“Chechi, finally that woman is leaving. Thank God”, my 9 year old cousin was expressing her relief evidently feigning her emotions. Her mother was present when this conversation happened and I could picture the situation the kid was in. Caught between two worlds, one in which she craved for attention and be counted as grown up and the other which forced her not to involve in adults’ matters. These words from the child signified the malice that was overpowering her innocence as she was growing up. All she did was repeat what she had been hearing for days together, about the maid servant in her house.
“The Woman” mentioned here is their maid-servant, a lady almost 60 years old who had been looking after both the kids in the family for the past 6 years. As years passed by, the family started having problems with her. In a way the family started taking her for granted and she started taking them for a ride. Misunderstandings, bickering, altercations crept in and the rows between the lady and my aunt were worse than what Ekta Kapoor’s creative heads have managed to come up with. Yours truly had to play the role of a neutral observer-complaint- listener here, during those short visits I made to their house. During day-time the lady would embark on a defamation mission against my aunt and during evenings my aunt would start off on her servant’s antics.
The only conclusion I could draw was both of them just couldn’t stand each other and inevitably the lady had to be kicked out of the house.
This year around when the summer vacations started, officially the servant bid good-bye with tears in her eyes. The level of attachment between her and the kids would put the parents to shame. I was sure about that.
But, this statement from my cousin completely shocked me. I didn’t know how to put it across to the child, but at least she should have respected the woman’s age. This is what I felt at that moment.
Dear Ria, do You know that ammamma who you now addressed as THE WOMAN came into your life when your parents were running helter–skelter in search of someone to look after you and your sister? Do you know both of you were suffering from a serious case of dysentery and you couldn’t digest anything that you ate, until ammamma came and looked after you? Despite her old-age and deteriorating health, in spite of countless arguments between your mom and her, she never intentionally stepped back from her duties towards both of you.
You had no right to pass a statement like that my child. The tears she shed while leaving was a symbol of how much she loved both of you. I can assure you, you would hardly find people like that. Now you won’t understand, but in years to come you’ll realize it kid!
The other day I noticed that our neighbours had gone out and the maid servant was locked inside the house. Isn’t it a totally inhuman act? This girl is almost of my age. I have tried striking up a conversation with her but mostly I am met with a blank expression, the eyes which speak of fear and pain, and a smile forcibly pasted on her beautiful face. She looks after the 2 kids in the house aged 5 and 2. I know she is educated, maybe at least till 10th std. She totally adores the kids and the feeling is mutual. But, the elder one, who is adapting himself to the civil society has started showing signs of rudeness and superiority over the girl.
Given a conversation between the women in our colony, the discussion never ends without a mention of the maid-servant. While one section comprises of repeated complaints about their maid-servant, in a competition on Who has the worst servant, another section is desperately on the lookout for a servant. The extent to which these women can lie and they call themselves professionals, serving the nation.
Even maid-servants or domestic help deserve to be treated in a humane way! If not for them, our households wouldn’t be the same. At some point of time, we would have experienced how the household turns upside down when the servant doesn’t turn up for a day. But the way they are treated in majority of the households raises many questions. Don’t they deserve to live with dignity? Just coz of their economical backwardness, are they anything less than human beings?
For the past one week, the Noida murder case and added media frenzy swept the entire nation. From the domestic help being the suspect to the latest version of the 14 year old teen sharing a Close relationship with the servant, and father discovering them in an Objectionable position ( why the hell do people play around with ambiguity) stories have been cooking up by the minute.
Nuclear families are totally dependent on servants for looking after their children. When you entrust your child in their hands, why not treat them with a little bit of concern or regard for their individuality? I have seen houses where they keep a separate utensils for the servant, hygiene being stated as the reason. Where does all this hygienic factor go when you eat the food cooked by the same servant or your children are fed by the servant? Why this bias against servants as being unclean and unhygienic coz they do the menial jobs for you? Do you even bother that, it is your toilets that she cleans, it is your leftover food that she eats, it is your plates that she washes?
From being a matter of status symbol, today a servant has become a necessity, attributed to our changing life-styles and increasing incomes. But, when will our mentality change? When will we learn to treat them as human beings?
Remember , we were born lucky or else it could have been any one of us in their position.
This post was written on the basis of what I saw around me. I do agree there are some servants who can be real pain in the neck, but this post is purely based on innocent, unprivileged souls who are ill-treated and exploited in unimaginable ways. They have no escape coz of the need to fill their stomachs and feed their families.