In the end, they needed only a little coaxing to get on stage. At Mere Rang Anek, an open mic night organised for household help at Pitaara studio in Goregaon, six domestic workers from Mumbai’s middle class homes showcased their talents for the first time.
Some sang, some danced. One even based her stand-up routine on the hilarious adventures of being a maid in Mumbai.
“Madam wants less ghee on her chapatis, she wants less oil in the vegetables,” narrated Deepika Mhatre, 42, who sells trinkets on local trains before heading to five homes to cook. “Why? To lose weight, she says. Arrey then why keep that big block of cheese for me to grate into sandwiches?”
The audience, a mix of employers and help, were in splits. They loved it even more when Anita Shetty, a 25-year-old single mother, danced to Bollywood hits; followed by her young son, Rohit, singing a song. “I’d never heard of Women’s Day until my son gave me sweets today. He’s my biggest support,” she said.
For others like Ragini Yerunkar, who at 48 had never sung publicly before, Women’s Day was an unknown but welcome excuse to debut a talent. “I was a bit scared,” she said. “And now I think I can do anything!”
Sangeeta Vyas who runs Pitaara says she’s been organising initiatives to help domestic workers in her neighbourhood for years. “But we don’t know what our maids are capable of apart from doing the dishes. And since Pitaara is a platform for all arts, this seemed like a great idea.”
Mhatre’s comedy routine, like the best acts anywhere, came from life. There were bits about the double standards for women (Why can’t my husband fast for my health for a change?) and for maids (How is it that when your child is sick you want me, but otherwise I’m not good enough to take the lift with you?)
She was especially glad to discover Women’s Day.