In a deeper vein

"She is from a village near Bangalore. Leaving behind the plot of land to her husband’s brothers, she and her family moved to the city decades back. Migrating from rural happy poverty to urban hand-to-mouth existence, she etched out a living by working as a housemaid. Her husband sold tender coconuts near the local bus-stand and disappeared for days together when finances were low. Living in an urban slum, her son and daughter studied hard and graduated, thanks to the financial generosity of the families she worked for. After graduation, the daughter left an accounting job to become a docile housewife after marriage. After all, a happy marriage is better tag for a girl than financial independence in our society."

This is not an excerpt from a Shyam Benegal’s movie or from the Booker’s latest heartthrob, Arvind Adiga’s novel. What I narrated is a true story of our erstwhile maid a few years back. Now that we have moved, we are no longer in touch. The maid who worked for our former neighbours was widowed when her husband died of a heart attack. She supported her son’s education through her meagre income. During a general conversation, she said she was happier being alone than living with a drunkard husband. The maid in my cousin’s house has a sad story too. Her husband left her for another. He also took with him her only son, since a son is a breadwinner and left the two daughters with her; he doesn’t want the responsibility of marrying them off. She worked as a housemaid since then.

The story is the same across every maid I’ve met. Either the husband is a drunkard or a deserter and she is left with the burden of supporting the family. With all the hardship, I’ve never seen any maid pamper her son or deride her daughter. They have the steely determination to face such a life with a cheerful smile and are proud to be independent. As my maid says ‘naan nemmadiyal irken’ (I’m contented). I am sure life will get better for them. Notice that none of the children have ended up as maids in all the stories. I even heard that one of the son’s got an funding for B.E through Infosys Foundation. Hats off.

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