Saturday, November 7, 2009

House Help - How helpful?

Coming from India, I was used to seeing house maids or baais (as they are called in India) in and out of my house everyday. I could say that almost every house would have house help to aid with laundry, house cleaning and dishes. For those who have never had maids at home, it could be a little daunting. I would like to say that if you're thinking that having a maid at home to do all the chores will make day-to-day life very smooth and leave you spare time, then please re-consider your thought.
Residents from this southern part of Asia will have very interesting anecdotes to tell about their house help. The first step to having a maid is to find one. And in Baroda where I grew up, this was a steep task. Once you found a maid and the tough task of negotiating the rate was done, then came the training part. Every mom wanted her house chores to be done in a specific manner. It would be at least a couple of months before the maid was set in her routine.
Then comes an interesting twist. Almost everyone faces days when you have become dependent on the help and have set your routine according to theirs. One fine day the maid doesn't turn up, without any notice. All hell breaks loose at this point. The women of the house have already wasted time waiting for the baai to turn up. When he/she doesn't, they nervously think how to finish all those chores of doing the daily laundry, cleaning the house and doing the dishes.
This waiting and then nervously coming up with a plan to do chores on my own is one thing I am glad I don't have to do over here. Having lived with and without a house help now, I am glad to do things on my own now. I don't end up wasting time micromanaging the help, coordinate my schedule with theirs and also supervise their work.
On my trip to India this summer, I saw that several of my friends invest a lot of time just instructing the help what to do for one particular day, come up with work just to keep the maid occupied and managing the one or two house helps that are there at the same time. As V very aptly said, "When you know that there is no one to help you, you just do things on your own. And because of this, I like the routine that people are set in, in the United States. It doesn't go haywire." This is so true. At least you do not get dependent on someone and then have almost a panic attack when the dependent person is not there. And when you do your chores on your own, you are bound to do them nicely.
I saw a whole new dimension of house help in Mumbai. Maids will drop the children to the bus stop and pick them up when they return home from school. When a family relative told some mothers of her daughter's classmates that she will not have a maid to do that job and that she'd rather drop her daughter herself at the bus stop, the mothers didn't like it. It was almost a norm for kids to be dropped by the maids.
Though there are times here when we do miss house help. Like when a child is born and you need sleep and don't really want to spend time in the kitchen, you are bound to do that and do the laundry and run the dishwasher also! Or during parties or family functions when there is immense work load in terms of cleaning the house, getting the silverware out, and more. But then there always will be pros and cons to any situation.

Writing this blog took me back to all those years when there would be house help and then not have them at the most crucial time like N's wedding or an illness or having guests at home. It also reminded me of some of the nicest house help who I will always remember fondly. It brings a smile to my face when I remember of those phone calls my mother would make to neighbors or they would call my mom and say, "My maid is not here today, if yours does turn up, can you send her at my place for some time. I really need help today!" Here's to all those wonderful memories!

1 comment:

  1. [Chuckle], true.
    But now sometimes I worry if I ever go back to India, I don't think I can handle the house have to be so street smart to do that! I wonder if I can ever order someone other than A around ;-)