Domestic Help – The Saga Continues…

May 19, 2011

All these years since I’ve run my own household, I’ve managed to avoid one serious form of chronic trauma – the early morning maid.

Before you go jumping to conclusions, this has nothing whatever to do with my previous blog, which also mentioned a maid. Hopefully, my better half does not have anything in common with the former chief of the IMF in that respect. It can’t be that difficult – say I naively – if someone comes into the room accidentally when you’ve just come out of the bath, to hurriedly go back in and close the door.

But we’re done with that post. Back to the early morning maid. In one hundred and thirty five odd years of marriage, I’ve never allowed our domestic help to routinely ring the bell or hammer on the door at anything earlier than 9 a.m. And the 9 a.m. thing too was only a temporary aberration, while the kids were very young and I was a stay-at-home-mom and it was beneficial to have someone come in and help at 9 a.m. The rest of my life, domestic help comes in the evening or on weekends. That’s the way I like it.

But that was in the halcyon DINKY (double-income-no-kids-yet) days. Now that we are all very settled and domesticated, it’s a different story. Before I stumble down the steps at 7 a.m. the garbage collector has come rattling by and taken our garbage bag off the top of the gate post and gone; the milkman has come and deposited two packets of milk and gone leaving the gate unlatched; the car-cleaner has come and given the car a bath and gone, leaving the gate ajar; and the newspaper man has come and delivered the news at our doorstep without even touching the gate. With this vast parade of people coming to visit at that early hour of day, it was only a matter of time before a maid of some kind was added to the queue.

And a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet and invited my maid to come at 6 a.m. sharp and shatter our morning slumber by ringing the doorbell.

I’m completely against the idea of putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to domestic help. All that happens is that the basket goes off on a long vacation, taking all your eggs along, and you spend your days cooking, cleaning, washing, laundering, ironing, sweeping and swabbing. Either that, or the basket becomes uppity and starts demanding double the salary and perks – with the same effect. So I always like to have at least two women to manage my household, and that way, if either one takes off for any reason, the other can pick up some of the slack and you don’t spend your entire evening running around like a headless chicken, snapping at the kids and getting exhausted in the bargain.

But here I am, with a basket called V, who comes to our doorstep at 6 a.m.

V has such an air of energy, purpose, and self-assurance that you get the feeling that she thinks she’s made for better things in life (as well she may be). As soon as Amit saw her, he said, she won’t stay long. He may yet be right, but at least nobody can accuse V of being a shirker. She’s thin, young, strong (her arms are like a man’s) and hard working. Best of all, she keeps her eyes open and when she sees something needs doing, she doesn’t wait to be told – she just does it. To the extent that while I was at the tennis court this morning, she apparently whisked the organic garbage can into the bathroom, scrubbed it out with soap, and put it outside to dry! Now that’s what I call enthusiasm and initiative.

(In case you’re wondering – the garbage can is not organic; it’s ordinary plastic. The garbage that goes into it is organic; which means it is the most disgusting, smelly, leaky, insect-prone garbage can of the three that adorn our kitchen.)

Another thing I like about V is that she doesn’t talk too much. She’s not exactly the strong and silent type; but I’m not exactly a chirpy-in-the-morning type and you really don’t want to talk to me before I’ve been awake for about two hours. V doesn’t even attempt it – she whizzes around silently, trying not to awaken sleeping children (or men), finishes sweeping and swabbing (and washing the organic garbage can), then retires to the study to do a pile of ironing.

The only trouble with V is that her culinary expertise leaves much to be desired. She manages to make food that is edible, but none of it is fantastic and some of it is right on the narrow line between edible and organic garbage. Luckily, she’s good enough with chicken, so at least we have an escape route whenever the going gets tough. And one day she made momos for us which were simply delicious. (I couldn’t eat them, of course.) She was thrilled to bits about making the momos – her eyes lit up, a sudden energy passed through her, she almost grabbed some money from me and disapparated to the shop down the road to get the necessary provisions. Along with the momos, she made vegetable soup which was easily the most tantalizingly delicious vegetable soup I have ever tasted (not that I’ve tasted many; but for vegetable soup to be described as tantalizingly delicious takes some doing, believe me) and a small quantity of tomato sauce which was just unbelievable.

So when it comes to her kind of cooking, she’s good. But when it comes to your everyday dal-sabzi-chawal-roti, she’s… well, at least she’s trying.

Prior to engaging V to cook for us, I was doing the cooking myself for a month or so and it was really an uphill task to get it all done each evening. Now, I’m back to spending evenings with the kids, playing, talking, and reading books. That’s a blessing.

But prior to engaging V to cook for us, V used to do the sweeping and swabbing in the evening. And that meant that on non-tennis days, three times a week, I could sleep almost until 7 a.m. On tennis days, if I chose not to go for tennis, or if it had been raining, I could sleep straight upto 7.30 a.m. But now every morning is a V morning. She will ring the bell at 6 a.m. sharp, which means I have to be up at 5.45 a.m. every single day of the week. As Mrini and Tara have lately started saying, “That’s not fair.”

But, as I callously tell them each time they say that, “Oh, said the engine driver, I don’t care.”

(The nursery rhyme goes like this:
Piggy on a railway track, picking up stones
Down came the engine and pushed piggy home
“Ouch,” said the piggy, “that’s not fair!”
“Oh,” said the engine driver, “I don’t care!”)

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