Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Domestic help here in India is almost a necessity. Because of dusty agriculture, construction and road dirt, the home environment gets dirty very quickly. Floors must be swept and wet moped daily. Most households do not have washing machines and dryers. Food preparation is labor intensive. Frozen foods, packaged foods and mixes are not widely used. This is especially true in rural areas. Domestic labor is inexpensive and available. Sometimes I find it more convenient to send someone to the market. If one has money one is expected to employ household help. This supports poor families.  Many households, especially those with children, employ several servants including a driver.

I have found that domestic help is trying at times. Madhu, my cook/ housekeeper is usually very good. She is a mature married woman with a grown family. Unfortunately her parents are no longer living. She is the eldest girl in her family. Therefore, according to Indian custom, when a family member is sick she must care for them. She has two daughters that are to be married soon. The weddings and all the planning are her responsibility.  Weddings transpire over three days.  Madhu will not always available to us. She still expects to get paid. This is reasonable to a point. When she works, she works seven days a week. We encouraged her to take a set day off each week. She does not want to do that. This is the norm for this area.

Madhu’s brother was hit by a motorcycle resulting in a broken leg.  He needs surgery. The hospital wants 35000 rupees up front before they will do the surgery. We wound up giving Madhu two months cash advance on her salary. This we gladly did. Her family came up with the rest. Unfortunately hr brother is not married. It falls to Madhu to care for him. She has gone for a month and arranged for her sister-in-law, Supna to work in her place. Supna’s reputation has preceded her. She is well known in the area. We hear that she has been fired by several households because they could not put up with her work habits and attitude. This has proven true. Supna is argumentative. She states there are things she won’t do, ironing being one. We informed her is expected do the same tasks as Madhu.  She will work the same hours and receive the same salary as Madhu.

Evidently, Supna complained to Madhu that we require her to do too much work. Madhu sent her daughter, Poonam to help Supna. They will share the money. Supna is still not happy. She keeps telling me, “This is Poonam’s job and that is Poonam’s job.” Now there's more discord in my house. Madhu works well without direction and does a good job with no argument. I must tell these girls when and how to do everything. I find it necessary to follow closely behind them to make sure they have done what I asked. Supna especially tries to cut corners and is argumentative. I don’t know which is worse, doing everything myself or going behind Supna and having her to do something over three times.

I told Ram I can do without Supna. If Poonam will do the rest of the household chores, I can manage the cooking. Anyway, Supna's cooking is not that good.  He has already explored that option. Poonam will not come here by herself. She is afraid of the monkeys that she will encounter on the way. It sounds like Poonam does not want to work either. It is going to be a long month. I am close to firing Supna.  If Poonam does not want to work by herself so be it.  I want my peaceful home back.