I walk to work and I see her smiling at me. I return home and she’s there waiting to serve me tea or water. She asks me about my lunch, and in the evening she asks me about my day at work. We converse for not more than 10 minutes and in that short time she slowly reveals her life’s story to me. I am not talking about 1 single woman here, but 2, and both are my maids- one at work and one at home.
In a conversation over chai, they tell me about their daily tid-bits of life. I realize, they are just people, like us, but with more responsibilities and hardships. Working long hours, bringing home the money, ensuring stability for their children/grand children in education & maintaince are the only aspirations in life. Yet, with such little education, poverty, and very little family resources, I see a high intellect about family culture, woman’s liberation, and the importance of living in unity. One commonality between these two women is the want for retirement but the loss of options to retire. while one has no time to spend with her grand-children,the other has no time to find a bride for her son, because they are busy working for different people’s from morning till evening. Yet, that smile on the face and the concern for others still exists. Their asking about my lunch or day at work never stops. They never show tiredness, and never complain about their work.
Labor all over India is cheap. In certain places like Nagpur, it’s horrifying! Almost like working free of charge. And then with rising expenses, it just gets that much difficult. Although the rich are getting richer, they are not helping the poor to cope up with them. They may be okay with buying 2 dresses at Mango, lingerie at La Sanza, and designer jeans, however, living in the elitist parts of the city and paying the maid more than Rs. 800 (USD 16) for basic house cleaning is too much money! One annoying experience I have had is tipping the waiter in a restaurant. It is considered a privilege for the waiter to be tipped, irrespective of his/her excellent services. And there is no concept of 20%. Tip is a small “thank you” for serving, but is considered as a charity here.
After staying a few years in the USA, when I returned to India, the difference was stark clear. Many members of underprivileged families have now started a trend to move to urban/ cosmopolitan societies to earn more money for their families. That one member, father/mother/son, stays away from their family for months, working hard to bring meager income to send home. The concept of this 24 hrs maid is increasing greatly. Centuries old family structure in India is deteriorating and many are okay with it.
It has all started with the imbalanced development of the country. The growth of India as a global market has brought India in the lime-light to further international developments. Many international brands in clothes, home stuff, cars, etc. have found their way into the Indian market. To become constant consumers of such brands, people are working harder. From a land of great intellects, we are now becoming the land of “trying to achieve a better lifestyle.” At 930 in the evening, working classes are just leaving from work. It is time to have dinner and they are not at home. They were busy catering to their clients in the West. It will take them a good 1 hour to reach home considering over flowing traffic of cars with single passangers and the distance from work to home. When is dinner and time with family?
If there are children at home, who takes care of them? Maids (who have left families for earning money) and grandmas take care of kids. I have never seen mommies taking their kids to the park or feeding them, or preparing their kid’s lunch boxes. All one can see in the evening is little kids playing in groups and their nannies keeping a watch on them. Ratio is 10 kids : 10 nannies. Mommies have too much work at office to do such things. Working women still marry by 26 and have a baby by 29. They prefer to keep ayahs or nannies for their children for they go to work. Just dont make babies if you have a career to keep! (Alas, if only there was that choice) The nannies are usually old grandmothers or young unmarried girls. I don’t want to be nasty here, but I think these groups are cheaper labor than a general young woman with children. Travelled from their villages, and ready to take whatever is given to them, they settle to work for the minimum, and such jobs are hardly have perks or bonuses and definitely no vacation days.
Such a trend has led to loss of respect for human life. The privileged think that it is their right to have someone else work for them (I have been referring “rich” so far, but this is unfair). And that it is absolutely right to bully about those working for them, and to treat them shabbily. From caste system, India is now changing to a class system, where all that matters is money and power. What I had read in my history books about British suppressing the Indians is now changing to Indian priviliged suppressing the Indian poor. But what is this ego about? Money? Better lifestyle? We are still serving the West.
The change in the Indian society, and the false pride that has gained by working in glass offices is deteriorating the society culture of India. The oneness is dying. India has become a service industry, both in air conditioned offices or in someone else’s house. The family structure is eroding. Money and lifestyle has become the agenda of life. Education however has remained intact- as even the underprivileged has understood its importance. However, with such working style, loss of an overall growth of an individual and the country is getting to a full-stop with regards to dependent growth. The country’s economic growth may be increasing as per statistics, yet, with soaring expenses, I don’t know how much satisfaction there is with the money earned. Let’s hope this changes, else all India will remain is a service industry with complete loss of Indian culture!