All was well until one fine day when my maid suddenly announced that she would be going on leave for an entire week! This hit me real hard. The realization that I would be managing on my own for an entire week slowly dawned on me. Trust me…it was a nasty feeling. My entire routine would go off track just because I would be wasting my time doing regular household chores.
Looking at my forlorn expression, she brought another maid to work instead of her, for a week. But this lady would be turning up at 3.00 PM. I couldn’t possibly wait till late afternoon to have my house cleaned!
Isn’t it funny how we take maids for granted in Mumbai? In fact, if one leaves, there is always somebody else to work for us! Indians living abroad, especially in the Western countries know how difficult and expensive it is to hire house maids.
How I managed without a maid in Mumbai
Finally I said, “What the heck!” and decided to take the matter into my own hands. “After all, it’s just a week.”, I thought. So this is how it went! I bought a nice pair of kitchen gloves and a handy mop that took care of difficult corners.
DAY 1: I wake up earlier than usual, at 5.30 AM to be precise, do the dishes, sweep and mop the floor. I prepare breakfast and lunch. I pack off my two guys to office and school respectively. I feel a bit more tired than usual. But then my house is clean by 9.00 AM. And I’m free to do my writing till my son comes back by 4.00 PM.
DAY 2: I follow the same routine. However, I feel more active and less tired. What a way to go!
DAY 3 TO DAY 7: I enjoy my mornings. Since I do not wait for the maid to arrive, which she did, by 11.00 AM, my house work gets done by 9.00 AM sharp. The most absurd thing that happens is I get rid of a niggling backache that had me visit a physiotherapist last month! I guess my humble broom took care of that!
On DAY 7 I realize that
1. A little bit of discipline goes a long way in ensuring good health. Depending on someone all the time for things you can do yourself is not a very good idea.
2. Enrolling for a weight loss regime has been crossed out of my TO-DO LIST.
3. My husband and son started being extra careful not to spill stuff on the floor. They started doing their bit to help me feel better. Now all bits and pieces of trash go straight into the dust bin and not on the floor. They would rather wipe their feet clean on the doormat before entering our home than face a monstrous, yelling mom!
4. Finally, I found some “ME Time .”
Today is DAY 8 and I’m waiting for my maid to report at 11.00 am. It’s 100% not what you think! I’m waiting to send her away for good!
So that’s my ‘No Maid’ story! Of course, it was manageable as I work from home. It may not be easy for working moms. But like I said earlier, a little bit of discipline is all you need in case your maid takes a break!
What exactly makes up for the lifeline of the working population of Mumbai, especially working women? Local trains? Dabbawallahs? Yeah, maybe. However, spare a thought for your humble maid or ‘kamwaali bai’. The most underestimated yet the most important person who wields total control over your schedule. If she shows up on time, all is well. If she comes late or doesn’t turn up, all hell breaks loose.
A typical maid in Mumbai
She can be docile, attend to all your chores and keep your home spick and span. She can also turn tables, emotionally blackmail you or shower you with the choicest of abuses to get a pay hike or an extended holiday. She is quick enough to check if your house is clean before she agrees to work for you! Messy homes need more work and she can’t be bothered to spend more time at yours.
Those days when an acid tongued Sakubai turned up wearing a traditional ‘Kashta’ and hair in a neat bun with gajra are passé. Now a maid dons everything from a Punjabi dress and sari to jeans. The mobile wielding super maid of today can be relied upon to use your washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other gadgets.
She knows the knack of perfect time management. You should see how she handles ‘jhadu pocha’ and ‘bartan’ in a dozen households without a break and yet manages to get back home by afternoon.
Look at a Mumbai maid for brushing up your PR skills. A few treat maids as family, with kind words and financial help, if required. The other few take them for granted and are often unkind. But a Mumbai maid knows how to deal with different kinds of employers. ‘Mai aaj nayi aayegi memsaab’ and ‘Haa haa, aap jaao, mai saara kaam dekh legi memsaab’ is for different types of employers.
Can you imagine what would happen if maids form a union and go on a strike? Or even demand a pay hike every now and then?
Today’s maids work hard to give their children good education. They know the importance of sending their kids to school and college. For this reason, future generations may have to do without domestic help or hire help from agencies at high hourly rates. Maids may fade out just like the old mills in Mumbai.
In western countries, it is the norm to do your washing and cleaning yourself. Mumbaikars are spoilt for choice. If one maid leaves, another turns up almost immediately. Maids are aware of this. They never think twice before leaving your service at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. Your equation with a Mumbai maid often depends on her mood and attitude more than money.
They have their own set of problems too – from abusive husbands and pervert employers to ill health and an insecure future. Offering a kind word is a major part of being human. Sometimes, it is all that we can do.
A maid in Mumbai is an important part of our lives. But, let us not totally depend on her. How about doing some work yourself? Keeps you fit, mentally alert and saves you some moolah too.
So will you be ‘Mad or What’ in Mumbai without a maid? What do you say?
