What would you say, if you had to name one person in a typical household in India who runs the daily lives of its members? Is it husband, who typically earns the pay check (fat or thin is a matter of discussion for later times) to look after his family or wife who nurtures the needs of her husband, kids and in many cases in-laws too! Well reality is a far cry from this image which you have conjured up in your mind.
One person who undeniably rules the heads, hearts and the breath of the entire family is a Bai. Type casted by our Hindi movies as Sakku, Shanta or Sheila, draped in 9 yards of authentic Maharashtrian Sari and a broom in her hand, Bai is one entity who contributes in maintaining the sanity in the otherwise chaotic lives of people in a family.
With the shift in family parading from joint to nuclear the role of Bai or maid has assumed paramount importance. With wives no longer choosing to be house-wives, husbands staying busier than ever, long hours at work and crawling traffic, which could redefine the concept of slow and steady, maids have forayed into the lives of modern Indian families and this time with some serious stamp of authority.
She cooks food, cleans the house, washes our dirty linen (literally and metaphorically!) and cleans dirty utensils in the sink with her own hands to a degree which can put the Finish washing powder to shame. In many cases if the Bai is generous she would fold the washed clothes, dust the sofas and clear the dust-bins too. Although these activities are performed with ease in developed nations like Australia, the onus still lies on us to stack up the dish washer, to load the washing machine, to run the vacuum cleaner and clear the trash on a regularly basis, failure to perform any of these might put halt in our lives.
Whether you are in India or Australia the story of an Indian household assumes a sordid hue when a couple transforms into a family and has a tiny heart beating in its house. Leave apart the usual chores of a household, the avalanche of work which comes free with the new born peaks the newly turned parents’ necessities to hire a maid, if one did not exist before. And although Australia does not allow us (economically) to enjoy this facility in a manner which we would like to, newly turned parents do get a glimpse of it in forms of cleaners or gardeners or cooks when the hell breaks loose with the arrival of a baby.
Maids in India have certain unseen but palpable control over the peace and tranquillity of families such that families cry out in shrill pain in their absence.
Apart from all the above mentioned benefits maids also hold key to strong network in our local communities through their inquisitive nature otherwise known as “spying” in general parlance. You can get all the grapevine about Mr. Shetty having an extra marital affair, Mrs Sharma bickering with her mother-in-law, Patels’ son flunking in his 10th board exams, Singh’s daughter going to Manali for summer vacation with her friends and et al., a facility which is sorely missed in this country where despite living in the same building for several years one might not know the names and faces of their neighbours.
If you thought only goods Made in Australia are dearer than let me not talk about the Maid in Australia. Well, that’s what they say is the price for being away from home.
By: Madhumita Thakur