My attitude towards the hired help at home has always been rather like the students at Hogwarts towards Dobby and his ilk. Not to be seen not to be heard, the work to be done without any hemming and hawing, and the salary to be handed over at the end of the month. And the lords had been kind to me too, I did have a cook and a maid who were so ultra efficient, and noiseless and responsible about their work that my home ran on auto pilot. That’s where the trouble started. They both are sisters. And both decided to go back to the native village to look up their relatives. Together. A month. In the Manral household, comprising five adults and one child, a month without a maid and a cook is the equivalent to a day of Brahma.
The hunt began for substitutes. Firstly, I got all confused at the start of the process itself. I assumed I was the houseowner looking to employ a maid. And a cook. And therefore I could state my expectations firmly. By the end of the first few interviews, I picked up my shredded ego, wrapped it round myself and put on my meekest, most butt wipe expression on when the next candidates presented themselves at the door and hung onto their feet, begging them to work at my house, throwing in a free meal everyday, unlimited tea, complete access to the televisions and even a leg massage on days when we dared to have more than the usual quota of vessels for scrubbing. And bowed and scraped and agreed meekly to all the clauses of two paid leaves in a week. Only one item for breakfast, one vegetable, one dal/gravy and rice and rotis per meal. And the day any animal was to be cooked, we agreed to scrap the vegetable. And that we would plan the menu the previous day itself and keep all the ingredients on the platform to save her highness from the trouble of bending or searching for said ingredients. And that the maid would not wash the bathrooms or the balconies unless we agreed to ransom our gold fillings to her, therefore, we agreed to do said bathrooms and balconies ourselves. And she would not keep the vessels by after scrubbing them. And she would not do copper/bronze/brass or any any elements which necessitated the use of pitambari.Yes, yes, yes, I cried in relief…anything, just agree to do the jhadoo, bartan, pocha. And so they agreed. And I heaved a sigh of relief, a little too early you might rightly surmise, since I was about to get an education in the fact that in the heirarchy of things, the houseowner is at the bottom of the heap. The first day, the hour of the arrival of the cook came and went. I called the home she said she worked at and she came rather snappishly to the phone. “It’s only an hour late. Why did you have to phone me,” she said. I thought she sounded quite churlish. But I didnt dare upset her in case she decided that it wasnt worth working at my home, and we would all end up starved skeletons. I also thought it wasnt worth mentioning that it was time for us to leave for school and work, and nor had we had nor packed any breakfast in the hope that she would arrive at the time she said she would. I meekly asked her if she would find the time and graciousness to honour us with a visit. “Aati hoon,” she said curtly and banged the phone down. I almost burst into tears. But I composed myself, packed a jam sandwich for the child and told the spouse that we would order in some idli sambar for brekkers and took off to work.
The maid, I was told by the elderly relative, did come in on time, but finished the work that normally took our original maid three hours, in an hour flat, after which it took the elderly relative an hour to clean up after her. We were willing to suffer the indignities of putting the vessels by ourselves. We were willing to not comment on the powder lining our plates when we took them out for a meal. We were willing to gloss over the slow accumulation of dirt in the tile crevices in the kitchen. But couple this with unasked for and unexplained leave.
The cook got sacked yesterday. The insolence got to me finally. One was making tea for the household, and in all innocence and goodwill offered some to her. She shrank back like I was polluted with the most fetid evil and declared she would never eat or drink anything in a house which ate non veg. I marched to my room, counted out her salary for the days worked for and asked her to remove her polluting presence from my home. The maid is on leave for Eid. Three days. Today was a day which will go down in history as one in which I have cooked and cleaned enough to last me a lifetime. I have scraped out the microbes from every corner in the house. I have cleaned the utensils to mirror shine. I’ve cooked food that is to my satisfaction. Every bone in my body is aching. And I am so kissing the feet of them sisters when they return from said village. Till then, I’m doing the work meself. Maybe, this is the good Lord’s way of getting me to do some genuine cardio.