The write-ups by Meera Ramesh and Kiran Bhairannavar on the housemaid's role in our life set me thinking.

Are we so selfish that we do not care for them? The day is not made if they do not turn up which is quite often. We worry about them too. Oh, what could have happened to her husband who was admitted to hospital? This was the ninth time that happened and he has such a nice job in a government hospital. They have told the maid several times that this will be the last time they will admit him. Poor thing, with her meagre wages she seems to be putting up with him. Something of her fault too, in giving ‘something' extra to him to buy the bottle.

My grandmother who had 10 daughters and sons got milk from the vendor at 4 a.m., made fresh coffee decoction in the filter. Maids in the sixties came pretty early. When she knocked the door at 5 a.m. and when the whole family had coffee, the same filter coffee awaited her . . . hot with the tempting aroma. She got the same mix, and it was never diluted. And we follow the tradition dutifully.

An aunt of mine always cooked extra food and the maid had a share in it. My sister lets the maid clean up the place on arrival, and allows her to make coffee and serve it to her as well. “The maid makes wonderful coffee,” she says as she types in her blogs. My other sister and her husband buy groceries every month. Whatever is left over from the previous month is meant for the maid — no matter if it is rice or oil.

My sister-in-law makes home-made ragi malt and says the maid should have it instead of coffee as she is pregnant! And, she visited the hospital twice when she was in labour and they finally decided to go in for a ‘C' section. She gave her a couple of thousands to tide over the problem.

Another sister-in-law selects saris that will suit her complexion, makes deposits every month for her future. For who will look after her in case she gets incapacitated later in life, she asks. A friend bought groceries and all household items for the maid from the army canteen for her every month as it was available for a discount for him. My mother-in-law always bought six to seven saris during marriages or Deepavali or other functions and, surely, our maid had her pick.

My mother who is visually challenged heats up the food in winter for the maid all by herself! Sometimes, when we heat it up for her, she yells: “Wait, she has not yet finished the chores. If you heat it up now, the food will go cold.”

My sons give away new clothes when they see the maid's son wanting to go for an interview or attend a marriage. They attend her son's marriage just as they would their friends'. An umbrella is given voluntarily — “You can keep it, I have two more at home,” says my daughter.

The loans for marriage or childbirth or the ear-piercing ceremony get waived fully or partially every now and then to pave way for the next loan!

It is a give-and-take situation. All of us have a heart too that beats for the souls that keep up our homes spic and span.

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