They say a good maid is the household's delight. The recent episode involving a controversy involving an Indian diplomat's maid had assumed the dimensions of an international irritant. As the story unfolded, there were vested interests which fuelled the controversy leading to an abrupt recall of the diplomat and extradition of a US staffer back home.
I am reminded of an interesting happening some years ago. The staff college course at Wellington in the Nilgiris holds professional importance. Being a tri-service institution, it hosts students from the army, air force, navy and forces of friendly foreign countries. Select staff college graduates form part of the prestigious faculty. The finesse with which your stay is organised needs to be experienced to be believed.
Senior colleagues, more so their spouse, never lose an opportunity to fill us up on their exciting stay at Wellington, especially the efficient housekeeping and culinary skills of their maids. The names of some of the accomplished maids were already doing the rounds among us potential staff college graduates even before we boarded the 'Wellington Special' in Delhi.
Some influential officers with'jugaad' at Wellington already knew the house they had been allotted with the name of the maid. On arrival, we were handed out the administrative instructions along with the allotted quarter numbers and a neatly typed slip with an inscription, "YOUR MAID IS CURLY". We arrived at our quarters thinking of Curly. However, we were in for a surprise. The maid waiting for us with tea and a plate full of local coconut cookies introduced herself as Sylvie. With nothing against the unexpected change of domestic help, I still wanted to know the reason behind the change. It was revealed that during the previous course, a senior faculty had come calling on his regimental officer. The fellow and his wife were impressed with the north Indian snacks prepared by Curly and decided to swap their Sylvie with Curly during the course break. Not the one to take it lying down, I shot off an application for status quo to the administrative wing, later withdrawing it and deciding to retain Sylvie happily once it was revealed that the senior faculty in question was the instructor directly in charge of our destiny at the staff college!
Back home after we quit service, the paramount issue dictating domestic happiness was employing a good maid. My wife spelt out the priority of renovation of our old, ancestral home. It had to be the servant quarters first followed by the kitchen and then the rest of the house. Wary of my stiff upper lip and brash body language honed in the army, the wife insisted on a training capsule on developing soft skills and humane behaviour somewhat on the lines of Arvind Kejriwal's training sessions at Constitution Club in Delhi for AAP cadres to handle the aam aadmi. The challenge of retaining our maid continues. Irrespective of whether the government announces a periodic raise of dearness allowance (DA) in my pension or not, there is an irrefutable raise in her salary and of course a refresher course for me in maid management.