Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Service And Servitude



Of late, I have been bit by the lazy bug. And frankly apart from hitting the gym in the evenings, there's nothing much I do of late. I suppose I'm in a phase of absolute mental hibernation, where I just practically lounge around all day, without any agenda or commitment. The postings in the hospital are light and so I decided to give my self some time to cool my heels.
But certain things are easier said than done.
I take my phases of absolute indifference and apathy rather seriously, and frankly it irks me a good deal when circumstance, forces me out of my revere and thrusts me back into the mundane aspects of reality.
Thus, I was interrupted from my meditative state of indifference, by the shrill screeching of a woman's voice.
I turns out, that my mother was arguing with a maidservant over her wages.
Now, normally I'm the sort of a person who doesn't care a damn. But in this case, the woman managed to arouse my curiosity, by increasing her screeching to an earsplitting crescendo that would probably give a banshee a run for her money.
As it turns out, the female in question, was asking an astronomically obscene amount of money for doing an infinitesimal amount of work.
Now it was my turn to start screaming, much to my own surprise.
It took a while for my baritone to tone her down to a shrill squeak and after much pointless haggling, she left muttering curses and hexes under her breath.
Now this whole incident has left me quite unnerved if not exasperated to say the very least.

I hate servants.
I despise them, detest them, abhor and loathe them with all my heart and soul.
They do really shoddy work. They have come really close to destroying my Russian souvenirs countless times while "dusting" the shelf. And to make matters worse, I cannot find anything in my room once they are done "cleaning" it.
Of course they are quite eager to please, and it causes the average Indian chest to swell a few notches higher, when servants practically run like loyal minions, to lift their grocery bags.
To me, its nothing but fiddlesticks!
Frankly I just cannot bring myself to terms with the great grand Indian tradition of ordering people about.

Indians are masters at being masters. They love to be serviced and served.
Our house as of now has two gardeners, one driver, two maids, two security guards and a female who comes in the evening to lend a hand in the kitchen for my mum.
This might seem as an extravagance to those in western countries, but in India its usually the norm.
Its a far cry from living in Russia for the past six years.
I had to do things by myself. Shop for groceries, do the laundry, cook, clean my room and in the "spare time" study.
I don't regret it one bit.
I loved every instance of it.
It gave me a sense of self control. A control over my life. The ability to do things when I wanted, the way I wanted. Not depending on anybody for anything.
It was just so wonderfully simple. No hassles, no squabbles and no pointless waiting for someone to swoop down and help you with your chores.
In India on the other hand, almost every household, ranging from large bungalows to pea sized apartments have servants.

Its almost as if people here have a phobia of doing their own chores.
Here the real effort lies in ordering people about.
No matter what, I just cannot give my self the self authoritative pompousness that is needed to yell at the night security guard for dozing off at 9pm or the gardener for not watering the rose bushes. I just don't care a damn, much to the exasperation of my parents.
Now I can understand the basic need for a domestic help, if the house in question is rather large, and difficult to maintain, or if both spouses are working.
But it flabbergasts me so as to why hideously obese Indian housewives who are not working, need servants for their moderately sized homes.
Someone might cry hoarse saying that women are not objects of labor.
But frankly, I doubt picking up your own stuff and keeping your own house clean can be akin to slave driving. The same would go for Indian men as well.
There is a certain dignity and independence in doing your own chores. Where you truly become the master of your home.
I have therefore specifiably forbidden any servant to enter my room.
As a consequence, my room is a mess. The clothes are lying about, the desk is unkempt.
But in short, its my mess.
Its my space, and that's the way I like it.There is an aspect of blissful independence when you know you are in control of your surroundings.
Instead of waiting upon some loon to come and redistribute your "mess".
Of course its something a good deal of Indians don't feel. I suppose its some sort of Maharaja hangover, where one likes to be waited hand and foot for everything.
The problem with this country, is that everything you say or do is an aspect of your "status symbol".
The amount of servants you own, whether you are chauffeured or chose to drive by your self.
Its maddening but true. As I kid I remember being ridiculed among fellow third graders in my for once coming to school in a rickshaw.
The amount of human dependence is ridiculously large in India.
Its ironic that it was in India that Gandhi propagated the thought of self help and self service.
Though the only place self service currently exists in India are the McDonald's and Dominoes franchise.
Well, with all the sarcasm apart, at least its a start!

