Saturday, February 18, 2012

'Maid'en woes

One of the major woes,  most of us in cities face is that of maid attrition.  Most of us live in nuclear families where we  juggle many tasks.  Some of  us rely on supporting service providers like maids, dhobis, car cleaners, drivers, child caretakers etc.

Healthy or unhealthy practice, I don’t know, but many of us are so dependent on  them thinking that these people make our lives less stressful, but they at times turn us into nervous wrecks.

First and foremost problem,  it is hard to find   a maid, when the demand  for them is plenty like in an multistoreyed apartment.  Then screening their antecedents for cheating, stealing etc., After all these , they have to  look decent and  clean , work without throwing any fuss or taking leave often.

 Thankfully, I’ve a servant who is clean, reliable, punctual and works  with me for the past 3 years(touché wood). My only problem is when she goes to her native place. Finding a substitute for me is a big ordeal. Actually I’m dependent on her only for sweeping, mopping, cleaning wash rooms and school uniforms  ( my son goes to play football in white dress and comes back in brown dress). She does’nt complain or sulk when she washes his shoes or clothes.

Unfortunately not many of them are fortunate, especially many of my full time working friends have a tough time. They have hired the maids from agencies.  There was this instance with my friend who was a Punjabi and who hired a maid/baby sitter  from an agency. The maid was Bengali and she could not eat the rotis  made by my Punjabi friend, so before leaving to work she  specially cooked rice for her maid. When she had no time to cook rice, she gave rotis for her. She sulked and complained to the agency that she would’nt work in a house which served rotis for her. All these when she was’nt even sure at work that the baby sitter was taking proper care of her 2 year old, because her baby  once broke his nose when he fell from the cot while his baby sitter was on a phone call and she had to rush home from work.

Another friend who had brought a cook and a maid from a destitute home from her home town Cuttack was slapped by her cook with whom she already had a cold war. YES, YES, you read it right. the cook slapped her employer.

 The reason for the slap - My friend had asked her cook why she had’nt made the regular mashed potatoes for her 3 year old. The cook replied ‘No stock’.   My angry friend retorted back telling she should have atleast informed her and in return she got slapped and told her it is not her duty to keep stock of the pantry. My friend did  the next best thing. Put her on a flight back home. When I asked her why she wasted  money on flight, she said the trains were booked and  she wanted the cook to leave as early as possible, as seeing her face would only escalate her BP.  She  had employed her since she was a divorced woman and had been recommended by her parents. In return she was slapped.

Well if these are some special case with full time maids, part time are no different. Many of my friends who depend on them for most chores like chopping vegetables, dusting, atta kneading ,folding clothes etc., their life comes to a standstill when the maids go on unannounced holiday to watch chiranjeevi’s first day first show movie or for chit parties( like kitty parties).

Today , It is easy to attend an interview and get placed in a company, but their queries have to be answered  politely, patiently and with a permanent smile plastered on your face.

The questions they ask us before being placed is:

Why did the old 'bhai' leave?

Ghar me kitney log hain?( How many members in the family) How is this relevant to sweeping and mopping, I still don’t know, but my friend answered one and half, meaning she and her 12 year old daughter , while her husband is mostly on tour)

Bartan kitney girenge?( fair enough, more vessels means more work)

Kapdey sukhana ke liye washing machine or hum ko hi karna padega?
( meaning should we wring the clothes for drying or will you put in spinner)

Nalgaru unnara? ledu amma, naku  iddaru  vunda illu kavala( 4 Persons? No madam, I work only in houses where there are couples. There will be less work in retired couple’s house or newly married  couple’s  or working couples house.  Their validation for this, bacchon ki ghar mein bahut kaam hota hain.  ( what do we parents with children do? of course, shell out extra money)

After  passing the interview, when they are hired and  start working, comes the attrition problem, where the maids turn their priorities towards some new families which have shifted  into the complex and offer more to work and give in kind, free ride in cars to markets, outings, advance etc.,

It takes lot of tact to retain a maid.

All these reminds me of my Grandparents maid Amirtham  in Mylapore, Chennai. She worked for nearly 45 years. Due to old age, when she could’nt work any more she was given monthly pension by my grandparents. There is not a person in our extended family who does not know Amirtham and they enquire about her to this day even after 5 years of her passing over.

They don’t come like her any more/ they are very rare.

