My current maid is the talkative kind. She regularly shares anecdotes of her family. She has two daughters younger than my children. She is working hard to put them in school. Her husband is a painter (not the Arts kind). I have noticed that whenever her children are sick, she is the one who takes leave to take them to the doctor. When I asked why her husband never helps out, her dam burst. She told me how her husband was an alcoholic. He cared nothing for the daughters or her. He also hit her sometimes. She said it with a stoic attitude, reconciled to her fate and trying to do her best with her limited resources. She did not even grumble or curse her fate.
Contrast that to our outrage day in and day out on issues that seem so much more trivial.
I knew better than to ask her why she doesn’t leave him. Sitting in my cushy house, it is easy for me to dole out advice. I had actually made the mistake of suggesting this to an earlier maid. That one had tried to attempt suicide but had survived. She told me that she needed the mangalsutra and sindoor no matter how fake the bond was. It was because in her shanty, she needed to have a man in her house to feel safe. Her children needed that name stamp as well. Else, they were easy meat for the predators that thrive openly. She was scared for her daughter too. She got her married off pretty early as well.
Things may be different for people in our strata, but they are not easy for single women. I remember a friend had shared her experience of how renting a flat was a nightmare because she was single. She also found random men taking a lot of interest in her activities just because she lived alone.
I also remember another maid, one who I am still in touch with and I am very fond of as well. She was a grandmother at a ripe young age of 40 or less. She wasn’t sure of her age. She was overly protective of her married daughter who came home year after year pregnant. She had to take care of her and her deliveries often incurring huge debts. She cursed her fate because her daughter produced 3 daughters. Could I spin my usual talk about girls and boys being equal to her? In her world, they were not. She was spending through her nose because she had a daughter.
Her in-laws were desperate for a boy child. The eldest granddaughter now stays with her in her small shanty. Yes, I have been to her home. It is a one-room shanty in a slum with an open gutter outside the house. Five members of her family live in that one-room house. No, I wasn’t shocked, just sad. Recently I met her. Finally, she said her daughter was freed not because she bore a son but because finally she was able to convince her in-laws to get her sterilized. A very big victory for her and her daughter. She was mighty pleased.
Each of these women is slogging day in and day out for meager money. They struggle to put their children through school and college, dreaming that one day hopefully they will be able to live a better life. In most cases, they don’t have much monetary or moral support from their husbands and families. Most of them are compulsive alcoholics and wife beaters. Yet, they don’t complain.
They don’t hold placards or lead marches because they are too busy surviving from one day to the next.
Yes, they have earned my respect. They are perhaps much stronger than I am. I am grateful to have a home, education, work and a loving family. But, I salute these #IndiasDaughters for their courage and fortitude. For them life is survival. Fighting it out and living from day to day to better the lot of their daughters and sons. They #MakeItHappen.