Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh boy, oh boy, oh bai!

The last few days have been less than cheerful with one crisis after another on the domestic help front. Domestic worries occupied less than a tenth of my mindspace before Nikki was born, what with our needs being minimal, us being hardly ever at home. A little bit of cleaning and a decent enough dash of cooking was enough to fit the bill. So it didn't really matter if the bai didn't turn up one day, or decided to go on an extended leave which stretched on for a few months, in the old scheme of things bais were highly dispensable. If matters really came to a head I could always get another one. And unlike now, when any serious bai-related issue is capable of sending my BP soaring sky high, back then the inevitable skirmishes with maids were great sources of amusement. I could write a book filled with all my bai anecdotes! Like my tryst with Chameli the cook, the fashionable diva always dressed in red (red dress, red shoes, red handkerchief, red mobile!) who developed a crush
on P. A typical scene in our kitchen went something like this:
Chameli, in a sweet, sing-song voice: Bhaiiiiiyyaaaaaaaaa!
Me, venturing into the kitchen: Haan? Is the food ready?
Chameli, giving me a disdainful look: Bhaiyya ko bulao! (Call P!)
Me: Huh? Why?
Chameli: Khaana taste karana hai! Unki pasand ka hona chahiye na!( P needs to taste the food, it has to be his liking you fool*)*this last bit being expressively communicated through facial expression.
The redeeming factor with Chameli was that she was a fantastic cook, but since she was prone to bunking way too many times she didn't last too long. Then there was shy Savitri who came to work for us when we'd just moved to Bombay. Now Savitri was a cleaning lady, so she did the sweeping, mopping et al. But Savitri was also newly married which meant that she did all of this sweeping and mopping dressed in a traditional, nine yard silk wedding sari with jewelery and bangles dripping off every inch of her being! Visitors to our home in the early hours of the morning could have been excused for thinking that they were either hallucinating or that the members of this home had exchanged roles: the woman of the house mopping floors, while the maid dressed in a grungy tee and tracks (oh all right, I know I could dress better at home) read the papers on the couch. P had even nastily mentioned once that we could start a "guess who's the bai?" contest for his relatives who'd only ever seen me at our wedding. Anyways shy Savitri got pregnant soon enough and quit all her jobs for the joy of motherhood.

Bai-tales were always the one thing that could get you an instant connect with otherwise snooty neighbors, everyone had their own tales of woe and long conversations could be had with anyone about domestic disasters thanks to an errant bai. I remember a team event at work where everyone was asked to share something that was bothering them that very moment. Our VP marketing shared that she had fired her cook that very morning after finding a stapler pin in her cheese sandwich (!) and her remark opened up the floodgates for the rest of the women in the group! Pretty soon the team event had converted into anguished women ranting about their own tales of domestic despair. (Domestic issues don't seem to bother men that much I've seen!)

This merry, carefree attitude when it comes to bais is now a thing of the past with the dawning realization that I need reliable, long-term help for longer hours if I need to get things done outside of baby related stuff. Also seeing that Nikki is all set to fly, er I mean crawl, anytime now makes it even more imperative that I have an extra set of eyes and hands around for preemptive damage control. With this noble thought I set out on a bai finding mission, hoping to find a clean, trustworthy, good-natured, sincere woman who could cook and help a little with Nikki. I might as well have gone hunting for the proverbial needle in the haystack instead and the chances of finding that would have been higher. Who knew it was so damn difficult to get good help in these parts?! Either they had a problem with the hours, or the work or both. One woman demanded a monthly salary of Rs 13,000, no less and another wanted to know if an annual foreign vacation would be part of the deal. This is one of the disadvantages of living in an apartment complex with too many expats, poor souls like me are just not fit to compete in the bai race! Anyways after nearly two months of domestic help due diligence I seem to have managed a decent find and she will be coming on board soon. Wish me luck! This is also the first time I'm keeping help who'll be around for the whole day so tips and advice from all of you more experienced folk out there are also most welcome! Knowing me I wouldn't be surprised if I find myself with just the same lack of time a few weeks later while the bai gets progressively more knowledgeable on the happenings in tellyland ;)
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