Mumbaiwale: This maid will crack you up
Meet Deepika Mhatre, domestic help and stand-up comedian with punchlines about life on the jobUpdated: Apr 12, 2018 16:50 IST
I first met Deepika Mhatre around this time last year. She was making her debut, alongside other cooks, cleaners and household help, on March 8 – Women’s Day – at a special talent show at the now-shuttered Pitaara studio in Goregaon.
There were singers and dancers taking the stage, but Deepika, 42, was different. Yellow pallu wrapped around her shoulders, a life spent selling trinkets on trains and cooking in five homes, the mother of three who always saw the funny side was going to do stand-up comedy.
“Madam wants less ghee on her chapatis, she wants less oil in the vegetables,” she started off. “Why? ‘To lose weight,’ she says. Arrey then why keep that big block of cheese for me to grate into sandwiches?”
She had me in splits. Surely there was a way to give her a bigger platform? I introduced her to stand-up superstar Aditi Mittal, who coached her over the last year and helped her sharpen her act. And look at her now!
On March 15, Deepika will perform at Bombay Connect, a co-working space at Bandra-Kurla Complex, where her routine will cover life as a maid and a woman in middle-class Mumbai.
I hoped she’d say it’s changed her life – but it hasn’t really. Deepika still wakes up at 4am to sell accessories on the trains between Virar and Churchgate. She still returns to Malad, where she prepares meals and does domestic jobs in five homes. She still returns home to Nala Sopara by 4pm to mind her daughters aged 13, 18 and 22. But if she’s booked for a stand-up act that day, she heads out again, returning by 1am. “I just don’t sleep that day.”
The families she cooks for have taken her jokes in good spirit, she says. “But it’s my friends and neighbours who see me in a better light now,” she adds. “My husband isn’t in good health so I’ve had to run the home. People tend to look down on those who struggle. But now that I perform at comedy shows, they’re nicer to me.”
The double standard will probably be a gag in her next routine.
WHY ARE SO MANY DAIRY STORES NAMED NAGORI?
An online business services directory lists more than 120 stores called some variation of Nagori or Nagouri. They’re not part of a chain, though they all sell milk, lassi, curd, other dairy products, sometimes even tea. And if you turn back the clock, you’ll find they’re all somehow related.
Nagori is most commonly associated with a breed of agricultural cattle (they’re sturdy, quick ploughers and run light iron-wheeled carts in Rajasthan’s Nagour region). But the dairies take their name from the Hindu and Muslim Nagori community spread across Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The Nagoris were traditionally marble tile manufacturers and blacksmiths, but newer generations have shifted to dairy farming. If a milk shop calls itself Nagori, you can be sure of a few things: The business is Muslim-owned and “the milk is fresh and of high quality,” claims Akhtar Nagori, who owns milk shops in JB Nagar and Jogeshwari. They may also serve creamy Nagori chai, a buttered bun and if you’re lucky, a salty, unstuffed Nagori kachori as you wait for your milk order.