Do you watch serials on the TV? Do you see that the rich, palatial mansions which are inhabited by the characters in the serial, have help for every other task? A servant for the mem saheb’s massage, another for the kitchen, yet another to assist in the car wash and more and more. Hiring helpers is indeed a more than a status symbol for most of us.Indeed, ‘the more rich you are the more helpers you have’ is perhaps the one take away from any serial you watch on the Indian Television.
My mother is in her 60’s. She runs the show at her home single-handed. If she does take a maid’s help for some time, she is most courteous and considerate in feeding the maid, inquiring after her family and some times even helping her with a little extra pay.
What I find irksome about some of us who employ house help is the way we treat them.Agreed that there is no labor law to protect their rights or that they themselves may not be aware of it, still, as educated modern Indians we should be able to be a little kind and understanding to those who work for us or better still, help us survive and earn our bread.
There are of course instances when the employers go out of their way to help the maids. Geetha bai for instance, worked with me at Indore. She picked up the importance of monthly savings and had started a postal account in her name, thanks to one of her employers. She sent her son to one of local colleges. When her daughter met with an accident she was assisted in filing a case against the criminal. She was quite the woman of the times and often chided me,’Didi, you know nothing!’
I picked up the importance of being courteous and pleasant from my parents, my ever smiling- father and ever ready to help-mother. I cannot definitely claim to be as good as them but I do try.
In my apartment, the other day, we ladies were deliberating of creating a fund to help our maids so that they can get their children admission to college,schools or for medical emergencies. In the past there have been instances of such understanding and compassion on and off but its time to institutionalize the true spirit of give and take by making it more formal. Imagine, how many families will actually benefit if we can together bring in a culture of taking care of some of the needs of those who work for us.
Those among us who have enough to share should now look beyond giving away old books and old clothes to the maid. It is just not enough.What will actually help them is may be a fund to use during emergencies so that they can lead their lives with dignity.
I wonder if it is the general belief that ,’if you give them an inch, they will take a mile’, stops us from being nice to those in need.
Some times, some of us will have a sour experience or two while trying to be good to others. That is but natural. What it should not do is stop us from being kind to another person.
The security guard at the college I work brightens up every time he is addressed in Assamese. It is a recognition about who he is and where he comes from. Definitely his day is brighter.
Give a smile, speak with kindness, address with respect, make someone’s day better, especially those of the ones who help us.
And most importantly, where would we be without those who help us live?
PS: My daughter just now enlightened me of my own bias in calling someone a ‘servant’. Thanks for that piece of learning!