Let me introduce myself to you! My name is Jeeveetha, I am 36 years old. I am married and have two children. My son is 14 years old and my daughter is 12. My husband is a welder who works on and off. That is whenever he gets work.
I work as a house maid in 4 houses. Yesterday, I heard a remark in one of the houses I work at — Madam was talking to her friend about — you know what? — about us maids!! You see I had taken leave the previous day as my daughter had started her final exams and she was running a temperature and was coughing. I thought I should take her to school and stay till her exam was over. Now is there anything wrong in what I did? I have seen my Madam taking leave from work when her daughter was not well. One rule for them and another for us!! Not that I did not phone to inform her.
Going back to the remark to her friend — she said, they do not make maids like in the good old days anymore — ‘no commitment’, they take leave at the drop of a hat, and do their work in a hurry-burry, rushing from one house to another.
So I thought I should tell my story, I told my son to write down what I am saying. The following story is as narrated and dictated to my son. Please excuse any mistakes! Please try and understand what I am saying!!
I am a third generation maid. My grandmother was a maid, my mother was a maid and I am a maid. They tell me careers and jobs run in families, but I am going to see to it, that my son and daughter will not end up being house help if I have anything to do about it!
My grandmother worked for a family with a large bungalow. She was given a servant’s quarter with water but no electricity. She lived there with her husband and 4 children. My grandfather did the gardening and odd jobs around the house like polishing the shoes of the whole family. My grandparents’ children did not go to school. My mother and sister tagged along with my grandmother and learnt to do some household chores. In those days, the madam of the house took the trouble to teach the house help their duties. They learnt to dust, sweep and mop, make the beds with the sheets tucked in the right way. Most of all they were taught to cook and take pride in the cooking and serving the dishes in the right way.
One of the most important jobs was to take care of the employer’s children, showering them with love and care leaving them little time to take care of their own. They became playmates to the babas and babies. I believe there was some bonding and relationship and a sense of loyalty.
All of this gave my grandparents a feeling of satisfaction. They looked forward to the marriages of the employer’s children and spoke of the grandeur of the times. When my mother and her siblings got married the employer prepared a small trousseau and took care of most of the expenses.
There came a day when my grandmother could not continue working. She was weak and tired. Her employers took care of her. The reins of the household passed on to my mother and she lived her life vicariously through the employer’s family. There was now a car too and so my father was taught to drive. All of this I believe was to keep my family tied to the household. After all, where would one get such loyalty and commitment!!
There were no aspirations at all. Life moved on quietly …
I followed in my mother’s footsteps — but things were changing. The old bungalow was demolished as the children had scattered all over the world. Flats had come up in a joint development. There were no quarters for the house help. We had to fend for ourselves — rent, water, electricity, food — all of which cost a great deal. There were hardly any employers who needed a full time maid as houses were smaller, families were smaller, both husband and wife worked and a full time maid would come in the way of their privacy.
Now as I was out of the known security, I looked around and saw a different lifestyle:
- Employer’s lifestyles had changed
- My fellow maids’ lifestyles had changed
I began to have aspirations for me and the family.
My children have to study — not just up to the 10th but I want them to dream and work hard. They should take up a professional course. I feel proud when I hear them speak in English.
I personally like to dress well in clean and matching clothes, and look good too.
We all like to occasionally go out and eat.
In a couple of years I think I should be able to take a loan for a second hand two wheeler. Then, my son and daughter can drop me to work — respite for tired feet.
I have opened a Bank Account and save some money for marriages, our old age and medical expenses.
I think you now get the picture of why I work in 4 houses, and rush from one place to the other.
So you tell me where is there room for loyalty and commitment? Also don’t forget employers do not have the same loyalty and commitment to their maids as earlier. They will not hesitate to get rid of us on a whim or the smallest excuse.
This is Jeeveetha signing off.
“Aspirations” that was the purpose and aim of writing this blog.
All of us have aspirations, the rich and the not so rich. We encourage our children to have aspirations and set them on the way to fulfilling them. What about the poor? They have an equal right to aspirations, to break out of the cycle of poverty. What they need is encouragement, often support and the knowledge and skills to fulfil their aspirations. No one has the right to thwart the aspirations of anyone.
Unfortunately some of us knowingly or unknowingly do this.
Let me close with this poetic quotation by Louisa M Alcott. (Growing up she was one of my favourite authors)
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty,
Believe in them and try to follow where they lead.”
Very true for me, and for that matter for all and any one of us!
God Bless Jeeveetha and all who have aspirations. The progress of humanity is dependent on it.