Ever had ‘chuddy buddies’, the ones that stick with you, no matter what ? Well, I consider myself lucky to have such wonderful friends. Some from kindergarten days, some from college times, a few workplace friends and friends from the ‘mommy gang’ – thanks to my son’s friendship with other kids.
My first chuddy buddy was a little girl, my kindergarten friend and neighbor. We turned into fast friends when our moms walked us home after school, everyday! Together we were involved in some eye popping horrid episodes, horrid by the standard of any kindergarten goer.
Way back in 1985, we stayed at my father’s office quarters. This area was kind of huge with several three storey buildings and vast, green spaces for kids to play. Borivili, back then wasn’t as crowded as it is today. There was this crematorium a little away from our quarters. It had huge, shady tamarind trees. We had seen elder children go there and collect ripe tamarind from the trees. One afternoon around 4 pm, the watchman on duty went on some errand and we went out of the main gate of our quarters. We trotted along for a few feet more, turned round the corner and entered the cemetery. Imagine two little girls hanging out, collecting tamarind in their frock pockets on a peaceful wintry afternoon at an eerily secluded spot! These two little munchkins went further ahead and found a few white pieces of what looked like calcified stone. They collected these ‘stones’ for playing ‘tipri’ or hopscotch, did some more exploring and went back home.
Imagine our mothers’ horror when they saw the white ‘stones’ that we had collected! Those were pieces of human bones from the crematorium! Her mom, the more superstitious kind, did a few evil – eye removal mumbo jumbo techniques before scolding us both. As for my mom, she spanked the life out of me!
My friend had a grumpy old granny who was distantly related. She would come visiting every month. She was strict and my friend didn’t like her much. This lady always carried a pouch containing yummy sugar candies. And no! The candy wasn’t meant for kids. The grumpy lady that she was, she kept the entire stuff for herself! Once when she was asleep, we took the pouch, finished the candies, filled it with some pebbles and kept it back. Though we got scolded, this incident put off her visits for a few months. My friend – was she glad? Yes!
Every day was an adventure for us. We played, laughed with not a care in this world. One day we had to part ways, though. We moved into a new residence which was quite far. We were too small to write letters and stay in touch. I’m sure she still remembers these funny incidents and laughs at all the fond memories , wherever she is.
Some friendships go way beyond name-place-animal-thing, tic-tac-toe, silly doll games and make believe kitchen games. It feels as if you are together right from the cradle to the grave. This is the kind of friendship that I share with my best friend of more than 15 years. We shifted to a new place and I found a good friend at school, the very first day.
Small things like sharing your lunch boxes at school, having petty squabbles as in ‘who has the best looking shoes’, mindless chatter and silly jokes were a good part of our school days, especially the lunch boxes…Mmmmm… Being a Malayalee I loved what her Maharashtrian mom made, spicy vangyache bhareet (roasted, mashed brinjal side dish) with fluffy bhakris, sabudana khichdi and what not! She loved my mom’s Idli – sambar, mixed grain dosas and tamarind rice.
Summer vacations were fun. We read books, played and ate away to glory. Once we decided to try out new recipes. Our moms encouraged us. Of all things, I have absolutely no idea why we decided to make some khatta meetha mango pickle that day! We got all things necessary, asked her mom how to make it and bingo we made some 1 kg of mango pickle. Her mother had warned – Make sure you girls use a dry mango jar and smoke some camphor over it so that the pickle doesn’t get spoiled. That was one overzealous attempt at making pickle! So we did not bother about smoking camphor and all that. 3 days went by and we decided to take a look. What happened next was so disheartening that I did not attempt to make pickles till the time I got married! Our sweet and sour pickle had turned black 🙁 . We realized that good things often came to you, the hard way. That was one of the many lessons we learned from life together!
Soon we were ready for college. We joined different streams of education. I had to study away from home. Hostel life was fun. She made her own gang of friends while I had mine. We still made it a point to meet during vacations be it summer, Diwali, Christmas holidays or whenever I was home. Juicy gossips, heartbreaks, silly infatuations, hanging out together and shopping till we dropped were a part and parcel of our life whenever we met.
I know she will kill me for mentioning this here – We had gone to watch this super flop movie –‘Pyar me kabhi kabhi’ and there was this scene where a girl’s boyfriend is dying. While we waited for the movie to come to an end, my best friend sobbed her heart away. She used her handkerchief, then mine and a few more tissues. The rest of our gang started laughing and she bawled all the more. To this day both of us laugh when we remember this.
And it goes on…
Post graduation, we took up jobs. We made new friends. We still remained the best of buddies. Marriage and kids have failed to separate us. She took leave from work and was at my bedside when I went into labor to deliver my son. We may not talk or meet every day. But we know that we are there for each other always. And as luck may have it, our sons are good friends too.
