She comes in all shapes and sizes; she speaks many languages; she breaks my heart, touches me, saddens me, makes me happy and also frustrates me. The most important woman in my life! You got that right – my maid! Since the time I came back to India and set up my home, she has been a part and parcel of my existence, the maker or breaker of my happiness and the single-handed source of my greatest sorrows. And every time, one goes, I look on yearningly to finally find that elusive one who will be hooked by my goodness to stick around in my home and perhaps would think of it as her second home. Alas, the search continues…
Maids and leaves are inseparable. As the experience of my decade long journey with this partner tells me, the excuses to get leaves become more bizarre with each passing day. Here are some jewels for your consumption.
- Disease: Have fever, typhoid, and jaundice depending upon the duration of the leave demanded. Sometimes the diseases change midway. It was fever but then the doctor said it was appendicitis. Or the leg sprain became stomach trouble. And there is a word they use here – “gastric.” It could mean anything from flatulence to stomach upset to constipation and food poisoning! Damn the biology I studied way back is not very helpful in deciphering their medical conditions!
- Have phone, will keep it switched off: The maid has not turned up, so I try calling her. I already have a sinking feeling that it will be turned off, and it is! It ran out of battery or was left at a neighbor’s is almost always the excuse. Magically it gets turned on by afternoon.
- When you get her on phone: Sometimes, it may ring forever and then a neighbor, daughter, son, aunt, sister, father in law will pick up. They will promptly say that she fell down the stairs, had a quarrel with the husband, had an accident, a family member had an accident, had food poisoning and all roads inevitably lead to a hospital. Can I speak to her please? No, she is admitted in the hospital/ accompanying someone to the hospital. Strange that personally I only go to the hospital rarely and the last time I got admitted was years ago! Of course, different dynamics apply to them, or perhaps they take their vacations in hospitals.
- Death: Her brother/sister/ aunt /uncle/mother-in-law/father-in-law/ mother/father is dead. She needs to take at least a week off and is not sure when she can come back. Rajaa beku (need a holiday) — when I hear those dreaded words, I almost start lapsing into coma. The rate at which their relatives die, our population should get self-regulated. Sometimes, people are popping off in simultaneous weeks.
- Visit to devasthanam/ temple: I have had the most faithful maids over the years that are always running to habbas on festivals and temples even otherwise. Just my bad luck that all good temples are out-of-state. Really terrible of me that I just go to the temple in the neighborhood once in many years.
I had a maid who made up 3 different excuses for 3 different employers all of whom talked to each other. It fails me why someone would lie to this extent to take leave. Anyway, they take leave; we have to give it! We all know who the boss here is. So they can demand these truthfully. When I employ a maid, the only favor I ask is that she informs me when she takes an off. But, it is the toughest thing for them to do upsetting my already crazy routine regularly. So my quest continues.
Just today morning, my newly appointed maid came back after a leave yesterday. Oh, her brother had died in TN. She did the visiting and mourning all in the space of one day. I didn’t care; I was happy to see her back and prudently did not mention anything about her leave. Hubby, however, interjected why she had to make someone die to take a leave. I threw him a venomous look that told him exactly what the repercussions of his act will be if she does the vanishing act tomorrow. And with a sweet smile I went to make coffee for her!
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