had supposedly started developing pimples on her face ONLY after she joined my home. Prior to that her face was now the onus lay on me to revive her lost glow! To be frank , I really dont remember having noticed her flawless complexion or lack of it, when she joined me a year back. So I had to give her the benefit of doubt!

So now she uses raw tomato juice in the afternoons and Haldi & malai paste at night...and in a self satisfied tone told me that she was benefitting from this treatment! For your information, the tomatoes, malai and haldi are all sponsored by me!!
I wonder why I hardly remember to use the cold cream at night regularly!!!! Shame on me...

Last week my husband volunteered to do the weekly vegetable shopping. And predictably forgot some regular items. One of them being lemon. M expressed extreme dissatisfaction that 'Dada' hadnt got all the stuff. When I sternly informed her that I would get them during my next visit to the store and she HAD to make do with whatever was available, she proclaimed that she needed the lemons for her daily dose of 'neembu-paani' -a must to keep her blood pressure normal !! By then my blood pressure had soared and she got a taste of it instantly!!! Result - sulking and gloominess for the next 24 hours.

LTAs & Mandatory Offs : Her to and fro ticket fares to her village are obviously borne by me. And though her departure date normally coincides with ours, during our Puja vacation, though my husband had taken a leave of just 4 days and i had been off from work for 9 days, M HAD to take 20 days vacation. She wanted a month's leave. When I refused, she informed that she wouldnt and couldnt settle for less than 20 days as she had social and religious obligations to meet!!! Well duty could wait....if only we had that privilege!!!

Life, as is evident, hasnt become a cake-walk. Sometimes I wonder whether the comfort of having a live-in maid is worth the money and effort! Managing her various demands, mood-swings sometimes becomes a tad too much after a tired days work!

But juggling a multitude of domestic chores in addition to the office work, was taking a toll on my mood and stretching my ability to it maximum a live-in maid has become, not an option but, a necessity! So what's the guarantee that M's probable replacement would be any better than her? At least she's honest (apparently so), forgetful but responsible, cooks edible food and most importantly, is affectionate to my kid!

Do I even dare ask for more??

Dada - A Bengali word which means elder brother
Haldi - A Hindi word which means Turmeric. It is an Indian spice as well as a natural antiseptic & skin conditioner
Malai - A Bengali/Hindi word which means Milk cream and is a natural skin moisturiser
Neembu-Paani - A Hindi term which means fresh lemonade

Friday, December 05, 2008

Trivia or Truth? A peek into our 'Education Industry'

In India there is a myth….which may also be interpreted as a joke. That when you conceive your baby, you register her/his name in the school or playschool of your choice to ensure admission a couple of years thereafter.

That it is a myth or a joke, was a misinformation.
It is neither... Well, at the most it is an exaggeration...but definitely not a myth neither a joke!

I realized this recently when my daughter completed three years and we started enquiring about schools. Browsing through the websites of various reputed school, another fact which hit me was that in some cities of our country (in my hometown of Kolkata, for example), she would have lost an academic year because she falls short of the ‘CUT OFF’ date for admission by 4 days!!!

Yes! Had she been born 4 days earlier she would have gained a year, at least academically!!

If only I knew, I would have asked the doctor to advance the Caesarian operation by four days ! Huh!!!! What a joke!

Yes, in our country that is what school admission procedure is all about.
Well to make matters worse, in some (read ALL METROS) cities, money is the solution to all hurdles of education. The more you ‘donate’ the better the school your child gets admission in. A Lakh or so for your three year old!!! Too expensive? Who cares.....

And of course I forgot the recommendation part….an MP, MLA, or for that matter any ‘angootha-chhap’ politician or someone with some clout in the society or government will make the admission process a cake walk.

The admission process begins in another day or two…commencing with the form distribution, followed by interview (of the parents and their two and a half to three year old unpredictable, temperamental kids!).

I am tensed and anxious! My husband is cool and unperturbed! And the person (albeit a miniature one but a person she sure is!) in question, whose academic future or non-future is to be determined in a month or so, is NOT EVEN AWARE that the first judgemental event of her life is about to happen.
I guess, amongst the three, the onus of worrying and anxiety falls on me…!!!!

Angootha chhap-A Hindi terminology used colloquially to imply illiterate individuals who place thumb impressions on written documents in lieu of signatures

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Last night I cried.
No, I was not struck by tragedy. Neither was any member of my family and friends…for which I thank God!
We are unharmed by the horror that ripped apart so many lives and shattered hundreds of families. But still ...despite being apparently unscathed, I could not stop my tears from flowing....
I cried while struggling to put my three year old child to sleep.
I cried looking at my sleeping baby.
I cried thinking of a two year old motherless child in a faraway land who was forced to become ‘the child of the entire nation’.
I cried thinking of the times he would want a mother to play with, be mischievous and throw tantrums typical of a toddler….but wont have the indulgent mother looking on.
I cried thinking of the pampering, scolding, admonishing that a two year old is subjected to by loving parents but which he’ll be deprived of.
I cried as he will not even have the memory of his mother’s love, father’s care…
I cried for an unknown orphan in a faraway land.
I shivered in fear as I looked down at the other sleeping child cocooned and safe in her mother’s lap.
Is she safe?
Are any of our children safe even in the haven of their homes?