Having a domestic help overseas is a semi-luxury that only a few privileged ones are able to avail. Being in “Land of Sun and Sand” only makes it somewhat easier compared to our NRI counterparts in USA or Europe, or for that matter anywhere in the western hemisphere.
The process of recruitment typically starts with receiving a CV, shortlisting, Skype interview, background check through Facebook…. I am serious!!
When we were contemplating hiring a full time live-in maid, our friends advised us to do a check on Facebook and seeing how many posts were posted by our prospective maid…. if she was regular with posts and comments, chances of her spending time at doing your household chores would be replaced by more time on the mobile.
Other aspects to look at were if she had an ailing family member or a small child back in her country….it could imply that the maid would be always be bogged down with worries of her family back home.
If that was not enough, there is a nationality aspect to it. Filipino maids are considered the most courteous and hardworking, but please don’t take me otherwise, my Dil is totally Hindustani. Indian maids are not so courteous and are averse to doing work as per your instructions…. they come with a mind of their own. Also they seem to have an opinion of everything, rather they feel themselves competent enough to coach you…and I am not joking! It is an experience that most Indian women in “Land of sun and sand” have shared with me.
So it got me to do some research….in Philippines, the Government trains its people before they send them overseas…. this has been vouched by all my Filipino maids. They are trained on etiquette as well as laws of the country where they are expected to take up employment.
And what do their Indian, Bangladeshi counterparts get? If you mention the word “training” …they will ask you what is that, madam? They seemed to have drawn their immense experience on-the-job.
Typically, my Indian maids interviewed me more than I did them. Their first question would typically be…which part of India are you from? They know how to market themselves well…. if I say, Mumbai, they start referring to their previous employment in a Maharashtrian family’s house and their expertise with Varan-Bhaat, Poli. I have had my share of fun sometimes, when I changed my stance and said, “Also Kolkata” …you should see the expression on their faces. Boomeranged! I have done it vice-versa also.
You might be wondering if I hired a maid for every month of my 8 years stay in “Land of sun and sand” …ha-ha!
Not really…. but how I wish, I had one consistent maid. But that has been as much a myth for me as those of you struggling with your “Bais” in Mumbai and “Kaajer Log” in Kolkata.
Some of the live-in maids here, for want of more money and not being able to take the stress of work run away. Here we call them “Khalli-Balli” …. this category of domestic help is always playing hide and seek with the Police and recruiting them can invite heavy fines and even imprisonment.
But you would be surprised at their emerging population. They say, “No problem, madam, if caught, they will put us in jail, where we will stay in AC rooms and get biriyani and when they deport us, it means free air ticket.”
When I shifted to a new neighborhood recently, I had to bid farewell to a Sri Lankan maid, who was very efficient but would not shift near my new house. Her reason…she had a bus pick-up for her Church service every Friday from near our old house. She was divorced and had been working in Saudi for a long time. Her only interest and aim in life was to be religious and not miss her Church services, she had shared. I believed her and let her go. She cried profusely as she had got emotionally attached to my children. My children too loved her…. but alas, they were also learning that people will come and go in their lives and nothing is permanent.
Entry of the Protagonist. A 40+ Indian man maid from Andhra Pradesh. He introduced himself as Aaryan…which I believe is an assumed name.I was expecting him to be a “Srinivasa or a Bala or a Raju “. I hope I don’t sound stereo-typically parochial, but even today asking a person named Aaryan to do mopping for instance, doesn’t come easily to me.
My neighbor recommended him….” Hire him…. man maids are stronger and capable of cleaning better, they are more regular and they don’t indulge in any gossip. They only have an ego, which we need to pamper to get work out of them, like I make him a cup of tea everyday…so he works Fridays also for me.”
Now that my children have started going to school and I did not need a full-time live-in maid, he almost fit the bill. And a good recommendation from my neighbor, at least prompted me to hire him.
My encounter with Aaryan was when I returned from my vacation in India.
The moment he entered my house, he started rattling off with his terms and conditions of service.
“Madam, you cannot interrupt me in my work and assign another chore to me. I don’t like nagging and once you have hired me, you cannot terminate my services with immediate effect. You cannot tell me anything. You have to be just like the next-door madam. Do you know they are Brahmins that is why they are very good people?” I was amazed at the expression on his face when he mentioned the last line…there was a look of being blessed for getting that opportunity.
“Whoa!” I thought.
He started doing his work and then after sometime gauging the silence I had held up till then, he asked…” So Madam, is it ok?”
I replied, “I am scared of saying anything after the heavy-loaded dialogue you blurted on just entering my home.”
As we say, in any relationship there is norming, storming, forming and performing. Norms have been laid, the storm blew in before the norms, now there is an overlap between forming and performing.
I don’t make him “a cup of tea” while my Brahmin neighbor enjoys the luxury of his cleaning services on Friday.
He is a Man Friday for her but for me he is my Man Maid.