Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brought To You Bai

My maid is on leave this week.

Her absence is becoming noticeable day by day. Apart from executing her designated duties, she also acts as a worst-case-alarm for me every morning. That’s why she is not allowed to come on weekends.

She must be over 60. The previous resident of the house was a friend of mine and she told me that the bai (maid) can’t see properly but is very honest and her Hindi is strong enough to carry on commonly occurring work related conversations (e.g. Kapda kal karna). She called her Amma and so do I, with no urge of being original in matters which have been taking care of themselves with harmony.

But there was a period when this harmony was threatened. Let me begin with telling the morning routine on days when I am not inspired enough to wake up before 7, thereby allowing Amma to be my worst-case-alarm at 8. Usually 4 out of 5 days, she gets to discharge this additional duty. I never wake up between 7 and 8. (Never knew that this post would become so rich in numbers).

On such uninspired days, Amma rings up the bell and then she tries to peep through the translucent window-glass. I open the door and then go flat once again on the bed savoring my last 20 minutes on the bed guiltlessly (You can’t get ready for office with a maid roaming around in your house). It’s understood that she must broom and sweep, wash utensils if there are any, and then ask whether clothes should be washed today or tomorrow. I take that decision whimsically, with my eyes closed.

Four years ago, when my mom visited Bangalore for a week, she made me buy 6 big and small plates,6 spoons,6 katoris (bowls),6 glasses,5 jars, a pressure cooker, 2 frying pans, a mixer-grinder, a chakla-belan and all that is needed for a family of four to cook and eat. I even have a sandwich-toaster. The salt, spices, sugar and other such things brought four years ago survive till this day.

All that Amma gets to wash are 2 glasses, 2 spoons, a bowl and sometimes a tapela (bigger bowl) in which I store milk. That’s because I eat corn-flakes for breakfast. Once in a while, maggi is cooked which contributes a plate and one more tapela for washing. All other utensils just lay there, untouched. Or so I thought about a year ago.

It all began that night when I was slightly hungry and stepped into the kitchen to have a snack. There were just two chocolate biscuits, one less that expected. Though friends drop in sometimes, I attributed the missing biscuit to a slip in memory. Then a spoon went missing. I grew suspicious. I counted the katories. Only four. I felt bad for my mom.

I could still be not so sure that Amma was the culprit. After all, her honesty was sworn by the previous resident. May be I lost some utensils during shifting from the previous place. But the seed of doubt was planted. This played havoc with my guiltless sleep of 20 minutes during Amma’s stay. I paid surprise visits to the kitchen when she would be working. On lazier days, I would just slap the floor with hands, while still on bed, to create an illusion that I was coming.

The day of reckoning came. I remember that it was a Monday. Three empty cans of beer were sitting pretty on the kitchen stand. Amma rang the bell and then entered the kitchen. I heard her clearing the cans and putting them in polythene with other bottles and containers. She used to do that once or twice in a month : taking away empty containers of food, beer, cold drinks, honey etc.

Then she began cleaning the floor and came into the room in which I sleep. I had a slight hangover and weakness, and so I thought of having some water and honey. So I got up and went to the kitchen. There I saw all the cans and containers stuffed into a large black polythene. I looked for the bottle of honey. I couldn’t find it. I remembered that there wasn’t more than 2-3 spoonfuls of honey left in it and so Amma might have mistakenly put that bottle with other empty containers. But I was quite keen on honey and so I opened up the polythene.

A discovery, or solving of a puzzle that has been troubling you for days, usually brings joy and fulfillment to the heart. But my heart sank when I saw a glass and a spoon carefully hidden in the containers. Amma was still in another room. I was enraged, though not much. I quickly got over the shock and having absorbed the passion in it, I began thinking about solving the problem at hand.

“Should I confront her right now? Maybe I should put the glass and spoon back in the polythene and catch her red-handed when she is leaving with it. But what should I say?”

I lacked the courage to accuse someone (even if rightly) who is over 60 and on top of that, a woman. There was just too much shame involved from both sides in it. So I began manipulating myself.

“What good would come of humiliating and then firing her? The only reason to keep her employed despite sloppy work was that she had received high marks on honesty. If she steals, then why won’t her replacement do so? My 20 minutes of guiltless sleep is doomed. But what do I do now with this glass and spoon?”

Then, with a stroke of genius, I kept the glass and the spoon right beside the polythene, tied the polythene back and went back to my bed. After a minute, Amma entered the kitchen. My heart was beating fast. She continued with her work and then left with the polythene. I got up, went into the kitchen, and saw the two tokens of love from my mom still lying where I left them.

