You know I remember a time in the not so distant past when I was carefree. Those were the days, when my first thought after waking up was NOT whether the maid will come. I would wake up with happy thoughts of the lovely day ahead. AAh, the beauty and innocence of those days.
We were a Double Income No Kids (DINKS) couple then. A cook and a cleaner were more than enough and who cared if they didn’t turn up! A good opportunity to eat out and the house could wait another day before getting mopped! All that changed with our first baby. The first few months of the maternity leave were heavenly, and the two of us were enough for the baby’s needs. But we did realise that we will ultimately need some help. A year later, my parents moved in with us, and our needs increased. However, with a regular turnover of part time help and a crèche for my son, we managed. And then all hell broke loose, when I produced two more babies!! My battered body, older parents, hapless husband were no match for two demanding babies!! All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not enough! (mind you, it is not simple maths with twins – the effort is not doubled it is probably quadrupled, or quintupled or maybe hundred-tupled – whatever).
What we needed was some good, solid household help. But in a country of more than a billion people, it seems like an elusive search. The twins are 19 months now and we have still not found our dream girl(s)! But so what – we might not have found HER, but what we do have is some priceless experience from the last few years.
We have of course learnt a lot about hiring part time maids – we figured it is better to hire two cooks – one for morning and one for evening (chances of both maids taking an off the same day are lesser and so at least one meal is ensured), split the other household work also in the same logic, hoping at least someone would turn up. If you have fixed with them to come at 11 a.m., try not to panic if they haven’t turned up by 1, because you see, time management is clearly not an appreciated value here. But of course be prepared, that 6 to 8 days a month, they actually might not turn up. And even if you do have 6 by 6 vision, it is best to turn a blind eye to that dirty spot behind the door or under the refrigerator door. Better to wait for the weekends and get it done in front of your eyes – though be prepared, that they may also decide to have the weekend off.
There was a time when agencies were cheap and honest (well at least some of them). Our first experience with an agency about ten years ago, led us to believe that this is a workable model. We realized our folly when one of the helps we hired left us on the pretext of a wedding exactly halfway through his contract (I realized later that this was one of the common scams); while another one literally ran away, because apparently she felt too hot in our house (we had only 1 A.C in our bedroom at that time – I assume it would have been a bit odd to invite her to sleep in our bedroom). After those fiascos, we decided to hire locally.
Once we hired this well dressed, bespectacled, seemingly respectable lady. We were fairly happy with her work (and thanking our stars) till we discovered Mr. Hyde behind Dr. Jekyll. We found out she had money disputes with her family and were horrified to hear her screaming matches on phone. Even our neighbours started to wonder what was wrong with us! We still managed for a year, till we discovered that she had falsely accused her husband of her own murder! We decided it was just safer to have a break up with her!
Oh and then there was this Mr. Perfect! A very highly efficient guy, who came home at dot 6 a.m. and did everything perfectly. We thought God is so kind till we discovered that he loved to take weekends off (which is when instead of resting, I ended up doing household chores). The last straw was when he cut his finger a bit and refused to turn up for about two weeks.
We also tried the straight from the village types, thinking they may be easier to mould and train (also cheaper) – but gave up quite quickly after realizing that training them was no piece of cake. Right from teaching them how to stand straight (and not lean on every wall), how not to clean dirty hands on the nearest curtain, how to sit on the western toilet, how to close the refrigerator properly and of course how to do the tasks they were hired for, we realized it is probably less stressful to do the work ourselves.
More recently we hired a Bengali lady (barely knows hindi as well as most of the housework) who also eats niramish (strictly vegetarian and no onion garlic) and that also became pretty nightmarish. Between having to explain multiple times to her what we wanted to get done, her slow speed and the three times separate cooking, we realized nothing was getting done. My mother was ending up looking after both the babies! We realized soon enough that this relationship was also not going to last.
And finally, I recently thought, I had found the ONE! A young girl, very pleasant, very nice with the babies, fairly efficient – what more could I ask for! This one was definitely a keeper! But god had something else in mind. My dream run lasted till I discovered that she had been robbing me behind my back! (chhann se jo toota koi sapna….)
And we are back to square one. But believe me when I say I am not promiscuous. I just haven’t found my dream girl. And I am not the only one. When a colleague told me that she went through some 20 to 30 maids in the last one year – I realized I am not alone. And I got strength. And I got hope. And I decided to restart my search with vigour.
And while you get some strength and inspiration from my words let me just go and clean my drawing room. You see another prospective “match” is coming to see (meet) me – please wish me luck that this time I get my dream.
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