So you see, chuddy buddies are a must in our lives. They’ll be there to share your joys. They’ll offer their shoulders for you to cry on. They’ll also be good punching bags for you to vent your frustration when things go awfully wrong. To maintain a lasting friendship you need to get out of the virtual world, though. Meet whenever time permits, call up instead of typing out SMSes by the dozen. WhatsApp is nothing as compared to catching up in person, either. Life and time fly by real fast…
Its 6a.m. The alarm goes off! You make a mad rush to the kitchen. You end up preparing lunches for your kids to take to school. You wake them, get them ready and pack them off to school. Next you prepare breakfast and then its time for you to prepare your husband’s lunch box. Then you attend to the maid, buy groceries, arrange your home, take care of your pets,water the plants and what not. The day goes by with kids returning from school. You take care of their homework, food and soon evening goes by before you know it and then its time for dinner. Phew! Sounds all too familiar?
Well, More than 75 percent of women homemakers in India can relate to this. They somehow tend to rate everything and everyone more important than themselves. They try to finish so many tasks single handedly, sometimes more than what they can possibly manage. The result? All this leaves you totally stressed out. Days and years go by without your knowing it. All you do is a series of monotonous things which take up most of your time leaving you with lots of lifestyle related problems.
Me and my ‘Me’ time
Isn’t it possible to keep aside some 30 minutes of ME time daily? You better say ‘Yes’ to this one if you want to remain sane for the rest of your life.
Me time has an apple effect – Sounds cliched but ‘Me’ time a day does keep the doctor away. And no, don’t waste these precious 30 minutes on your favorite T.V. shows. Keep it reserved for something as simple as looking out of the window while sipping some tea or lime juice or maybe to savor some sour ‘kairi’ with salt and chilly flakes. You could probably solve a crossword puzzle or read your favorite book. Look at old photographs, the setting sun or walk barefoot in the grass. Do it now or regret it years later when you are old. You may look back and realize that a major part of your life went by taking care of family and doing absolutely mundane housework.
To begin with, I prepared my list of things to do in my ‘ME’ time, each day
Get lost in the crossword and puzzles section of Mumbai Mirror supplement of The Times Of India.
Gardening is a good bet – it calms me down immensely.
Curl up in my bean bag with a nice book.
Listen to some music.
Check out my favorite magazines.
Find something to write for my blog.
Get a good head massage.
That’s it for now. The trick is to keep this time reserved strictly for something you love doing! I may end up changing my list next week. This list was able to din some sense of peace into me and my stress levels went down considerably. I’m sure it’ll work for you too.
What goes in your ‘ME’ time list? Am all ears! Would be great if you could let me know in the comments section 🙂
Happened to renovate my window garden, of late. I was hoping the monsoons will make it grow more vibrant and green. My 6 yr old son loves being my assistant in DIY gardening projects. He is the one who does puts the seeds and saplings in the planters and flower pots.
So we started off planting flowering plants, herbs and shrubs, in full swing – Curry leaves, ginger plant, turmeric root, Holy Basil (Krishna Tulsi). The plants grew fast – especially the curry leaf plant; it turned out to be tall and green. Just two days later we found four little worms chewing up all the healthy leaves. My immediate reaction was to try and brush them off. That is when my son tells me, “Mom just leave them alone. Poor things!” I tried to make him understand that they were pests unlike the butterfly larvae who would build cocoons and emerge as beautiful fluttering mascots of freedom. But then, I decided to let him learn his lesson on his own.
Soon they turned into big fat caterpillars, voraciously gorging up all healthy curry leaves. One day, I could see just one. Looked like the birds had made a feast of the other three caterpillars. There was just one green little fellow left on the plant. That is when I decided to take this picture. The very next day, this last one was nowhere to be seen, I guess it must’ve fallen prey to birds. My son was upset.
It is a bit difficult to explain to kids – The concept of life and death, why it all happens, the value of life, ethical principles of life, moral values – why we end up prioritizing certain living organisms over the others and so on..
I then told him this – Some situations are in our control – You chose to let the caterpillar live, prioritizing the caterpillar over the curry leaf plant. But some situations are beyond control. You were not present when the birds ate the caterpillars. So you could not save it. The caterpillar could not take his treasure trove of green curry leaves along with him, forever.
There are extremely poor people in drought stricken and war torn countries, with no food to eat or clean water to drink. Sometimes, a mother there has to choose between her children; which one to feed and to let which one die. I did not tell him this, though – It sounded so gross. But I told him of unfortunate orphans who have to fend for themselves, just because their parents were no more. The idea was, to make my son realize these facts –
1. Life and Death are not choices we make. They are beyond our control. So we must not worry so much about either one of them.
2. Material possessions do not matter when we die and go to God uncle’s home in the skies. That is the way I explained death – We all go to God uncle’s home in the beautiful blue skies when our time on earth is over.
3. He must thank God for what he has, besides being a compassionate human being who contributes to the welfare of the poor in cash, kind and otherwise, when he grows up.
This may sound too ‘Preachy’ and all, but these questions are asked by kids. We are often at a loss of words. I was. The caterpillar incident helped me to make my little one get a new perspective on facts of life and death. Of course, these led to a lot of counter questions. But that is left for each mom to handle on her own, as each child and each counter question is different.
A few core values and ethical principles must be inculcated in every human being especially children, I feel, quite strongly.