It’s been a year now since that incident. Nothing has gone missing after that. Not even the biscuits. Amma has stopped taking stuff in polythene. I have to throw the mountain of containers after every three months or so. But I get to blissfully sleep for those 20 minutes.

Not a word spoken, but a soul reformed.



You need to step into the other’s shoes to understand the reasons why Amma was perceived to be honest. She never stole money. For her, a hundred rupee note is a rarer thing than utensils and she thought that it wouldn’t matter to me if a couple of spoons and katoris went missing. Reverse was the truth. I wouldn’t notice if someone removed a hundred rupee note from my wallet. For Amma, utensils are daily things she deals with in abundance. But I still remember the day mom bought those 6 glasses and spoon from CMH road. The equations didn’t favor Amma.

I shouldn’t be perceived as too soft-hearted towards maids in general. In fact, while staying with four of my friends in Gurgaon, I was the one designated to scold and , at times, fire the house-helps. Hard-talk was my department.

My other responsibility was to get rid of cockroaches in the house. There were too many and they came back every week. I would go into the kitchen with HIT, and then shoot in all the corners. I felt like a ranger. The weak roaches were dead on the spot while the stronger ones would get out of their den and run hither-thither. Then Piyush and me would run with slippers in our hands and nail each one of them down. It was an excellent outlet to the hunter instincts suppressed for centuries within a man’s heart. Oh, the raw joys mankind has given up for this timid civilized life.


Preeti Shenoy said...

Bai jove, you got the knack of nailing roaches as well as amma. :)

When I used to live in India, both these tasks were my department by default as there were no other volunteers. Husband would run out of the room if he saw anything with even four legs let alone 6 or 8 :) I used to be lone ranger too :)Then of course I discovered Pest control :) (you just gave me an idea for a post)

I too have had my share of thieving bais.

Not anymore :)

Here there are no roaches(I dont miss them either) and only bai is of course, me :)


BrownPhantom said...

Yes, not very proud of that though :).
He don't need to worry if you are there :).
Nice Bai you must be :)
Thanks ..

Diya said...

hufff pufff...! finished reading it at last ;)
But was fun nevertheless... Need I learn something from you... eh? I stay alone and sleep when the maid comes to work in the morning and I never count the number of spoons and katories! ;) :P
he he, good instinctive post I must say, lol :P
Cheers :)

Harshita said...

Well, although the whole post was masaledaar... :) still it does show that with you simple gesture of understanding... you made her understand what she did was wrong...

No fights... No shouting.. and a problem solved... wat else do we need in life...

I have never come across a maid who steals so far... I shud thank my stars for that...

:) And abt cockroaches... ahem! I prefer to stay away frm them as long as I can.. coz they have this knack of flying n settle on ur face if they hate u enuff... :D :D

Sumit said...

I like the way you handled the situation. I think you resolved it in the best possible way, without causing any discomfiture. :)

As far as pests/roaches go, UGH is all I can say coz I can't stand any of them. :|

Arslan said...

I like the analysis of why the Bai stole the spoons and katoris and not the money. Delicately handled. 'Slap the floor with hands..' lol..

Really good flow to the writing. :)

Aparna said...

Orthogonal? No way! This was a decagonal post with humour in every angle!

We have all dealt with maids/cooks who stole from us. Most of us take the easy way out and show them the door. I think you get full marks for an innovative way of reforming the soul.

Great post, love it.

AJai said...

'Bhai' ne 'bai' ko pakad liya!
....kya baat hai!... Sabash! Bahut Achha!

gayathri-vishwanathan said...

good one...the title of the post reminded me of channel v's ad...itna paisa mein itnaeech milengaaaaaaaa

Hopeless Romantic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hopeless Romantic said...

hahah....that reminds me of a maid who used to steel utensils from our house by storing inside a special pocket stitched in her petticoat, that was some innovation, take that ! my mom caught her after quite a few of our utensils went missing till she stole my fav disney mug :D

Shruthi said...

lol @ "I would just slap the floor with hands, while still on bed, to create an illusion that I was coming" :D
and what a way to tackle this issue. Commendable.
and lets give your approach a new term “bai-giri” . Bai-giri zindabad. Ok my hindi is poor. Plis excuse me

Mustaf said...

