In my growing years, I had never seen a help at my home. My mother had taken it upon herself to clean, dust and mop the big house that has a huge hall, a dining, a bedroom, a big kitchen, a bathroom downstairs and, the two huge bedrooms and a big bathroom upstairs. Additionally, our home has three terraces, of which we are using only the middle one. Besides that, we have a garden and a garage to maintain. While other homes around us had employed help to get the cleaning done, my mother decided to do everything herself. And besides doing the chores, she also managed a major chunk of her time from her routine to prepare students in the neighborhood for their board exams. Even today, from her extremely busy schedule, she efficiently manages time for reading novels, online shopping and even, going out with dad to indulge in retail therapy. In earlier years, dad and I have been supremely annoyed with her over her obsession with doing the chores herself. However, after all those years I suddenly understood why she chose to do what she did.
The feeling of self dependence that, we can manage our lives, our work without domestic help is extraordinarily powerful. And, the past five months wherein I had no choice but to do the household chores myself, I discovered this strong feeling. Believe me when I say, we aren’t really dependent on anyone to get our own work done. We are just made to think otherwise because of the social conditioning around. As for all homemakers out there, I take a bow! RESPECT!
But, this is not the crux of my post today.
The seed for this post germinated when I had recently written a post on how we need to be kind to our domestic help. It is here I came across a counter comment on how helps are untrustworthy these days. I could relate to the said comment too because I have had my share of horrible experiences with domestic helps. So, I could clearly relate to the angst behind the comment because we pay our help in good faith that they will do the work effectively. But, when that work is not done to the said standards, we feel cheated. I have been cheated many a time. But there is also one thing that remained with me in the back of my head, something that my parents have followed WITHOUT advising me- “Never ever be rude to your help. Understand what they are doing for you even if you are paying them.” Yes, it took me one hell of an experience to understand the true meaning of those untold words.
Post marriage and, after having a kid which is more than 6 years later, I am in a place where getting a good help felt like begging destiny to throw a 24 carat diamond into my lap! So, in the current place, I have stayed without help for practically 5 months wherein hubby was away for work. So, it was just me and son. Parents and in laws visited intermittently. And, it is also in the last 5 months, I realized that maintaining a spic and span home without domestic help is practically impossible unless, you are either taking care of the home every single minute, or you have an in-house help who is looking after your home all the time, every single second. If you have gone through my previous blog posts, you would have realized how much I detest house keeping. Anyways, I did not have much of a choice in the current place.
So, me being me, I began help hunting! The first one arrived. When we had decided over the quote and every work I was to outsource to her, the lady started with her list of things that she would not do. “Memsaab, hum dusting nahi karenge!” (despite me ready to pay her extra for it), “Memsaab, hum bartan nahi pochenge….itna karene ke liye time nahi hai humare paas…”, et all were her share of tantrums in the limited conversations we had. At the time, with little choice, I hired her. But, I wasn’t remotely impressed! A month later, I asked her to leave as her work was only doubling my work.
Then, arrived the second one….I cannot for some reason forget this one as she had annoyed me to no end and so to say, to an extent that she made the first one appear angelic! This one loved to talk all day so much that, it was all she did! In the previous place, I had a help who worshiped work. This one on the contrary, worshiped gossip. In the second week of her work, she asked me for bonus and, I made it clear that I wasn’t remotely entertained by her anecdotes or, impressed with her work and hence, I settled the accounts right away and bid her good bye! During those days, I shared with mum about my failed attempts in getting the right help. Sensing my frustration, she said only one thing – “When you don’t find help, remember Tan kayye tanaku udavi (in Tamil)!” meaning – “You have two hands in good shape and none can help you but yourself!”
