Maid in India

Friday, June 29, 2007

The lady in this picture is Selvam.
Age : 55.
Occupation : Maid (domestic help).
Experience : 35 years.
Yearly Income : Rs. 18,000.
No. of hours she works in a day : 8 hours.
No. of jobs: 2

Every middle class household in India has a maid like Selvam. Some that have worked in the same house for decades and has seen generations grow up to produce another generation. This lady has seen 3 generations herself. Some affluent urban households or those where the wives/mothers work employ 2 or more maids. They do everything for a meagre Rs. 500 ($15) a month like cleaning utensils, brooming/sweeping, drying clothes, cleaning the toilets etc etc. Unlike the developed countries, it is interesting to note that most of the maids are women and according to the census of 1991, the number of women workers in India is 91 million out of a total workforce of about 315 million. Out of which about 60% belong to the unorganised workforce.

What provoked me to write this post was how unappreciative people in general are towards this workforce. My maid has been with me for over a year and half. She didn't come to work for the past 4 days and believe me, I was on the verge of tears managing Lil General and a 2000sq. ft and above property all by myself. In India, there's a lot of daily chore that needs to be done because our climactic condition doesn't suit houses to be carpeted and clothes still need to be sun-dried. And cooking 3 times a day is a daily activity and not a pleasure activity meant for weekends. I'm digressing. Anyways, when my maid Aparna who I fondly call "aunty" showed up this morning, I can't tell you how relieved I was. How sometimes we forget that they too have a family, they too can have problems..we are quick to complain all the time.

Most people take undue advantage of the fact that these women, generally from the lower strata of the society has no one to back them or any union to fight for their rights. They don't get increments year on year, no background check, there is no paid leave or a contract that binds them. It is all word-of-mouth way of hiring and firing. You tell the neighbour or your security that you need a maid and by that evening you will have at least 2 women knocking on your doors.

Maybe its time to be sensitive to their needs and show some appreciation. Sometimes talking nicely and treating them like humans and not trash bag does wonders. Having said that, a lot of these women take us for a ride too. Stealing, lying, job half done and no gratitude for how much ever you do, is all too common. But it doesn't hurt to be good. Good begets good.

Bose servicing in India

Thursday, June 28, 2007

We own a gamut of Bose products from QuietComfort™ 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphone to The Bose Lifestyle 12 Series System.This summer, one night, the the acoustic Wave Music System 11 stopped working and has been lying ever since. Bose has service centers only at specific locations in India - Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. I wish they had a service center in Pune too or a pick up facility- so much for the price we pay!

Dairy Milk adulteration in India

Friday, June 22, 2007

There was over a liter and half of extra milk lying in the fridge last night. And the Paneer available in Pune is like chewing on a eraser, only the eraser would be easier to eat when cooked. Anyways, that's beside the point, I decided to make Paneer of all that milk and as usual boiled it and added a tinge of curd to it. When there was no sign of the milk breaking into curds and water, I added a teaspoon of lemon juice to it. Still , no sign. I can't claim I have always made Paneer at home all my life but my cooking instincts and experience can't be that bad, so I called the only other expert available at home at 10:00 p.m., Vivek. Two heads pouring over the milk vessel, scratching our heads couldn't believe what we were seeing. We had not done something right. A quick analysis and he offered his expert opinion, "you wouldn't have added enough lemon juice for the milk to patufy". I pointed him to the squeezed half lemon lying in the sink and gracefully offered him a full lemon from the fridge for him to do the honours. Yep, another 20 minutes and still no sign.

I remembered the article on Milk adulteration that appeared in the Times of India last week. We decided to leave the vessel filled with milk for the night undisturbed and let the miracle happen while we slept just to discover the magic Paneer formed in the morning. Alas! the magic did not happen. Before I brushed my teeth I went to the kitchen (this must have been the first time I've done that in my life), to see the milk lying still - pure, fresh and watery as it ever was. I did my daily chores and returned to the magical milk an hour later and went in another boiling session for 15 minutes with the juice from a lemon. Nope, nothing happened. It went into the sink few minutes later.

This milk was Chitale - cow's milk, recommended by Paediatrician's in Pune for infants. I feel sick for having given this milk 3 times this week to Lil General, the first time I started giving him natural milk. Today's 3 packets were quickly exchanged for Amul's milk. And my experimentation for Paneer continued with Amul and Lo! the Paneer was done in 5 mins. After all, the process of making Paneer hasn't changed in years, only how milk is made has changed - not form Cow's or Buffaloes but from Caustic Soda!

Food fetish

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We don't get Litchis in South India. And my FIL was surprised to hear that I've never tasted this amazing fruit. There was no stopping me after that -- had over 500 g everyday for 2 weeks at stretch.

