UMA is different


Our appartment is huge. Atleast 50-60 families reside there. Most of us do not know our nieghbours. It is true that after Shebi went to Dubai, I have befriended my immediate nieghbours, securities and the flat association 🙂 But there is one name everyone in the appartment is familiar with – UMA. She is always ready,whether it is to look after your baby or get milk from the nearby shop or cut your vegetables. She offers you all kinds of services.

Uma is our part-time maid, not only ours, looks like the whole apartment has owned her 🙂

When our bell rang by 5:00ish, my mother eagerly opened the door. She smiled and greeted Uma in. Pari started jumping up and down after seeing her. “Wait dear. Let me clean my hands and then pick you up”. She rushed to the kitchen, got some dettol, played with Pari for a while and then hurried to do the dishes. “I don’t get enough time with my children. There are 12 homes now, out of which 3 goes to office that I need to reach by 7”.

Uma’s day starts at 4:30 in the morning. She cooks for her family, take water from the corporation pipe nearby for her household and get her children ready for school. She has two kids – elder is 11 yrs and younger one 6, both studying. Her job of maintaining orderliness and cleanliness at other homes start by 7.Inspite of her busy weary backbreaking schedules, she finds time to take out grandmothers to the hospital, pay electricity bills or buy vegetables, even for people whom she doesn’t work for. Strange that we keep complaining about lack of time to take our children out for a walk!! Once she finishes the last home, it will be almost 7:30 and she would have to hurry home to take care of her children. After her children hits the sack, she would have her dinner by 11:00 and call it a day. 17hrs of tedious work!!!

Uma does not have weekends either. Rarely does she take off and if she does there would be prior notice.

Oh! Yes,she has a husband, who finds it very convenient to eat, sleep, drink and finish all the hard-earned income that comes into the family. “He was not like this when we got married”,Uma said once.”He used to drink, but would give enough money to run the home. During a construction work, his hand got injured after which he was advised to take rest for few months. We had no savings and so I had to start working. His hand got cured in 3 months but he does not work anymore”. She stops with a sigh. Uma had arranged plenty of jobs for him, like a security at our home (where he does not have to use his hands at all). But the 3 months had injected a high degree of laziness into his blood. He chose to relax at his wife’s expense. “He does not work anymore. But I don’t complain. Things are moving on smooth. Why should I unnecessarily create problems at home?”. She had put in her efforts to bring him on his feet again, but now withdrawn from that task to keep peace at home.

Yesterday when Hari (Uma’s younger son) came home,he showed me how his new maths teacher had taught him to subtract. Uma proudly said,” He is my hope. I will work hard and will not let my children end up like me”. I could feel the strong determination in her voice. I really hope she succeeds.

Uma is one among the hundreds of Indian women who struggles uphill to run a family. She is one among the many who are abused and exploited. She is one among the many whose mileage is driven out by their own men. But what makes Uma different from the lot is her attitude and selfless nature. Not only me, this whole nieghbourhood would agree that she is not like the usual maids. For the same reason, I have found that everyone around is willing to help her too.

Uma’s readiness to work and her cheerfulness, makes her our favorite. She is apt, prompt and reliable (not submissive). Any minimal incentive that you give is taken with utmost happiness. To her it’s a service, which she believes will eventually bring blessings to her children. All that she want is her children to study well, earn good jobs and eventually lead a better life.

UMA’s are hard to find in the kind of society we live in. God bless her and the family!!

The “House-Maid” Hunt


Finding the right house maid has become a huge challenge for the women of today.  But once you find one, making them stay becomes another big challenge.

Fareiba was born at Kochi,Kerala (my native). A little more than 4 months after  her birth, we took her to Chennai. My maternity leave was supposed to expire in another month, and amma’s BP rose to its peak.

Amma, then vice principal of Maharaja’s College, had built a huge circle of contact through her 33 yrs of service. Her circle included Principals to professors to teachers to students to peons and canteen care takers, to all of whom she had managed to pass on the need of a maid for her daughter. She had undertaken this herculean task since I got pregnant. More than a year and nothing worked out.

