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It was 11 am and the door bell rang. Arpita’s mom in law opened the door and Lakshmi ( the maid) walked in swiftly. She had to sweep and swap the floor, wash vessels and rush to the next house in the same apartment. Tying together the old dirt clad saree, she went on with her work not talking unnecessarily. Had she had her breakfast? Did she need some tea or coffee? Sometimes Arpita’s MIL asked her and gave her some tea. But when she was busy she would miss asking if she needed something. Once she was half way through her household chores, Aunty would check if there was left over rice and sambar from the previous day’s dinner or lunch and tell Lakshmi to have it. Lakshmi did not deny most times. If she ate here, she need not bother about cooking something for herself which would help her save a bit for her children’s education. When Arpita was around during weekends, she made sure she gave Lakshmi some fresh food and side dish made for them, even if they had not had their lunch. This small gesture brought a bleak smile on Lakshmi’s face. However the fresh food only got packed to Lakshmi’s house so her children could eat it.
Lakshmi lived in a small 1 bedroom house , had two sons – one studying in college and the other one in school. Her husband hung around at home during the day not going for work, and made sure he visited the wine shop every other day to get drunk and come back and abuse Lakshmi. This was a routine thing that Lakshmi was used to. She was only surprised when her husband missed going to the wine shop. Lakshmi was the sole breadwinner of the family but she was never lauded for her efforts. She had to toil all day and do hard physical chores in almost 7 houses to make a few thousands every month. When it was time to pay her childrens’ fee she would request for an advance from a couple of households which would then be deducted from her wage in the coming months. She misses her lunches many days when there is no leftover in any house , she doesn’t ask for a saree during festivals instead asks for bonus money so she could buy something for her children and she comes to work 6 days a week .
On a Sunday morning, in her house while cooking, she had cut her right hand index finger in the running mixie jar and a nerve got cut and she bled profusely. She rushed to the government hospital and was given first aid and medicines. She came visited all the houses the same day to show her finger and inform her condition. Few houses gave her some money for treatment; a couple of them said they would cut her salary until she came back. She nodded quietly. She was asked to rest for a month so her finger could heal completely but she was back at work a week after with a cover tied around her right hand as she could not afford a month without her salary.
Maids, vegetable sellers, cooks, electricians, daily wage workers are some people in our support system who are indispensible but are not given the respect they deserve. They don’t demand for too much most times, all they need is some soothing words and support from the house owners for whom they work. I don’t deny that there are a few maid servants who take advantage of situations, but those I have seen are genuinely sincere and silent workers who help complete my house’s support system. Without my maid and cook I would not be able work peacefully . They help me in some small way to continue my career. And I think she does not deserve only the leftover food and the old, slightly torn or faded clothes that she is mostly given by her employers. Let’s treat them with some dignity. Let’s make them a hot cup of tea and share what we eat. That genuine gratitude from their end would only add to our good deeds. We don’t have to go to temples and offer huge sums of money. Let’s try and be kind to our own maids, cooks, cleaners and electricians and I am sure you will notice someday that God is happy and is smiling at you.