It has been more than ten days since I posted something. My e-friend wanted to know why. No, it is not the internet service; that has for a change remained connected, thank goodness. But various other reasons.
There was a function in the family -the upanayanam ceremony of a young grand-nephew was performed. An eleven year old lad who is studying in Boston, Tarun came here from cool climes, and surrendered himself to the two day ceremony without a whisper of complaint. The heat was enough to send even hard core Madras-vasis into irritation mode. So hot, that mamis attending the function had foregone the mandatory Kanjeevaram silks, and settled for lighter substitutes. But the child, transplanted like some snowdrop from the cold weather into a hot tropical clime, did not give in and wither, shrivel or wilt, but braved the heat and the smoke from the ceremonial fire, repeated the mantras, and behaved brilliantly. Everyone was impressed with his compliance and good behaviour.
A couple of days later, we asked him how he was doing. He floored us with his answer, “I think I made the biggest mistake of my life.” That set us thinking.....
......The heat has been enervating, and dehydrating, drying up everything including what little imagination I have. And, to cap it all, the domestic nightmare every Indian housewife dreads – the maid doesn’t turn up.
In my case, I have very good support from mine and have grown used to her – she has been with us (though not live-in) for the last 20 years. She anticipates my every need and works accordingly. Poor woman, she is quite ill and hasn’t appeared for the last five days. She works in three or four other places as well, and therefore tries not to miss more than two days of work at a time.
That led me to think about our dependence on them. How much simpler our lives are because of their presence. And this was one of the things I missed most when I visited my children abroad. Granted there are machines to do the washing and washing up, and there is hardly any dust or dirt pollution. But a hundred other things that the maids do – like folding the washed clothes, dusting, cutting the vegetables, cleaning up after us, sweeping the yard, dashing to the shops in an emergency – that are not tough, but take up time.
In earlier days washing machines, mixies and grinders, and other helpful gadgets were unheard of. Whenever the maid was absent, with the arrogance of youth and good health I would take it as a challenge to do the chores, all the while promising to give it to her when she appeared next! But in my mellow years, I find it is not so simple. And the poor women who work for us, they also grow old and fall ill. If they are lucky their children take care of them. Otherwise their plight is pathetic. An organisation here in Madras called INODA has launched an insurance programme for housemaids – the employers have to pay a nominal sum every year, and the maid is covered in case of certain accidents and illnesses. I think it would be a good idea if more publicity was given to this scheme and more employers provided this basic cover to their maids.