People were ready to work at Kochi, but always found lame excuses to come to Chennai. To some of them Chennai was too hot, to some Chennai was too far and to some others Chennai was scary. I still do not know what it means!! However, there was no time to worry about what they thought. We had only a few weeks left and  the “House-maid Hunt” accelerated.

We tried to console her and thought we would hire one from a trusted agency. But amma was against the idea. She wanted the best maid to look after her daughter and grand-daughter. Poor amma!!She travelled even to a relative who lived a few hundred kms away from home to see if she could manage one..

Meanwhile,I too felt the pressure. Handling the baby and home was tough. So handling work, baby, home and a gastronomic husband together would be exhausting. Well, the husband was just gastronomic, no pressure though :). But the others were a must-do-everyday-job.

Being the kind who doesn’t give up easily, I tried to cultivate a routine in Fareiba which would match my office schedule and tried to build the confidence that I would be able to manage. With a day care at office and Shebi helping around, things started moving positively.

And BANG!! The bomb blasted!! Shebi was asked to fly to Dubai in two weeks time. This was a oppurtunity he had been waiting for long, so I would not stop. Shopping, Packing, Ironing, Repacking…We even had our 3rd anniversary to celebrate.Two weeks were just enough.

Life was miserable since then. But two weeks later amma landed home with a maid. She was a decent lady, aged above 60, but still healthy. She was quite expensive, but still impressive. She managed the kitchen and household, took care of Fareiba and made us all feel so better that we finally started believing that the best was served for the last!!

Life changed in a minute. I, who did not have a breather,now started watching soap operas too.She was too sweet to be doubted for anything. She asked permission before she even moved a chair from its usual position or before she sat beside us to watch a movie. Two days later she asked me permission to use the television after I went for work.The tv was never switched off after that. She reigned the kitchen.  I never bothered because the thought of finding someone new was impossible. I even took her a saree  for her birthday that fell on the weekend after she joined. Her regular blood tests and check ups fell on the days immediately after she joined.In additon, I being too generous took her to the doc for her allergic cold also.Mananging everything at home,all alone, was impossible and so keeping her was the only option before me. So when she demanded for a mobile to talk to her people at home and a small wooden stand (the Jaya-Amitabh kinda stand from KKKG) to stand on top and do the dishes, I did not hesitate.

Everything that she demanded was given and every request granted. That was Mistake no.1 🙂

6K per month was too much for an 800 sq ft flat and cooking for two(me and her), but no other choice.

The immediate relief from the tight schedule was all that I could see, and I often showed in words that flattered her.That was mistake No.2. Guess I made her too proud that she started actively participating  in all our family affairs and made sure she let out her comments at everyone’s action. Irritating but we kept mum.

She started developing regular shoulder pains and back pains due to which half of the work would be undone. I offered her help at times, which later became a habit. She started showing faces when amma got involved in something, and would not look after fareiba anymore. She even used our washing machine to wash hers’.

She had a whole day to laze around after me and Fareiba go to office, and looks like she enjoyed it a lot.

Huh!!!But one of the rarest species of its kind was finally found and I had to preserve it by all means.

Two weeks after she came, the next bomb fell. Her son fell down with Chicken pox. She was all in tears, not for her som but she had to leave me and the baby. But tickets were not available on a short notice. When I told her that she could not go immediately there was a huge scene as though I kept her in central prison.Finally after a lot of running around, we managed a ticket, brought her son (the one who was not affected) all the way from home and sent her off.She promised she will come back as soon as he recovers. I believed and even gave her the salary and some money for travel&expenses. Mistake No.3.

Luckily,one mistake that I did not do was that even when she demanded for some more money for the extra expenses that was supposed to come for her son’s treatment,I dint give.

Its been 2 weeks since she left. No news. They don’t pick my calls anymore. Am back to the old routine. We have a part-time maid who is paid lesser than one-third of what we paid her. With amma at home, things are moving on pretty well. At least I have the freedom to move around in my kitchen.

The 2 weeks that she stayed, I ended up spending almost half her salary, for the check ups and phone calls.That was of course in addition to the salary.

I think,now I know why people are not willing to come all the way to Chennai. If they work at their home town, they can make any excuse and run away.

Amma has started a fresh ‘House-Maid-Hunt’.