The lack of hired help…

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.

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About Kiran Manral

40 and battling flab, wrinkles and grey hair. Fighting a losing battle with the weighing scale. Living with the two loves of my life, my husband and my son. Serial buffet offender and reformed shopaholic.
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19 Responses to The lack of hired help…

  1. Meira says:

    Shudder! In similar cases of acute emergency, I might do the household chores, but cooking too?Gasp! I’d rather impose the navratra fast on the household!
    My maid meekly reminded me that the beer bottles needed to be stashed away and the eggs consumed, for the in laws were visiting! Goodness, I hope I never have to let her go.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Meira: Four of the five adults in this house are fasting. But food still needs to be cooked for the child and the elderly relative and for the evening. Plus, the daily cleaning, clothes washing, etc…
      Your maid sounds heavenly. Treasure her.

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  2. Tara says:

    Oh Kiran, I can just try to understand what it all mean…
    I reach the exhausted state only by doing such things for the two of us. but when you have elderly relatives and a kid.. everything is mandatory to be done and one cant order all the time.

    these househelps i tell u.. most of them act so pricey as if they are doing a big favor on us.. somebody needs to teach them what professionalism is.. but then I know of ppl who treat their househelps v badly too, getting all work done and not paying enough etc..

    I hope those sisters return back soon and there be ease at ur place quickly.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Tara: My elderly relative, thankfully, is not the sort to sit back doing nothing, if anything, she is more active and energetic than I am. Cant order in because we are all doing navratri fasts.
      I hope so too. Am waiting for the month end to come quick…

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  3. Aathira says:

    Oh my… once you get used to household help, its crazy when they need their annual leave.

    My mom has almost decided on letting someone come in only on alternate days in the hope that this shall have her not too dependent on her.

    I wonder what shall come of me when/if I do happen to go to the many nations beyond the Indian Ocean, where household helps are a mere mirage!

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Aathira: I dont mind the work. What I do mind is the time it takes up, time I could use better elsewhere. I would never be able to survive in firang land because of this…

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  4. Deepa says:

    I hope someday there will be no hired help available regardless of what you are willing to put up with or pay them….because hopefully they will be educated enough or vocationally trained for a better way of life….not domestic labour. So a regular cardio workout of the sorts you just experienced would be a good thing to teach our sons and daughters starting young.

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  5. Sonia says:

    Oh man!!! :(( And I used to have this incorrect illusion about how easy everything is in India because you can hire maids and cooks and drivers – this is just too much. Now I understand why my Maasi (who was here on a visit) told her daughter in law everytime she called India to please be nice to her long time maids and not to fight with them or offend them hehee….The maid relationship has taken over mother in law relationship quotient, I guess heheee….They should make a soap called Kyon ke mere paas bhi kabhi maid thi hehehee…

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Sonia: It makes life simpler. It frees up a hell of a lot of time spent in drudgery work. And if you have good longterm help, it worth the effort not to offend them in anyway…and its a quid pro quo relationship. In my previous home, our maid was with us for over 15 years, and the cook for eight. The current sisters have been with us since 3 years ever since we’ve moved in here…

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  6. Gigi says:

    I think I depend too much on my trusted folder of takeout menus :-)
    Wow two more days eh till the maid returns eh? Hang in there..

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  7. faeriee says:

    Same story. My uber efficient 24 hour maid has taken off for Durga Puja leave which may extend for a month or two. I have, at my disposal, an untrained maid (in maid agency lingo) who speaks only bengali and since I speak only Hindi and English, its a constant uplhill struggle. I am learning to get by, day after day.

    In the meantime, I am discovering that my kids tend to help out with housework more when they see their mommy slaving at the hearth and home. I am also discovering a considerate side of my husband these days. I guess these periods of no-maid crisis occur for a reason. Here’s hoping your maids return soon and sanity restored soon. Take care.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Faeriee: I cant say the same about my hubby and kids. Also the fact that I live in a joint family means the men are ultra pampered macho chauvinistic types, including the son,(trying hard to get him to go against the grain). Thanks..and hope yours returns soon too.

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  8. JLT says:

    LOLOL My empathies. And here’s hoping the sisters come back real soon.

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  9. Shamika says:

    Kiran,

    i looooove your blog, i stumbled upon it a few days ago and read all your posts in a day !!! :P like a novel :)

    rofl on this post…..hope the sisters come back soon !
    till then buy yourself some latex gloves ;)

    Shamika

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  10. Supriya says:

    I hear you, Kiran…I do!

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