Dispatches from India 2: On Hiring Domestic Help in India

Usha Alexander in Shunya's Notes:

6a00d8341dd33453ef019affe242e2970d-200wi‘All you get here are these Bangla maids. They’re so lazy! To get them to work you have to shout at them and shout at them,’ lamented a neighbor. I had casually asked her, two days after our arrival in Gurgaon, if she knew anyone looking for work as a cook or house cleaner. Her voice tensed as she spoke, and her forehead crumpled with the pain of a woman in search of commiseration.

Days later, another neighbor introduced us to her cleaning woman, newly arrived from West Bengal. ‘Does she speak Hindi?’ I asked. ‘No, she doesn’t speak Hindi or English or any language!’ the neighbor blurted with vague, exasperated disgust, while the short Bangla woman stood smiling shyly behind her; she was aware we were speaking of her but not of what we said.

I had heard such comments before in other middle-class Indian living rooms, when the workers whom we invite daily into our homes were cast by their employers as a mysterious band of them, their collective virtues and vices debated or condemned: they steal; they are lazy and don’t work; they are careless and clumsy, prone to breaking things; they’ve become ‘too smart’ and know how to play you. When our maid returned to work after being out just 3 or 4 days due to a slipped disk in her back, my neighbor remarked that ‘they recover quickly’ from illness and injury.

More here.