Over the last few days life has turned topsy-turvy for millions across the country. While the lock-down has been particularly harsh, caused unspeakable misery to the poor daily wage-earners who lost their livelihood, it has thrown a different challenge to the Indian middle class. How to cope up in the absence of the domestic help is a major issue.
It is a challenge unique to India. Elsewhere in the developed world people do everything on their own, extensively using the gadgets like dish washers, vacuum cleaners. They even manage to do themselves the minor repair work -electrical, plumbing, carpentry, painting and polishing. Home-confinement has restricted the outside movement of the people in the west, but made no difference to their household routine.
However, here in India life has turned up-side down for the middle class that is accustomed to domestic help for almost every household chore . All hell broke loose in most middle class homes when the domestic help stopped coming.
Lock down is driving the women crazy cleaning , sweeping, mopping, cooking , laundry, dishes…. It has really been tough, stressful and exhausting for women as men generally don’t share the burden. It is even more stressful for the working women for whom it is not just ghar se kaam ‘work from home’ but also ghar ka kaam ‘work at home’ that includes taking care of the children.
Perhaps this is true of all women, much worse for the maids. With their grueling work schedule and living conditions, life has always been tough for the maids, but now the lock-down has made their condition miserable. Ever since the lockdown my part time help has rung me up so many times to share her concerns. Though everyone has paid her full amount for the month of March, she is anxious about the coming months. With her money drying up she is desperate to join back, but that may not be advisable in the near future.
At a time when many NGOs and philanthropists are coming forward to provide food and essentials to the poor, we can do our bit; help our staff in the hour of need. If we can afford, we must support our casual employees whether our maid, gardener or the dhobi during the lay off period. Perhaps the best way to express our gratitude to the almighty for protecting us and our loved ones in this crisis is to protect the income of the people who have been serving us.
(Published in Momspresso on May2, 2020)