This was pretty innovative, sometime silence speaks more than a 1000 words, thought not completely applicable but i guess equivalent :-)

You did not made her humiliated because she was much senior to you and at the same time you made her realize the mistakes she had made, most probably she might not do that again in her life.

Good one :-)

AJ said...

do u never get to hear... "uncleee, haaalooo" (uncle,milk) in blore early mornings? that was my story.,. I had to slide a tapela under the door which she will duly fill in, while I rub my eyes, keep it in kitchen n go back to sleep.. lol

But due, I shld be careful now. I too have blvd to be my maid very honest.. but once, she had come with her grandson... n that was satday. I was lazyin around on my sofa.. n fell asleep again. but when she said "bhaiya, mein jaa rahi hoon" I said..OK... my eyes half closed. suddenly I see some white wires in that kids' hand and thank my luck, i came back to senses, and got the I-pod(which was on a table, which he must have picked to play) back from him...n said, "kal se bacchon ko mat laana"!! that was it... no confrontation...nothin... :) but I haven't counted my bartans so far.. I guess I shld do...



abhi said...

my mouse (computer wala) is missing from today evening... it was there on my desk till last night and I left for office in morning and when I came back its not there on the desk... :(
Bai comes every morning and same as you I don't care about what she is cleaning i just use to complete my sleep...

Anonymous said...

You are so kind and considerate! Inspite of the afterthought :)
Lovely post...& you kill roaches? awesome :D

bondgal_rulz said...

Arre waah!! Kya tod nikala!! :P

Nice light - hearted post.

Keep 'em coming. :)


Vipul Grover said...

Hi, prashant; on my last visit 2 ur blog a couple of mnths back, i rmmbr i read ur post in which u hd personified all d stff nd gadgets stocked up at ur place.. I hd luvd it.
2day again, here thru Blogadda, i jus luvd this post. The way u cook up a story frm things around u is gr8..
nd indeed this particular incidnt nd d way u handled it is vry intellignt one.
Keep sch stff cuming.. nd yeah, u'll see me around more oftn frm this day:)

BrownPhantom said...

Yes it was a long one :). I count everything possible:) Thanks :).

It depends on the ease and opprtunities too, apart from the person's morals. Maybe yours never had them in plenty:).
Dealing with croaches is an art which comes with practice . Thanks :)

Thanks :). I can't stand them either, so I shoot them at sight:)

Thanks man :)

BrownPhantom said...

Thank you so much for the kind words :).

That is what inspired the title. Though , I was initially planning to call it "Maid of Honour". Thanks :)

@Hopeless Romantic,
Mothers are good at that :). It's we lazy ones who get cheated easily. Thanks :)

"Bai-giri" can be used here:). Nothing majorl wrong with it :). Thanks a lot.

BrownPhantom said...

Thanks dude :)

Not yet heard that :).
Lucky with your Ipod boss. Sambhal ke. Thanks :)

From my experience, bai wouldn't have taken the mouse :). Thanks :)

:). Maybe I am not :). And glad that you were impressed by roach-killing abilities . Thank you so much :)

Yes, hat ws my sweet family. Really glad that you liked the blog. Thanks you :).

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

I think you dealt with the situation very well. It was classy and your purpose was accomplished. Well done! Oh! And well written too.

TinTin said...

missing your bai it seems.. same pinch :)

Kokonad said...

I think you handled it beautifully! :) It's a nice story - much to learn from for every participant and reader
Nice going BP!

Meghana Naidu said...

i cant do the subtle deal.(which is ironic i know) but im more like "you better confess to every lost penny/marks/sins from my last birth or else"

but you did gooood. my mom would be proud of you *sigh*

and SNORRRRT! at the roach-poach.
if you've watched sweeny todd(cough*snort*cough) there's a very vivid roach on the bread-making table scene that i like.
good scene that.. mm

ok yeah time for the stamp. *definitely snort worthy :D
with a few grunts thrown in for the slipper scene. in my head you all have smiles like "The Mask" plastered and your eyes are popping out.

good scenes good scenes...

Reflections said...

I just loved this not the roaches bit.

Maybe bcoz u did exactly the same thing I once did:-))

p.s: came here via Preethi's post:-)).

BrownPhantom said...

@Reflections,Kokonad, Tintin, Sanket and Meghna,

Thank you guys :). I was away from the blog for a while and hence couldn;t respond to you all in time.

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Minu said...

Not a word spoken, but a soul reformed"
--Indeed a nice one ;) Some nice stuff for women to learn the art of handling helping hands ;)

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