Saturday, 8 August, 2009

Domestic help and domestic hell

a series on domestic staff and the memsahibs....
first one on the maid , her biological clock and the clock on my wall....
We joined the RTI club.The cool ones who are coming back home, oh its an exciting time to be back in the country we coo. the ones that populate the all amenities filled apartments with chauffer and maid. We were so excited about having a maid to bring coffee and a cook who would make anything I wanted. Previously it was the same , we had a cook who made anything I wanted, since I was the cook and i made anything i wanted .
So we moved into our little snob pad. See I am a snob sandwich. I look at the people who are so posh and think so well heeled and snobbish and look at the aspiring masses and think so superficial. Yes I am complicated too
So we landed in Chennai and day one took in the first woman and appointed her maid. My mom did all the interview and reference work . She has a good 30 years head start in intrigues of the domestic kind. I just wanted a maid. So first week I told her treat this like your home , your problems are like mine, we are equal opportunity people , so you eat what i eat... ( well my maid once ate up my humus ... saying nice chutney ma and then i said equal saapad not amuse bouche darling) and yes sundays you spend quality time with your folks. just chill you know
you see since i am this snob i like doing my own work, scrubbing toilets and making quick eats are my forte . i like to look at my toilet seat and feel proud on how sparkling it is , yes i am also have seceret ambitions to be Mrs. Harpic Chennai ( is that a real title already).
so maid comes ... first at eight .... then i tell her no dont come early you see aiyah likes to get up late . since i see myself as a queen housewife i couldnt get myself to tell her actually i get up at eight thirty when half of chennai has finsihed one meal already.... so maid comes at 9.00 . fine
slowly maid decides this amma is like putty in my hands . lets try 9.15
so maid comes at 9.17 by 9. 10 my Bp has risen i snap at husband who innocently asks maybe you should have told maid to come at 9 and then mom calls at 9.17 so has maid come . NO , ma she hasnt. I am standing near the lift to see if any stops on my floor. I have vessels in the sink . I am wearing my gloves ( for cleaning silly not boxing.... that comes later in the ramble) . Ma quotes the bleeding obvious. You know chennai is not europe. yes i figured that much. You should not be so kind to them , making frothy coffee and adding expresso foam . You should be firm and let them know who is the boss. With all this I am frothing at the mouth and maid comes. all yellow and washed ... see its friday . so maid why are you late. aiyah is late now and i have to go for my luncheon. maid says sorry ma , i wouldnt want anything more than to come on time. water lorry didnt come and today its adi friday . so i made vadais , , see we dont have mixie ma , so i grind dal with hand , then smeared myself in turmeric and prayed for you and aiyah .
by now I have melted completely . you prayed oh so sweet of you maid come have a latte machiato .
ok day 3 maid comes at 9.21 by now hell has broken lose. husband knows not to even tip toe downstairs. its time to practise lung power hold your breath and wait while wife is pacing the floor like a lioness on the lose .
so mom calls. you know moms have the knack of calling when you are in crisis mode and knowing exactly what is bugging you they will beat around the subject. by know you cant take the torture anymore you burst open . So mom says what are you doing. ah well i am cleaning the milk cooker. why maid has not come. i thought you said she comes at 9. yes i said ... she has not come. so mom says call her. i call ... her husband picks the phone and says ... amma i was about to call you but you see my mrs. has her ladies days and generally at that time she gets a bit bloaty and has pains. oh yes yes she must have heavy blood flow. so you see i took her to private doctor and they gave her a usi ma. big usi. by know i am thinking usi for PMS . oh god. so i say ask her to take rest and give her some tea with ginger she will feel better. by now Amma is taking me apart. where is your bravery why are you being so stupid. next why dont you send her a hot water bag...
so maid comes back and she cries . ma i am so sorry that i couldnt come. now since i have had so much bad fortune i want 3 days leave. WHAt 3 days NO i cant cope , i have guests , my in laws are coming and I have to retain Mrs. Harpic title , you dont understand. yes ma i do but my father is half blind , my mom is weak , my sister is unmarried.... so i say stop please go
so 3 days i scrub and toil and on 4th day i wait for maid´s return. now husband doesnt even ask he scrubs his tea cup and runs out of the house before the clock hits 9. and by the way i am having ladies days. so keep out. there is a canon lose in the city is basically how he decides to salvage the marriage
so maid comes not at 9 , not at 10 but at 11 . by now my bp has risen and fallen .
she comes with a bag full of mangoes . amma i plucked this from my garden and here meet my father . oh god the father is really blind . oh you poor thing . then maid says see ma since my parents are here i want to take them to see the beach they have never seen the beach. What you just came back . and your father is blind what beach does he see . what do you take me for a freak show
by now mom must be proud of me. so maid sulks and goes to kitchen while blind father sits outside .
maid breaks a pyrex dish .... smears turmeric on my pristine china and generally makes this aiyo rama noises . by afternoon i cant take it anymore. i tell maid ok i will arrange for your father´s eye operation you take the day off and please dont be grumpy. a grumpy in law i can live with but a grumpy maid is tough .
so there maid goes away for a week . then she is back . now father actually saw the beach and i get more mangoes as a gift. and yes the maid came at 8.59 ... and life seems so lovely
but in a few days it will be her ladies days , her daughter will jump the school wall , her husband will drink too much .... my clock will strike 9.30 and all hell will break lose.

in the end our lives are not very different ... but we need to live each other´s life to understand it better and in the end we understand each other so well so we give some and take all we can....


  1. 'ladies days' excuse even in corporates. but very funny recount. you in madras now?

    oh, btw, great fun pretending i can read/understand spanish while commenting here.

  2. Hey Aruna am enjoying reading this and this account of dealing with maids is hilarious! And so true. Are you back in Madras now?

  3. thanks ... have tried to change to english ... hope it works. am back from chennai. my maid is in R&R mode till i am back.....

  4. Do a series "Maid in Mylapore" Interesting!!! Was laughing my head off