Gautam Gore, 30, hasn’t had a day off in three weeks. In November, it’s always days of endless scrubbing and dusting so that his clients can have gleaming homes ready for their Diwali guests.
Gore has worked with a professional cleaning service for a year, and worked in other cleaning service companies, serving in corporate offices, before that. A Class 8 dropout, he picked this career because it seemed the best option, considering his qualifications.
“At the offices, I learned which chemicals best clean which surface, how to handle different equipment and how to get every corner clean,” he says. “Here, since we clean people’s homes, we are also taught how to speak to clients, which is an essential skill.”
Gore starts his day at 5 am, with a breakfast of roti and chai in the one-bedroom flat he shares with his wife and two-year-old daughter. He then sets off on the 30-minute walk from his home to the company’s warehouse in Kalyan, where he picks up his assignments and equipment for the day and sets out, lugging around vacuum cleaners and assorted brushes by local train.
“Breakfast is essential, because you never know when you’ll be able to eat lunch,” he says.
Often, Gore and his colleagues eat lunch as late as 4 pm. “My lunch varies, depending on how much money I have,” he says.
“At the beginning of the month, I eat more indulgent meals around the client’s house, such as pav bhaji or parathas. Towards the end of the month, I eat vada pav, or whatever the cheapest option available is.”
Gore usually cleans one house a day, with the help of a team of three colleagues, working from 10 am to 6 pm.
“A lot of them are repeat customers. These houses are very big, so I guess it’s difficult for the owners to clean all the corners and crevices themselves,” he says. “The areas behind the furniture are usually the dirtiest, full of dust collected over the weeks.”
The worst houses to clean, he adds, are the unused properties that owners want restored to habitable condition. “In such cases, you have to go in wearing cloth masks because of all the dust,” says Gore. “There’s usually broken furniture, paper waste, and lots of must.”
Gore is glad that the company has trained them in client servicing.
“Since these are people’s homes, the clients naturally want things done a certain way,” he says. “For instance, every time we clean a cupboard, we call the client to see the results. If they want their stuff organised a different way, we have to re-do it, without complaining.”
Nonetheless, Gore says he enjoys the work. “The best part is getting to see so many nice, plush, big houses, which I would never have got to enter otherwise,” he says. “And even though I know that my salary of R10,000 is probably smaller than that of their maids or servants, I think this profession commands more respect.”
Back home by 8 pm, Gore has dinner with his family, then spends some time with his daughter.
“I want a better lifestyle for my family, so I would like to have an additional source of income,” he says. “Currently, I have convinced my wife to learn to use the sewing machine, so she can tailor outfits for people.”
His greatest hope, however, is his little girl. “I would like my daughter to be well-educated and grow up to be a doctor, which I think is the most respected profession,” he says. “This, of course, depends on her interests.”
(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)