I took the cue and began with the mopping and dusting routine myself. The first week was hard. And, on the first day, it took me 2 hours to complete the cleaning chores. On that night, when I sat down I grumbled on phone– “Mum! The helps have been looting me! This work takes like 2 hours! How is that they finish it in 10 minutes and push off?” Mum was in splits! She said – “Narayani! It only means you have become a Garfield (accurately pointing out my flabs from the other end of the phone that were suddenly conspicuous to me now). To become the G-Girl who can finish work in 15 minutes, you need to get back in shape! And no, helps are NOT G-girls for you! So, do not expect them to do it the 100 percent ideal way. They have many homes to do and, they do the same laborious task everywhere. So, what you can do meanwhile is, stop complaining and start figuring out how you can do this hard work smartly.” So, I asked her – “So pray tell, how do you do that?” She remarked – “Go, figure it out yourself!”
In the first week, I remember, I had a body ache. However in subsequent weeks, I realized I was finishing up the chores in half the time I took earlier. And then, when I began working from home I voluntarily got up at 5 in the morning to wind up the work. This was one additional pointer my mother gave me – “Early to bed and early to rise, you get your work done in quarter of your time!” I also realized in the following months that I cribbed less and, my work ran smooth. The stress quotient concerning the spic and span aspect of my home released me from its clutches. No, I no longer worried about how my home looked or, felt. Because, for me it felt divine. It is now I realize the depth of those unsaid words – “Understand what the help do for you even if you are paying them.”
So, after all those taxing experiences of having done every household chore myself, it dawned on me that we aren’t really that helpless as we assume ourselves to be without domestic help. Only, we are made to think so. Sometimes, we just need to regroup our priorities in life. For instance, I am NOT someone who supervises a help while she works! I just CANNOT do that! Why? Because, I would probably smash the head of anyone at work who did that to me! (Mind well, I growled at one of the supervisors during my board exams who was trying to see what I was writing!) I believe in the basic fabric of faith. Which is why, profiling your help before you hire is very very important!
Fortunately, after many failed attempts, I finally got a good help, an old lady who fit the brief of what I was looking for. As of now, she comes,washes utensils, chops vegetables and, makes yummy rotis and paranthas! I am glad, I got a good help although late but, the wait was worth it. Meanwhile, I also got a taste of the hard work the help do for us. So, the past five months taught me that I am a lot tougher and hard working than I believed myself to be, if I may say so! (pats on the back :D) Now, before we berate our domestic help, let’s understand the basics- People are never basically bad. It is the circumstances that corrupt their moral fabric.
Of the many domestic help we meet, some stick to their moral grounds whereas, others get lured into the thought of taking short cuts to earning money and perks. But all of them have one goal – to lead a good life! And in some way, their wish for a good life is also fueled by our own lifestyle. For instance, wasting good food or, rummaging through wardrobe of exotic outfits in their presence may affect the psyche of the help in a massive or minor way, depending on their social conditioning. So, if you have hired a help, make sure that that they know you as a good person but not close enough to know what you possess. After all, keeping distance may not earn you some “acchi wali meemsaab” title in their world but, might just save you from unexpected Pandora boxes.
You don’t always need pizza or pasta! But, you need a clean home.
You don’t always need a smart phone to survive. But, you need good food and clean clothes to keep your physical and mental health, in the pink.
You can surely do without night outs, parties and sleep overs! But you CANNOT imagine your daily grind without clean bathrooms and washrooms even, if you just visit them just a few times in a day!
So, next time when you outsource the laborious housekeeping business to the help, be kind to them. At the same, keep your distance which, is very very important! But NEVER EVER be rude to them. Because, housekeeping is a thankless job! And yet, none of us can live healthily without a good housekeeping routine. Remember that!
P.S : On the brighter side of my life, I have toned down well. I was never skinny. But, I am getting slowly back to the version I was long before when it comes to muscles.
This Diwali, I gifted my maid a saree and a box of sweets. She was beyond happy. These days, she does a couple of extra chores without me having asked her to do it.
As for the other tips and tricks of housekeeping, mum had the one thing to say to me which my dad has been drilling into my grey cells for years and yet, I am far from learning it (I am shamelessly voicing my procrastination here because I am still getting there!) –A place for everything. Everything at its place! A time for everything. Everything on its time!
And please, please, please, remember – No work is low. When it comes to your home, every job is great!