'Maid'en worry

IF TO get a good mother-in-law you must have performed punya karyam (good deeds) in the previous birth, then all housewives will proclaim in one voice that to get a good maidservant (nay, even just to get one), you should have performed good deeds at least in the last seven births!! This is the burning issue of the day. In case of a vacancy, some desperate women even plant placards "wanted maid" in the garden soil. In the absence of a servant, you present such a sorry spectacle - unkempt hair, rough hands, fissured feet, red, smarting eyes (result of undersleep and over-work), wrinkled forehead, crumpled saree and the most forlorn look on what remains of your face. You are plagued by worry to find a replacement.

If an applicant arrives, then an interview is conducted not by you, but by the applicant or the prospective maid, to specify her requirements - VCD, colour TV, washing machine, grinder, mixie and vacuum cleaner. If all these are available only then you are considered eligible to employ a maid servant.

What follows is a detailed discussion of the terms - hours of work, pay, bonus, holidays, overtime, etc. She means business in right earnest. If she promises to work for you from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., strictly it means only 60 minutes - not a minute more or less. Despite agreeing to all her terms, you have to wait for her almost everyday with uncleaned vessels and soiled clothes soaked in soap water. Like Cinderella, who realised she had overstayed a stroke after midnight and rushed leaving behind her glass slipper, this VIP would leave all odd jobs for you to finish if her time is up.

It is said that when seven economists confer there is bound to be eight opinions. But if seven women confer they will have only one opinion about maidservants.

Her highness arrives every morning colourfully attired. She is capable of sweeping without exercising a single muscle. If you muster the courage to ask her why she can't stoop to sweep, her expected reply would be, she can't bend more. She may not stop at that and may quickly add, "If you don't like my work, look for another maid." You have to employ all your tact to make her work the way you want to.

She is usually found spending more time cleaning the bedroom and the kitchen. If you gloat that she is cleaning these rooms of every speck of dust, then you are sadly mistaken. If you peep into the bedroom and you will see her admiring herself in the mirror, adjusting her sari or plaiting her hair.

As for the unduly long time spent in the kitchen, I have a sweet tale to tell. After my husband performs pooja everyday, I keep a lump of jaggery as prasadam. For a few days, after the maid assumed charge, I found the piece missing daily. One morning, I peeped through the slit in the door. And behold! I see God's self-appointed representative gulping it down.

I caught her with literally a lump in the throat. But petty thefts are not her idea of crime. Cutting her salary when she takes leave is certainly a bigger crime, according to her.

If she is in a bad-mood, the cleaned vessels will have tell-tale marks and the washed clothes will look sadly unwashed. So, it all depends on her whims and fancies. No cobweb or dirt will be spared if she wants a loan or an advance payment.

All said and done, her pitiable plight and poverty move me and I am forced to forgive her.


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