We are clearly not. The maid and I. Our story has all the milestones of a love story gone awry, with all the cliche developments. The hunky dory beginning, the blossoming honeymoon period, the too-good-to-be-true first few years, the faith and dedication, and then bam! something snaps and the indifference sets in. And I have let things slide, giving into all the crap the universe wants to throw at me. I am now convincing myself that all the bad, ill-fated luck must be part of the bigger karmic plan. After all nothing about our relationship every warranted any effort or planning. Everything about it is random, unplanned and has a strong strain of things just falling into place. What can I say, it began much the same karmic-love sort of way. When someone comes and sweeps you off your feet, when you least expect it. Except, I wish now that I had tested her actual sweeping back then, rather than fallen for it in a moment of vulnerability!
She came into my life three days into moving to Goa. She showed up at my doorstep, like a Godsend, even before I could put the word out for a new maid. She came to me when I was weak, alone and just desperate. I knew nobody in this city, nobody came to visit me. So when the doorbell rang and I opened it to the doe-eyed apparition that she was, I took it as a sign.
I invited her in to my abode, unkempt and disorganised as it was. I was knee-deep in boxes the packers had dumped at my doorstep, refusing to place them in appropriate rooms even (door-to-door service, madam!). And she fluttered her eyelashes and gave me her coy, shy best performance. She seemed hassle-free and willing to do give me just the help I needed.
A happy, chirpy daily influence in my life. And she cleans too! I can’t ask for anything more. I told myself and hastily agreed to some baseless wages. But I didn’t think about it too much then. She wasn’t the best, most pinpointed cleaner I have ever had, but at least she was friendly and cheerful. I could talk to her and get her to do what I needed to, without a hissy fit, I told myself. Better sloppy, but willing-to-be-corrected, than snooty and refuses-to-be-told-anything.
And so it began. The going was good. I was blinded by morning that started off on a happy note, with lively chatter over a cup of tea as she would proceed to clean, wash, sweep, and over the months agree to chop veggies and go the extra mile once in a way too. I was swayed by her little gestures of offering to stay the night the first few times VC travelled on work, and bringing us homecooked biryani and kheer on Eid.
I felt my heart swell with fondness for her. Giving her time off was never a problem. In fact she only works for under an hour, 6 days a week. I deliberately give her Sundays off as a rest-day, because I always wonder how women like her find it in them to do such hard physical labour, 6-7 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, she is prone to taking at least 2 days off every month. Something I allowed quite unquestioningly. I also helped employee her daughters with work, frequently give her and her family gifts, hand-me-down clothes, things for her kitchen, her home, and I even helped her son out with a car loan. It’s what I’d do for family, I thought. And that’s really how I have always felt about her. She busts energy cleaning my house for me, this was the least I could do for her. Also, I have grown up with the belief that building a relationship with house-help goes a long way. So it comes naturally to me and I have never been able to have an employer-employee relationship with her. And that is probably where the problem began, long ago. I was just too blinded to see it. Ours was a relationship devoid of the distance once usually needs to sometimes maintain.
So today, when she questions me when she sees a sink full of dishes more than she is usually used to seeing, and I find myself feeling apologetic, I have to remind myself not to be. It isn’t an every day affair, and I am paying her for her services.
When I suddenly look under the bed and find a fine collection of dust (approximately 6 months old), and I feel my blood boil, I have to tell myself that its okay to feel like she has taken me for granted and that I must firmly point it out.
When she slacks off, cuts corners and leaves cruddy marks on my dishes and I find myself hesitating to point it out, I have to remind myself that it is her job to clean up. And my job to tell her where she is going wrong.
All this hits home harder on days when she is off and I have to do the dishes and clean up myself, and I actually find the house more spotless than it has ever been. The irony.
I have always had a problem with confronting such issues. I cannot question people when it comes to doing their work. It was this was at office too. If I found someone slacking off, I’d find it easier to step in and do their work myself, than question why they haven’t done it to begin with. I’m not proud of this trait, and no matter how wrong I know it is, I cannot seem to find it in me to face the issue head-on.
VC is polite when he tells me I’m gullible, which is the closest most accurate way to describe it. I’m soft when I shouldn’t be. I seethe rather than vent. I not just a door-mat (but I’ve already told you that), I sometimes walk into situations and find myself sprawled out begging to be trampled on. I am now counting days till we move home, because I’d rather use that move as an excuse to sever ties, than fire her.
As things stand today I am in that horrible place of knowing we over-pay her. Which by itself hasn’t bothered me so much all these years. But it does now, because she serially squeezes in 1.5 hours of work into 50 minutes or so, constantly slacks off when I am not looking, and shows no signs of wanting to get better even when I resort to ticking her off. As a result I spend about an hour every morning pottering around and re-doing a lot of the work she has done. Only better. And I constantly question why I cannot just let her go entirely, since I am doing her work, and paying her for it.
From rosy beginnings, we’ve come to these seriously frustrating and infuriating times. Like the couples who hit it off like like a house on fire, so hot that you never imagine they could have issues. Until one day they find themselves in a bad dead-end marriage with no scope for improvement. And yet they continue, in the most damaging, maddening rut unable to get out, all because they failed to draw lines and keep distance when it was needed.