All this war with Corona was going on very well. We had insinuated every necessary measure through our global team to fight this pandemic with all vengeance. When suddenly, my bai (maid) declared that she will also be working from home, in reply to respected Prime Minister Modiji’s call for social distancing. This was bolt from the blue for me. I had forgotten to include this great army in my battalion, in the war from home against (the invisible Mr India-) the deadly virus Corona. My heart wailed (my conversation over phone) – Bai aisa Karona.!!! I will arrange for your conveyance, but you come and relieve us from these duties (aside: which we working women consider as mundane). The Bai, who visits our home and cooks, cleans, washes utensils and clothes, dusts and sweeps is the special service of the higher middle class. I believe the lower middle class people are mostly single income people who do their work themselves to save money. On the other hand, the rich people have 24 x 7 maids, who do not leave their homes and therefore will be with them in this war with the unwelcome corona. It is only we – the higher middle class working women, who will have to suffer this deficiency of vitamin Bai – for which no doctor has created any supplement nor any fortune teller, a panacea. The writing was clear on the wall. We had to partake our share of Karma, and who had imagined that our share of karma in the month of March and April would include cleaning never-ending utensils, preparing endless breakfast delicacies, infinite lunches and dinners for the whole family who on their part have an interminably ready, wish- list of more delicacies to request (actually order),while they themselves are busy doing the very important work of watching web-series, popular movies and last but not the least updating themselves on Whats App.
This virus Corona, has no doubt made us introspect about so many things and one of them is the facility of maids which we are still getting in India. We, in India tend to take them for granted. We cannot think of a world without them. So even though it is a clichéd joke it is a sad reality that in any Indian household, a woman waits more eagerly for her bai than her husband. I take this opportunity to thank them for being there for us at least twenty -four days in a month (4-6 days being their regular paid casual leave in a month). And we the women-folk who suffer from the constant fear psychosis named ‘lest the bai leaves us’ not only give them paid leaves but also pamper them with a steaming hot cup of tea every now and then.
When I shared my woes with my sister who lives in America, she at first teased me for the sudden encumbrance I felt. Then my sister added that it is not a big burden for them in this lockdown, as they have been used to do their chores themselves. Moreover, she said that in America these chores are not just the responsibilities of the women alone,all these chores are properly divided amongst the family members. In America, she added that they do not have easily available cheap workforce. So everyone has to give a helping hand. On top of it, she opined that there almost everyone has nuclear families, so they do not even get the support of senior citizens, like we get back home in India. So all the family members share their burden of Karma there. I sighed, because back in India this ‘Sharing of Karma’ is still a ‘distant dream’ where men and sadly even some elderly women in the house harbour a stubborn patriarchal mind-set and believe that these household chores are by default the duty of the woman only.
As I was thinking on these lines, with all my joints becoming swollen due to overwork and when my room was filled with the unhappy aroma of joint oils, iodex and pain relieving balms, I heard a ray of light. Yes, you read the verbal metaphor correctly. The ray of light shone brightly – when my husband declared that from tomorrow he will sweep the house and will at least clean some utensils. I could not believe my ears. I blinked and purposely pretended that I had not heard what he had said. I asked him to repeat it. He repeated the same thing with patience. Again another wonder!! I decided to etch this date on my heart. I thanked God for answering my prayers and creating empathy where none existed. I did not forget to even thank the Corona Virus who unknowingly brought forth the hardships of the women- folk before men. But how did this wonder happen? It happened because the men were as never before idle (thanks to Corona again) to witness the endless hardships of women (live) and this finally created that simmering of sensitivities in the hearts of these hard-core patriarchal men. From that day, I began to believe in the maxim ‘Nothing is impossible’. It was no doubt a beginning of a drawing of a revolutionary silver lining to a grey cloud called Corona – For the continuity of this silver line, many many good wishes to all the women folk in India!