Housewife vs housemaid

Right in the Middle

There’s an old story, unsubstantiated though, about the Adam and Eve household post- marriage. Eve, it is believed, wasn’t too thrilled with homely chores while dear Adam went out in search of two square meals (or was it two round apples!). Exasperated by Eve’s whining, Adam created another adult female out of yet another rib to provide her a companion. However, Eve had other plans because she had mastered ‘Management by Delegation’. She turned the companion into a housemaid (‘kaamwali’, ‘bai’ or as they say in these parts — Maid in India).

Since that day, there is a perennial tussle in every household between the housewife and the housemaid and the former has to compulsorily go through different phases of a process called maiducation. Read on:

The innocent phase: This is the phase in which our protagonist — the just married housewife — begins her maiducation by hiring the first maid in her life. Often, the maid is older and therefore the housewife is deferential towards her. The maid gives her tips on a variety of issues including how to handle husbands.

The wising-up phase: The housewife becomes a mother for the first time. She is now more confident — she has hired and fired three maids — and therefore manages to persuade current maid to wash soiled nappies. Maid yields. Housewife praises her at next kitty party. A distinct halo is now visible over maid’s head. She laughs all the way to the bank with the bonus she wangles out of the housewife.

The helpless phase: Our protagonist now has grown up kids and a travelling husband. She knows the ultimate truth — that there is no life without a maid. But her maiducation is not over yet. She is desperate and susceptible to blackmail. She showers largesse on the maid — husband’s Louis Philippe shirt for the maid’s husband, the Oxford blue office shirt for the maid’s teenaged son, the expensive salwar kameez that husband bought for the last birthday for the maid’s daughter. The Sunday breakfast bill shoots up too, because, after all, the maid deserves a masala dosa on a Sunday morning!

But the demands mount by the day. The maid wants a TV in the kitchen. Other demands follow. The maid is sacked and the problem becomes the main topic at all kitty parties. Each member relates horror stories about her maid. But all the kitties are helpless.
The indifferent phase: Maids come and go. Life goes on. Neighbours’ maids are always there to bail out the housewife in emergencies. Her maiducation is still on. My wife has gone through all these phases. She is now making do with a helper who she presumes, will not leave her in the lurch. That’s of course, yours truly.

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