After saying a strict NO to chocolates for a very long time, I have been finishing pack after pack. Thanks to Vivek's SA exploits - Duc d'o and Guylian. He loves shopping for chocolates. Now someone has to eat them too, right? The Original Turkish Delight was a true delicacy, white and spongy on the outside with a different pulpy taste on the inside. When I'm done with all, I come back to my favorite Lindt Swiss Thins. Now is that craving? I'd rather not think about how out of shape I am right now and not helping with shedding any of the post pregnancy weight. Three more packs to go.

A brief story of Turkish Delight, "Lokum" as written on the back of the box:

The production of Turkish Delight began in the 17th century within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, being a delicacy only available to the royalty at the begining. Its popularity soared in a very short time, so the Palace permitted its commercial production.
An English sailor brought Turkish Delight to Europe for the first time in the 18th century. It was accepted by the Europeans and became famous worldwide in a short time.

A "delight" that the entire world loves, representing Turkey in the best way, is now produced in South Africa.

At 6 months, LG becomes the friendly neighbourhood spiderman

Monday, June 18, 2007

I am back with another edition of Lil General's chronicle - this time it is the half yearly special.

He has earned the nickname "Gadhdhari bheem" from his dad, The Seniol.

Just 2 days before he could officially complete 6 months, happened "The Great fall" or call it "The Giant leap" off the bed to become the friendly neighbourhood spider man. Will someone please teach my son that one has to start crawling, then walking before flying? And that rolling over and over is good but not on the bed.

This was also a month of concerts - the sweet sounds that rhymed with those of Koel, the bird that stays in the next door tree and wakes us up at 6:53 a.m. sharp every morning with her "coo,coo". Matching her songs are those of LG's at 7:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. - the tickets were sold out for a good week.

LG in the meantime got introduced to his another set of grandparents.

The family also witnessed a series of poop episodes came in all colors, sizes and shapes - green,watery being the famous one that took to us every Paediatrician in town until one sane one said, "Relax baby. 50 or 100 times is also fine and I do not promised any miracle." But he did perform a miracle and it stopped.

There was an addition to the family - Buci, the white teddy bear from South Africa.

The boy enjoys music and is selective about it too. The flavor changes week after week. It was the blues first with BB King. Now he goes bonkers listening to Jimi Hendrix and gets mad every time someone turns off the music.

He is more interested in the food I eat and the tea I drink than his apple, carrots and Nestum.

The past two months he has probably had more medicines than food. That kinda explains why the first spoon is always a struggle.

His love for the fan above is quite high.

Two pearls of white - lower teeth made their appearance. On their way out, they caused a lot of trouble and I suspect the upper 4 are on their way too.

The Case of the NRI - Non Returning Indian

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Case 1:
Parents : Father Deceased. Mother lives in India. Over 70.
Only son. Lives in US. Mother finds it hard to travel every year.

Case 2:
Parents : Father deceased. Mother lives in India. Aged 65.
Only son. Lives in US.

Case 3:
Parents : Both alive.
4 children. 2 live in US. One lives in Dubai. One lives in Germany.

Case 4:
Parents: Were alive till 2006.
Son left for US in 1979. Visited India after 27 years when his mother died.

All real examples. Cases are endless. Every urban household has a proud story to tell of their Non Resident kids and grandkids. The dream has come true. Their lifelong struggle to educate and send their kids to Amrikaa paid off. Spend 15 more mins with them and the underlying sadness will slowly give way to the superficial happiness.

Each of these cases had one thing in common. The promise of their dear ones to return to India so that their folks aren't alone. The thought has to be appreciated but it is the action that never happens. I know the Case 2 mom has given up hope that her son will ever return to India. First it was 2002 to get a green card, then it was 2004 to have one child, then by 2006 to have yet another kid and then return. All of this has happened. Now they want both the kids to get acclimatised to the environment and grow a little more to be able to survive in India. The new date for them is 2009. For the Case 2 mom, she said, "It is never. So I don't care anymore if he returns."

Gurcharan Das in a recent article wrote beautifully that "for NRIs returning to India is sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden. Usually I discover that their memories are frozen, and they hide a shame of a fearful past that forced them to leave home."

He couldn't have said it better. As in such sensitive topics I have written before, I have nothing against the NRI clan. Its your life end of the day. There is always the other side of the story. All I can't understand is the apprehension in returning back to India. India Inc pays well, really well these days. We don't go to the kirana shops no more to buy groceries. There are supermarkets and when you get bored of them there are hypermarkets too for weekends. Name a brand and you can shop at the exclusive stores here in most metros. And lets not even get started on the buying capacity and disposable incomes. You don't have to do the laundry, cook and wash utensils, yourself. You can pay the bills online. Am I sounding like a rich b**ch? No, this is an average middle class household. But this is the lifestyle you will enjoy - a comfortable one without the anxiety of how your single septuagenarian mom is doing thousands of miles away. You are neither living peacefully there nor here.

