Monday, May 20, 2013

Maid in India

In every household there is usually one entity who shoulders the responsibility of holding the house together. In the days of joint families in a largely patriarchal Indian society,it was usually the eldest male member(umm...his wife) who held the reins of the house firmly in his (her) hands. As the decades progressed, the social structure gradually moved away from the joint family system to largely nuclear establishments with the family comprising of the working wife, the working husband and one/two Doraemon and Shin Chan influenced kids. With this change, emerged another very important entity in the household. Hitherto this person was one who occupied the lowest strata of the family pyramid and one whose daily life was destined to be dictated and berated by the womenfolk of the house. She bore the brunt of the dictatorship with little possible resistance. However, her time in history was beckoning her.
With the nucleation of families and both the spouses working, she announced her arrival and announced it with some serious stamp of authority. Historians would name this age as the Age of the Indian Household Maid.

Yes, if there is one person who holds the key to the peace and tranquility of a house it is none other than this lady. This lady today has access to multiple nerve centres of the home and each such nerve centre cries out in shrill pain if even slightly neglected. The seriousness of the issue was debated by the Indian parliament who passed the motion to bring amendments the Hindu Marriage Act. The act would now mandate it for the husband to take a legally binding vow to provide the wife with a continuous household 'help'. This clause was infact not suggested by any women group as may be assumed but various male representative bodies who rallied that this clause be made binding on their kind. Health and safety concerns formed the cornerstone of their argument.

The importance of the maid cannot be understated. Just one day she finds a reasonable excuse, and excuses there are galore, to skip work and all hell breaks loose. The entire routine of the household is turned on its head and no one has an effective disaster recovery or business continuity plan to handle the situation. The wife realises that the sink is overflowing with unwashed dishes and has little clue on how to dispose of them before the 9 am meeting. In such situations, the stack of unwashed linen, with its cunning looks, effectively dons the role of the manipulative sister-in-law from the yonder years. The husband roams around in his towels, lost and vulnerable and most often useless in such situations. With nerves on the edge, all of sudden the peace would be disrupted and before you know it, its the husband's mother who would be at fault. God was far-sighted when creating Mothers-in-law. Thanks to the existence of this entity, a lot of frustrations find an immediate venting outlet thus avoiding building up of negative potential energy.
And then in all their wisdom, couples start having babies. After enduring nine months of retching, forced celibacy and teetotalism, kicks to the stomach and worst of them all- XXXL dress sizes, the post-partum period is when the new mother yearns for small breathers in between sleepless nights, continuous cleaning of never ending flow of poop and frightening worries about the permanence of unwanted layers of fat at even more unwanted places. The search begins for a reliable maid cum nanny. This version of the maid/nanny is near extinction and nowadays very rarely spotted in the hilly terrains of Nepal and adjoining areas. For once, the Government of India is taking realistic proactive steps to handle this precarious situation. They have ensured that the porosity of our borders with Bangladesh works perfectly to address this gap of demand and supply. But there is still a lot to be done in this regard but we certainly cant question the genuineness of intent of the government. Anyway so those lucky couples who get blessed with one such helping hand are the ones who crawl back slowly and steadily as social beings. The less fortunate are not much seen in social circles and when rarely they do make an appearance, the husbands cut a sorry figure with all their bruises and cuts . They usually huddle in corners with a drink in hand, listen to Jagjit Singh  and talk of those days gone by.

The bell shrieks. I groggily look at the clock and I dont wish to believe what I see . Its 6'o clock on a Sunday morning and she has come half and hour early today. I somehow pull myself up to open the door. She grins with her toothless smile. "Bhaiyya mereko aaj kahin jaaneka hai....isliye jaldi aayi".

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