Help which doesn't help

Help which doesn't help


The boom in the electronics goods market and the household gadgets galore notwithstanding, the demand for maids is as high as ever. Even as washing machines and vacuum cleaners gather dust in homes, maids are sought after, thanks to the ‘who-will-load-the-machine-and-dry-the-clothes’ and ‘where–is-the-energy-to-drag-the-vacuum–cleaner-to-the-nooks-and-corners-of-the-house’ Indian attitude.

And their supply? In spite of the mushrooming of slums around your house with scores of able, needy hands, reliable help is still miles away.

As far as the psychology and logic part goes, be lenient and friendly with the maid and she rewards you with erratic and sloppy service; try to discipline her and she drops you like a hot potato!

It was under this backdrop when the house was abuzz with the recruitment process of a replacement for the maid going on long leave that my husband asked, “What is all this fuss about? Servants were never an issue with my mother even with her brood of 11; is our housework that much that three ladies (me and the two daughters-in-law) cannot manage till a replacement is found?”

A fortnight passed with the three ladies gearing up to share and shoulder housework in keeping with each one’s schedule, capacity and convenience. Slowly, doubts started rearing their heads — ‘does it look nice to burden the working daughter-in-law with the sweeping and cleaning in the morning? Is it fair to the other with an owl of a baby who keeps her on her toes all night long to toil during the day too?’ I thought. ‘Is it right on our part to allow our mother-in-law with osteoporosis do the scrubbing and washing?’ wondered my daughters-in-law.

The story of the donkey, old man and son got repeated in our house and a new servant was ushered in.

A few weeks of respite later, the number of the servant’s absent days outnumbered the present ones. Then a novel formula struck me. ‘If two heads are said to be better than one, four hands should definitely be better than two! So, two servants instead of one would certainly be better and reduce the pangs of absenteeism by 50 per cent. And why not? It could even be eliminated, if the one present doubles up for the absent one for the day.’  Wise counsel prevailed on me or so I thought and two servants — one for the utensils and the other for sweeping and mopping the house — appeared on our domestic horizon.

“Anty (aunty), your other servant is a lousy one. She never bothers to clean up the place after doing the utensils. I have to collect water from there for my mopping. Cleaning the place is not my job,” said the first one. “Amma, the one who cleans the house should be in-charge of the garbage clearing. It is not my business,” lamented the other.

So, from then on, it was she-did-not-do-this and she-did–that and everybody’s business became nobody’s, leaving me confused about fixing the responsibility for the garbage because household litter is a mix of both kitchen waste and household refuse. Or, would going in for two separate garbage bins just as the two servants be a better option?

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