Servants In India.

Cheerful Monk had this to say as a response to TOF on my post Points Of View. “All I can say is, “Yay, laziness!” I had insomnia for years and my greatest luxury now is getting enough sleep. There’s just the two of us so no big household to run. I suppose if you have servants it’s a different story? That’s one of the great joys of blogging for me–trying to imagine other people’s lives.” Cheerful Monk writes on how her life goes on and it is so fascinating to read that I don’t miss any of her posts. I can thus understand that to learn about how others live in far away places can be very interesting indeed.

A perfect opening for a lazy brain to come up with an idea for a blog post. I have deliberately set out to break our of a routine controlled life after my last care giving duties ended. I now try and avoid getting stuck in routine and get in as many exceptions as possible in my life. But as CM suggests, having servants can be a blessing on the one hand and a handicap on the other. I shall try and explain in this post.

We have two part time servants. Yakob our gardener and handyman was the first to join us way back in December 1990. He and his wife Shobha came into our home as a team and stayed as a team with us till they shifted residence in 1998 and Shobha stopped coming to work with us. Yakob however continued and is still with us. Both of them and their two now strapping sons are part of our family and the relationship is difficult to explain to non Indians. Yakob looks after our small garden keeps all the vehicles clean and runs errands for me as well attend to small odd jobs at home at need. Since Yakob has a full time job in an establishment near our home, he is fairly regular in attendance.

Yakob however is very possessive about our home, the garden, the vehicles and just about anything pertaining to the two of us. We have to be extremely careful in getting things done by others as he insists on the right to first refusal. Knowing his limitations, this can be quite complicated at times, but his sensibilities have to be taken into account and he be given a role in the task. Take for instance some carpentry or plumbing work to be done at home. If I contacted either a plumber of a carpenter without Yakob acting as the intermediary, Yakob will sulk. So, we inevitably get him to get such experts to come and do what needs to be done under his supervision. You can imagine what happens when there is an emergecy.

The other servant is our lady servant Mangal who has been with us for over 15 years now. She sweeps and swabs all the floors of our home, cleans the bathrooms, cooks for us, washes all the dishes and vessels and washes, dries and folds away all clothes.

So far so good. The problem with the latter is that she is a typical Indian housewife in her home and is often needed to attend to various functions, emergencies, weddings, deliveries etc and so plays hookey quite often and when she falls ill that too results in her absenting herself. On the days that she does not come, I am the home maker and do all the work that she does normally. Ranjan helps but is more of a hindrance than help and so I tend to leave him alone. The point in all these rants is however that I cannot even think of getting a stand in for her, unless she arranges one for us when she is away from duty.

With this background, my readers will understand that I cannot stick to a routine as one element in the management of the day is erratic in attendance. The routine is maintained on all days except when Mangal does not come to work and on those days, I have to improvise and innovate and manage somehow.

Another blogger Ashok had this to say recently on his Facebook page. “Our domestic help just called me and absolutely insisted I go to her place for lunch :) I was absolutely overwhelmed with her concern and affection. A true testament to the kind of relationship my mother and her have shared for the past 16 years. Just one of those moments when I feel terribly lucky to be a son to my parents :)” Here is exactly what I am trying to convey in my post. The servant / employer relationships can become very different to what perhaps people in the West them to be.

Being able to employ servants is a mixed blessing. One takes on responsibility for the servant as much as the servant takes on the responsibility for the employer. Long lasting relationships like we have with our two servants can be joyful when everything is working well and frustrating when not, but like with all other family members, servants too, having become family members can be the cause for both emotions.

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