The garbage collected inside the house has to be kept outside the main door. Due to the extreme vigilance the society was observing because of quite a number of infected residents in the neighbourhood, a decision was taken to maintain hygiene at all levels including among the housekeeping staff, who would pick up the garbage on alternate days. I must humbly admit that I am quite popular with most of the housekeeping ladies. Perhaps years and months of honest enquiry on their regular general wellbeing as I pass them, coupled with a genuine passing smile has worked, obviously in my favour. They are always ready to help. They may even state, I rarely ask for help.
My popularity among my society’s housekeeping and house helper staff is a five rated individual performance. Perhaps, they saw me like I wanted to be seen. No expectations of forced conversations and by nature of their ever-challenging personal lives, they possess an understanding to let people be. Mostly, as she was busy sweeping and dusting, transforming my abode into a cleaner place, I had the luxury of stretching myself and sprawling on the couch. I miss my maid precisely for reasons beyond the normal. She was a buddy. She calls me ‘didi’ in Hindi vernacular, which is a respectful connotation and widely used regardless of age structure. I remember the tasks she used to attempt daily, in a mechanical fashion. Clean the kitchen: open the windows, collect all refuse, wipe the top of the refrigerator and work surfaces, wash, dry, and put away dishes, wipe off the surface of range, clean spilt food from drip pan or oven, dry damp work surfaces, sweep and mop the kitchen floor, take out the garbage and put in a clean liner, clean sink and dishcloth, collect and wash soiled towels, hang fresh towels.
Remember the famous scene in ‘Sex and the City 2’, where Charlotte confesses her biggest fear after suspecting her husband of having an affair with the nanny? She was not worried about losing her husband, what gave her sleepless night was her fear of losing the nanny. The same goes for our maids! They have come a long way of being just helpers. We need them for everything: someone to speak about your day to, understand what’s happening in the world around us, gain some perspective about reality, figure how to get my old pressure cooker repaired and what not.
(Photo by Nicolas Gras from Unsplash)
While her duties are many, and, to one nervous and fretful helper, they turn out exhausting…for some those tasks are a mere trifle, to be laughed at and forgotten. Mine is a nuclear family and I am left to myself, my good space and my books after everyone has gone out to meet their life.
I began to enjoy the comfort of chatting up with her and seeing her adore my library like it meant a wholesome to her as well. She knew over a period of time that I like to consume three cups of tea by 11 morning and that I like the rooms dimly lit with curtains drawn over a cleaned space giving it an aesthetic feel.
She became integral to my life as much as any other feel-good elements that I have the fortune of enjoying daily. Some even call her ‘family’. Your routine gets upset if she doesn’t turn up. And while you feel it’s easy to throw your weight around at her, you probably need her more than she needs you — your domestic help/maid.
While I have heard stories about bosses from hell who make for terrible homeowners, most of us are far better employers- sane and practical. However, unlike our year-end appraisal, we have probably never sat her down and asked her for feedback. In an attempt to comprehend her situation better, I sat down today, to write about my pleasant times, with her around…about how she added meaning to my life, in her own little way. Memory can be fleeting and written notes can protect them. Let me call them … thoughts about my ‘domestica’.