OK – I really like my maid. She has been with the family since 1999 and she comes for all of one hour every day to do the dishes, sweep the floor, mop the floor, and wash the clothes, and clean the bathrooms. The bathrooms she does twice a week and the clothes she does thrice a week. Yes, we have yet to buy a washing machine. In the meantime, we will utilize the help’s strong hands and enthusiasm to wash our clothes, because by god, she does a good job!
I am going to refer to the maid as “V”. So, this afternoon, V came in at her usual time, and we both commiserated about the sickening hot weather of Mumbai, and then went about doing our work. V then got going on the bathroom floors and I told her that this afternoon I was expecting two Swiss ladies who had volunteered at my mother’s animal sanctuary in Puttaparthi, and who were transiting in Mumbai for one night: Check out http://www.karunasociety.org.
At first, she did not understand the concept of “Switzerland”, and I had to explain to her, on an imaginary map, where Switzerland was, and how these two women were White, and were in Parthi for 3 weeks helping in the sanctuary, and were now on their way to Aurangabad. Just then, the door bell rang, and I thought to myself, “Now, this is going to be interesting.” I opened the door, greeted the young girls in, led them to the living room, gave them some water, and started talking to them. As soon as they came in, V dropped everything and assessed them from head to toe, looking in astonishment at their huge backpacks, their white skin, and their incredible heights! She was amused.
I then led the ladies to their room and continued our chat there, but from the corner of my eye I could see V cleaning the bathrooms in full force, as if she were possessed by the bathroom cleaning gods or something. I don’t know. But, I saw her doing things to the bathroom that I had never seen before. Clearly she was adamant to make an impression.
So the girls and I kept talking and I finally see that V has finished her madness in the bathrooms and is now standing in front of the mirror, prettying herself. I was stunned. She was putting her hair back, straightening out her saree, washing her face…..the works! I was beside myself. So I went to her and thanked her for her work and she casually inquires if these girls are going to be gone by tomorrow. I respond saying that they will be gone before she is here in the afternoon. With some disappointment she says, “So I won’t get to see them?” My heart sank a little and clearly, she wanted to engage with these tall, White, strange looking females. I took her to the room and introduced her to the girls and she grinned from ear to ear, like a little kid in a candy store. There I was, playing interpreter to the two parties: the inspector and the inspected. I explained to the girls that V was part of the family for almost 15 years and that we treat her as family; that even when we did not live in Mumbai and rented our apartment out, we kept V on for the other family who stayed. V then shared that she was going to go to Church, a 15 minute walk from my house. When I informed the girls of this and suggested that they could go with her, she was very eager to escort them to the church. When they shared that they were afraid that they may get lost on their way back to my house, she immediately volunteered to bring them back as well. It was hilarious. Her enthusiasm and eagerness grew with every passing moment. The girls then said that they would rather just take it easy at home since they just had a 20 hour train ride from the South of India. Immediately, V instructed me to take them to Church for the mass at 8 pm, as that would be the last mass and the least crowded. Again, I was amazed at the woman’s zeal and enthusiasm.
As I type this post, I am a little warm and fuzzy thinking about the simplicity of people’s lives; people such as V. Every new thing is a great novelty for her , be it a new eatable, a new skin color, a new animal, and so on. In a way, I envy her: her simple way of life, her bare necessities, her curiosity, and her willingness to take risks (such as making me introduce her to the Swiss girls). I know that she envies me too, in some way…..Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side, and it’s always fun when we can share our slice of the pie with others.