Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Of maids and earrings

Has it ever happened to you? That nagging guilt. You cannot find a costly earring, or think some cash is missing from your wallet. Zoooppp--- you lose no second in doubting the maid. In a second, guilt envelopes you. It makes you feel low and mean. And yet, doubt stands by stubbornly. You are crushed with two opposite, very strong emotions. The maid comes and goes and you eye her each moment, guiltily, stealthily, nervously. You think you are a bitch to do what you are doing and yet you can't decide whether to doubt, feel guilty or ask. What adds to the trouble is that you are no great sharp head yourself. You must have lost the earring or spent the cash on a glass of cold drink. You spend the rest of the day brooding over the loss. More so, you spend the rest of the day over loss of faith and plunge into complicated realms of morality. The next day, you try to ease your guilt by asking the maid to leave the clothes and just do the dishes. A bigger pile to wash the next day, you fool.

Or has it ever occurred to you that you are being used just like the rag she uses to mop the floor? You don't follow her about the house, watch her every move or nag her every other minute to wipe this corner or that. You believe she will do her work well and fair and don't interfere. And then you discover dusty corners, dishes not done well. You tell her gently to do things right and she doesn't reply back. She never does. She simply does what she feels like in one hour dot and leaves just as lazily and she came. And every few months a big tragedy falls on her house and you find yourself handing away one extra advance payment after the other. The work remains just as mediocre. Why should you ask work in return of help, you ask yourself. But why not, a more practical, slightly dark side instantly quips. Yes, why not. You are again down with two conflicting thoughts and end up feeling a perfect fool.

And scene no. 1 has many possible answers. After a fortnight, you find the earring from a forgotten box in the safe. Or, your maid comes wearing it absentmindedly and either owns up when you ask (if you ask) or cooks up a fabulous story that can put David Dhawan to shame...

13 comments:

Joe Pinto said...

My dear Gauri,

I prefer to believe (not with my eyes closed) that ALL persons -- who provide household services to city persons (like us) who can afford it -- are honest, until we catch them red-handed.

I would also NOT tempt them by letting precious items or cash lying around the house.

Thank you for bringing up a touchy topic that belongs to IHM terrain.

Warm regards,
- Joe.

Sara said...

Great topic Gauri -yes, that happens each time something is lost but its inevitable.All of us yield to temptation at times,and so do maids!!The lat bit about David Dhawan was funny!!

~mE said...

For me i depend on my lady so much that even if she steals i wont have a problem. I practically leave the whole house to her...she lives there more than i do :)

but ya on the safer side i dont leave anything that can tempt her...expensive jewellery is a big no...cash small change its always there and even if she takes i dont mind. She does a whole lot more than i expected..:) I think im just lucky :)

@lankr1ta said...

Have I ever told you how much I love your blog? you are so mature, so sensitive.

Calliopia said...

I don't recall ever personally losing/misplacing anything to be suspicious of domestic help but according to my sister, a few things have disappeared from time to time in the kitchen. How much do you pay your maid btw, and how many hours does she put in? We have live-ins mostly here and we need one in a hurry

feddabonn said...

@calliopia: i believe the minimum wage for semi skilled labour in mizoram is rs.115 a day, which makes it rs.14.375 a day. not sure about mizoram realities, but it seems awfully low to me. in hyderabad we paid rs.900 for 24 days a month, an hour each, which makes it rs.37.5 an hour. she asked for that, and it seemed quite fair.

am also curious about the rates people pay domestic workers.

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

Ah! The dilemma, the anguish.
But we can't have our cakes and eat them too.
It is unfair to to expect domestic helps to be as trustworthy as accountants and cheaper than daily workers.
When you consider the sheer number of bais working in Indian homes, it is a tribute to their integrity that a minor instance of an errant bai finds prominence in local newspapers.

feddabonn said...

@sujoy: lol @ trustworthy as accountants. accountants don't steal, ey? they just 'manage assets'.

coffeeismypoison said...

I've come here from Sara's blog...and i like ur blog...so I'm gonna stick around :) u seem v.wise!
do check out my blog and leave ur comments...

Gauri Gharpure said...

Sir-- Agree with both the points..

Sara-- yes, it is best not to tempt with our callous luxuries. and i am trying...

Alankrita-- Thank you so so much. touched..

Callopia. Fedabonn-- I pay her 800 for about 1 1/2 hours.. she is honest and works pretty well. the post was written with an earlier maid in mind.. I was new to managing things myself and on the hindsight, realize I was a little too soft. maybe i still am.. don't know..

Sujoy-- Welcome to the blog.. just wondering from whose blog you landed here.. :)

Yes, in a way you are right. But even getting out the work you are paying for well enough, you need an amazing amount of tact and a lot of assertiveness. I remember my nani, and how psychotic she was.. it's a different story no one stuck around. :)

Coffee-- Thanks a lot.. Coming to read your blog right over..

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

Hmmm...I cannot seem to recollect the exact path through which I landed here. I will let you know in case I remember(highly unlikely, though, if you ask me).

@feddabonn
When someone fudges account books for their employers, you got to call then trustworthy :)

Calliopia said...

fed, I don't know where you got your rates from but live-in maids with experience here start with 1500/- a month. The not so experienced ones (meaning first timers at the maid thing) start from 800 or even 1000 for the ones from Burma.

Julia Scissor said...

We are lucky we get domestic help really cheap here in India compared to other countries. They have no social security nor are they organized labor. So it's easy to believe they are overworked or underpaid. I believe in dignity of labor and treat them with a lot of respect but very few of my maidservants have turned out to be honest. May be their deprivation drives them to it.

My aunt had once caught her maid red-handed stealing a small amount of money. The maid was fired.