11 comments:

Shadowthorne @ Ramzu Zahini said...

My sis had a maid who had stolen a gold bracelet from my mom. She was deported back, and my sis got a new maid to replace her.
Good help is hard to find.

SSQuo said...

Help has been the norm for us for years, so yes change is tough. Picking up after yourself is not easy. It wasnt for us, and even now my family does have help. BUT during those few tiems when either the help went back home, or we didnt, it was a big deal, and within hours mom had a whole agenda/schedule made and us four girls, and her had a plan to have everythign done. So we had a day to lay the table for dinner, water the plants, etc etc. I htink it has taught us a lot. Not as much as living away for 10 yrs now has taught me.

I may be hypocritical, but when I visit home and I can wake up to a good cup of coffee in the morning, or dont have to clean up after dinner before i can sit and eat dessert or chat with friends, its a pleasant change.

I have decided though, my space is my space, and I am not happy having people in it. Even if a handyman comes to do some work, Im edgy coz I want him out soon. It's conditioning I think and youve experienced differently being away. Btw, would you consider going back to India for good?

Thousif Raza said...

done is done ji... but i guess ur wrong in saying every housewife should do their own work... well they should but doing it completely well i dont think its the answer for that...

u have a point in saying that, but the whole work is too tiring man, because i've seen my bhabi's, with their kids and my brothre's and the lunches, breakfast dinner, whew, i see them, and i admire them for thier work, but honest, its too tiring, a little help goes in a long way of helping them u know...

, and i agree with u, that one should do their own work, but believe me i've tried it and my back still hurts like hell :P... on a more serious note, i'll tell u this, when Indians start doing their own work, well i just hope that day isn't the last day of the world...

cool post... :)


take care and keep writing..........

Vyazz said...

@Shadowthorne: I know what u mean........we have lots tons of stuff over the years thanks to our maids, ranging from mobile phones to even small pieces of jewelery. Its like we have to be on guard in our own homes. That really gets my goat!!!

Vyazz said...

@SSQuO:.....yes it is conditioning, and being in hostels for good deal of time, that's how I have developed the tendency to seek little or no help. Not to mention getting irked, when someone is a bit too helpful.
I suppose its all about how you live your life, and the sort of things we are used to as children.
Yes, I do like help at times, who doesn't? The only thing is to not make a habit of it, and act like the whole world has crashed down if the maid doesnt show up for a day. :))
PS: I am in India for the past year and a half now, and just as it took me two years to get used to Russia, its taking me the same amount of time in India.
But guess this is where I'll be sticking around for a good long time!!!

Vyazz said...

@Thousif..........well, what can I say?? I suppose its all a matter of perspective. There are families across the world who live without servants. And its only the south asians, particularly the Indians who tend to depend on them a good deal. I wont have said this if I had lived in India all my life, but living abroad, just gave me a different perspective.
Its all about how u look at things.
I have this weird communist hangover, that says pick up your own mess. Some families, particularly large ones do need extra help, but that need not be the case everywhere.
And in my opinion, the more you depend on yourself the better, whereas, in most cases, ppl end up a little too dependent on others!!!!....just a matter of independence thats all!!!!!

SSQuo said...

Oh so u have moved back permanently? Good for you!

I hope to do so in a few yrs too, I am sure the trasntion is difficult, but I guess the 'reasons' you chose to be back make it worthwhile?

I know for me there will be things that will bug me, but the pros will outweigh the cons I hope, besides nothing beats being close to my family and that I have to remember!!

Of course, family not everyday, but close enough coz again we are used to certain amount of space too.

vivek gharpure said...

how true.
drinking the water of godavari river is responsible for this work ethic. a time will come when servants will train you to 'their' way of working.

rads said...

Pizza Hut is another place that has self-service...n i think its gr8 though its just a start...i hate servants too, my mum always has one and they're always fighting with her with some or the other thing she says...i had one but not for more than 3 months...they absolutely do nothing...the one i had was old and i had go clean everything behind her...maids are an absolute waste of time, money and energy. i love doing my own chores in my own time, like u said it makes me feel i'm in control n i love the independence...

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