She left last week. I cried, she cried, my daughter, too, cried. My husband didn’t cry but I could see he felt like it, out of sheer embarrassment if nothing else. The occasion was that my domestic maid Sushma was leaving for village after completing 11 months with us. Although I was emotional for the fact that her presence during the last year was practically as a family member, yet I can’t help but be honest in admitting that a lot of crying was because of the impending stress of having to look for a new maid. All my fears proved true in the past week.
I went round and round… visiting placement agencies, talking in fake Jharkhandi and Bengali accent trying to convince the ‘agents’ and getting lost into the unending maze of ‘raw, semi-trained and full trained’ categories. “What’s a semi-trained?” I asked a placement agent. “She’ll understand your language,” he replied, spitting paan on the floor. “So a ‘raw’ won’t even understand what we’re saying?” I asked him. He chose not to reply. Of course he could afford to do that.
He was doing me this huge favour by giving me this 24-hour comfort in the form of someone who I was supposed to spend many weeks training. Finally, after paying him a cool 15000 bucks as commission, plus two months advance on the 4000 per month salary, I came back home with a ‘full trained’ wonder, who just stood and grinned everytime I said anything — even if it was that the neighbour’s dog had bit me. Anyway, my woes continued but the point is that I found the whole thing of getting domestic help a big stress factor… and ironically the stress is not given by the young hardworking girls who come to Delhi looking for work but by the middlemen who exploit both sides. When I asked a well meaning friend to help me calm down in ‘maid matters’, she suggested this solution. She asked me for how many years had I had a domestic help in my house. “All my life,” I replied.
“Okay, there you go, you suffer from maid-o-mania “ she said. “ Now, for a change, don’t hire one for a few days and see how it goes.” Even though I thought that was the silliest solution to calmness, as not having help in the house was only likely to increase my workload and stress, I took her advice. I sent the grinning one back and asked the agency for replacement after a week. In the one week that I did not have any domestic help in the house, I discovered some small pleasures. That of packing my child’s tiffin with my own hands.
That of opening the door when my husband came home in the evening and rushing to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. That of feeding the fish in my aquarium every morning and of knowing that my kitchen had seven different kinds and sizes of frying pans…. and four jam bottles, of the same flavour. I no longer had to look around before breaking into a silly dance in the kitchen and no longer had to worry about what the maid would eat if we decided to order pizza for two. Although soon enough, I was looking forward in desperation to the arrival of the new member of our household, but trust me, that one week was one of the calmest I’ve ever had.
Sonal Kalra now knows that she can survive without domestic help if the need be. But would someone please share contact addresses of some good placement agencies?…just in case.