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Lessons from Domestic help
It would be too didactic and pretentious for me to say that only my parents are my greatest teachers – It was true when I was young but since I’m cast in the mould of learning something new everyday, I learn on a daily basis from my maids.
Many women I’m sure would agree with me that their maids are both their constant allies and best friends, and the source of their greatest fear- what if they leave?
Whether or not many would admit, maids also become our personal whipping boys- we vent on them all our daily frustrations and quirks because we have them as available targets with no place else to go.
I have three of these ladies. One person who does the cleaning, one person who does the dishes, and a young teenager who lives with me mainly to be there with the children when I’m not home.
The cleaning lady is a portly woman with a large, strong, reliable presence. She is very meticulous about both her timings and her work. She will not brook any nonsense, not lift a muscle to do anything extra, and is very aware of her rights and privileges. Even when she goes on leave, she makes such a big deal about the fact she’s forewarning me that I am almost grateful to her for going away. From her I learn about how to be aware of one’s rights no matter what one is doing.
The washing up lady is the younger sister of a former maid who was killed in a motorcycle collision. She is a small petite woman, who’s work is not great, but doesn’t say no to anything. Add to this I feel sorry for her since she has to look after five children( 2 of her own, 3 from her dead sister) and a crippled drunk of a husband . I overpay her for her loyalty and she doesn’t say no to any odd jobs I give. When she is not weighed down with her lot in life , she comes with a smiling face, does her work and leaves. Everyday, she teaches me to smile no matter how difficult life is, and just doggedly get on with doing your work- one day at a time.
My greatest teacher is the girl who lives with me. No one can understand why I keep her because my friends and neighbours think she is wild and rebellious. She is as tough as nails and immune to everything anyone has to say to her. She is in direct competition with my children, especially my daughter and has made off with many of my daughters’ accessories, which she simply adopts and starts using without even an ask.
She openly flouts orders, disobeys and can sit down to watch tv at the drop of a hat despite you pleading with her to finish her work. Obnoxious, arrogant, untidy, forgetful and entirely self seeking , once in a while, for no apparent reason, she will turn around and ask me matter of factly – ‘Didi, you look tired. Should I press your feet?’’
She teaches me the most about myself, as she forces me to look deep within.