Sure, there is one thing you can never buy and that is US citizenship for your yet to be born child or the organised way of life. You would still have to visit the RTO, wait in queues, our airports are crowded, our roads are crowded than before and the drains do get clogged during the monsoons. But there is a price you pay for everything in life. You can't have it all. The choice is yours.

With love, empathy and concern for the folks of NRIs- the Non-Returning Indians, I just have one thing to say. Please don't keep your folks waiting for ever. If you don't intend to return, talk to them and tell them that. They were born atleast 2 decades before you and am sure they understand that already. If you really want to come back for good for their sake, plan it and have a realistic date. Life is not as bad in this country of 1 billion plus. We have a good life here.

Scrabble is fun

Monday, June 11, 2007

I love board games. Harper IMed a few nights ago asking if I would like to play scrabble. I was like "right now?" and he replied "no. we can play it in a day or over a few." And we started the game online on scrabulous and it has been fun. More than playing it in real time. No pressure of having to think of a word immediately or the temptation to see what letters your opponent has and if he is plotting a better one. We were a little rusty with our choice of words this time but who cares, it was fun.

Reclaimed my life

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Price of Plasma TV : Rs.1,50,000
Best of F.R.I.E.N.D.S DVD : $29

Lil General sleeping from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. I stretch myself on the couch and watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S on TV after 7 months. The first time I've seen TV in 4 weeks. - Priceless.

There are some things money can't buy. This afternoon was one such.

Why can't I be a mom and not work ?

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm a self proclaimed recluse now - incommunicado with most of my friends, former acquaintances. I am just tired of answering the question, "Where do you work?" which is immediately followed by "Why am I not working?" The already small social circle is diminishing at an alarming rate now.

Just so we can set the record straight I'm very much employable and in the job market, much more than most of you who have posed this question to me. I am not trying to be rude here while stating this but just getting the facts right.

So, why does this kind of conversation get on my nerves? Times have changed and I'd rather not compare our parent's generations with that of ours. On the lighter side, being an Aquarean means there is some part of insanity built in. On a serious note, it takes me down the depression trajectory. I'm not looking for sympathy because there is no sacrifice being done here, so please don't make me a martyr. I did not trade my career for Lil General.

If people cannot come to terms with the fact even after 9 months that I am a mom and will be home (or as the fancy jargon goes for people like me stay-at-home moms) taking care of Lil General and feel bad for my situation every time I talk to them, then I'd rather keep away from such company.

For us there was never a if-else-if or choices in raising Lil General. After I conceived, we never discussed as to which parent would come over or if we would hire a full time nanny to take care of the kid. This debate never happened - amongst us or with rest of the family. It was a given that I would quit and stay home - not a forced one but something that I was more than willing to. Find some sanity for a while away from the rat race.

I have never experienced this before so I am not going to make it sound like this is all hunky-dory. Life has changed dramatically, more than anyone can take. Its a huge change from being busy for 7 years to staying home for starters. And to add to it, doing household chores from the crack of dawn until the half the world goes to sleep. Midnight feeds and changing diapers feels good initially but MONOTONY creeps in sooner than later. There are days that don't begin because the previous one never ended. And ones that never end. There are phone calls I miss, birthdays I forget, days when I don't look in the mirror and some that goes by without talking to anyone apart from V. And afternoons when I feel like resting my bones, LG is hyperactive playing merry go round around the bed that I can't catch a wink. And the BIG FAT pay package gone. Who said it was an easy ride? It would be inhuman if I just switched roles from a career woman to one like an experienced nanny overnight. Once a decision taken, I'd rather not weigh in my options in every conversation. But whats important is that I'm ok with all of this. This hard work doesn't earn me a penny but it gives me that million-dollar smile.

Call me foolish, call me outdated, call me whatever you would like but spare me the routine of asking that same damn question over and over again as to why I am at home taking care of Lil General. Parenting does not seem like a lucrative career option. And lets not forget the social standing among the corporate friends where you are judged by the double income.

Why am I doing this?

  1. Family matters. Period. A great deal of time and energy is lost when both couples work. "Send your child to the best day care and he will send you to the best old age home in town", i read somewhere. I am not looking for LG to take care of us in our old age - this is not a deal.

  2. I'm too possessive and protective to let him grow at the hands of anyone else for now.

Maybe I will go back to work when I feel he has grown enough and I feel comfortable. Maybe not. until then please don't make it sound like parenting was too lowly a job to have traded my career for.