Ofcourse,  it is also important to treat them well.  Take my maid for instance, she was offered more money to work in  a house. She worked for just a week there and refused to work there any more.  When the lady questioned , why she was'nt reporting, the answer she got  was a simple  ‘Naccha ledu’( did’nt like). They can choose, not us.

Earning wise, I would’nt be surprised If one day they become tax payers, especially in my complex , my dhobi walla comes with ipods plugged in his ears and a trendier mobile phone. When questioned why he does’nt come and pick clothes regularly. “Bahut kaam hai, madam. Timeich nahin hain”.
They even advise us to wear synthetic clothes , since cotton clothes requires to be pressed.

My maid took two months leave because she was constructing a house in her native.

I can keep on adding to this list about the car driver who sends SMS at the last minute,stating he would’nt report to work that day or about the car cleaner who absents for 4 days and talks about labour laws or about the child’s caretaker who keeps talking to other maids in the park while the child she is supposed to take care of is rolling the feeding bottle in the sand pit and then popping it into his mouth and the list will go on. 
All the above woes are the reason why I stopped delegating work( except cleaning because of my spondylitis) , I would rather do my own work  and depend less on these people. Now I have to juggle between  house hold chores, cooking, shopping, parenting, freelancing,  fitness routine etc.,

No leisure. I've bargained it for some mental peace.


  1. Oh my God! getting slapped by a maid is just hideous..I am also appalled at the Bengali maid! They sure know that they are indispensable and give bhaav.. A friend paid 30,000 bucks to the agency that provided a cook/caretaker.. just like employers pay placement agencies for hiring employee..I have had trouble with maids for as long as i remember..And your Amirtham story reminded me of the maid in my paatis house - she did things without asking and would even brings us vadams and pickles she made at her house.These days these maids are just money minded !

  2. Hi Bhargavi, Tried commenting on your blog. Some technical glitch perhaps with IE or i don't know if it is gobbled by blogger. Congratulations on your book release and best wishes for the new addition. Hope you have it smooth. God bless!

  3. Getting good help is really a problem. I never liked to keep any body to help and for 20 years I was doing all the work, with some help from my husband. I hate waiting for the maid to come, and then end up doing the work when they fail to turn up without any notice. Now a days things are better for they all have cell phones, and they can easily tell us if they are not coming
    After shifting to our present house too I was doing all the work, but I became very ill and I had to keep some maid.
    It was my luck I found a very good maid, who does all the work just the way I was doing, and she has been with us for last 11 years. She also doesn't like to work anywhere else,and I also don't like to keep anyone else.
    For cooking I never liked to keep anyone. I sometimes wonder how people cannot manage without servant, I always felt I had more time and no tension when I was without any maid.
    The problem is now a days people want a maid to stay with them, a maid to do the top job like swabbing, cleaning etc., then they want one cook, and they also need a driver, looks like there are more workers than employers in a house. All my neighbors have at least 4/5 people working for them and yet none of them are happy, and to think most them are just couples.

  4. Life in india is Easy, if all those people had t olive here abroad for a week they would know how and what it is ..

    here I am the master and I am the maid ..

    people are getting lazy thats what it is all about.. I remmeber when i was back home a child my parents are rich but we did not have maids to cook etc , mum did all that herself..


  5. I've never had any experience with Maids, coz My mum used to manage everything herself. But what you write is so scarry! Is that because there's so much of demand for these house maids, and they know their value? If people start to manage the household work by themselves, one day these maids will realise and come back asking for work! Instead of shedding so much money on them for washing vessels and cleaning, we can buy a good dishwasher/washing machine and vaccum cleaner and do everything ourselves. But how could a child minder be so careless? People are working for money and not for the service!

  6. @ Rama - they have mobiles but don't pick up the calls when they recognize the number. ofcourse some of them are duty conscious.

    @Bikram - YEs, Labour is not easy abroad, but conditions are different. There is not much pollution there, here you sweep , mop and in the next hour you find a layer of dust,whereas you can vacuum just in the weekends there( my husband did this when he was in the US). Especially in Hyd, It is too dry and dusty. Agree with you, even my mom or for that matter even today my MIL at 77 is independant. They have the energy but itis different in case of working woman who have family and children. They need help.

    @ Vaish - yes, it is a case of huge demand and less suply. WE can depend on the gadgets and many of them have these. Again everything has to be operated by us and requires time. IT is sad in the case of full time working woman and young mothers especially who have responsible jobs and work beyond stipulated hours and commute long distances. It tires them and on top of it they have to balance home and career. There is no choice but depend on the maids/caretakers here.

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