Thursday, October 18, 2007

Conversations with Goddess (of the undomestic kind)

I have a maid who comes to clean at my house. Let’s call her Undomestic-Goddess-Amma (or Ugamma for short). I inherited Ugamma from the in-laws – she’s been going there for the last dozen years and has recently added me to her work portfolio. Quite the Family Retainer from the old English melodrama or our very own desi Ramu-chacha .So she enjoys all the privileges and benefits of the old retainer however in the minor matter of doing the actual work – she differs slightly – as in, she has an allergy to it. While at a broad philosophical level I do agree that one should get money without having to work for it, consistently becoming a victim of it is another story altogether.

We have the following very edifying conversations with marginally varying themes every other day.

Storm in the teacup
Me: “Ugamma –All the tea cups have this residual layer of tea after you have washed them- I had to wash all of them again last night”
Ugamma (in tones of polite interest): “Accha?”

Washing washbasins
Me: (Pointing to a wash basis where I am standing): “There is some dirt on this side of the basin – can you wash it please?”

Next day I go to the basin and the other bathroom and I see that resplendent in accumulated dirt.

Me: “Did you not wash the basin yesterday?”
Ugamma: (in deeply affronted tones): “Of course I did!”
Me: “Oh ..but its still dirty
Ugamma: (with quelling dignity) “I washed the OTHER basin”

Mental note to self – specify all the basins in the household that you want washed.

After a while I go to the other washbasin and I see though the previous days offending stain on the left side of the basin is gone, the dust on the right side continues to gloat at me.

Me: “Ugammaaaaaaaaaa” and wave at the offending spot
Ugamma: “I have CLEANED the side you told me to”

Continued note to self – list down ALL specific components of the wash basin you want washed. Note to self part 2 – WASH the damn thing again at night.

Desh ki dharti
Me: (Holding aloft a pair of trousers and with a shirt slung over my shoulder) “Ugamma – have you seen the trouser bottom edge– its carrying more mud than any trouser has any right to”
Ugamma: (in tones of munificence): “Well of course, I have not washed the rims of the trousers”
Me: “Er.. what have you washed?”
Ugamma : (triumphantly) "I have washed the MIDDLE part”
Me: “Well from tomorrow can you please wash the edges as well?”
Ugamma: (in the manner of someone humouring a developmentally-challenged child) “Accha theek hai”

Niagara clothes
Her usual washing clothes routine goes something like this.
She always appears to be in a rush to go to the bathroom to wash the clothes. She will disappear inside and firmly lock the doors. The door will remain locked for 5 -45 minutes depending on what her planned schedule for the day. Actual sounds of washing clothes however have been consistently timed at three and a half minutes (after merging the colors and the whites together to form one cheerful rainbow coloured liquid)

Then after a while when I walk into the drying balcony and slip on a mini lagoon

Me: (mournfully) “Ugamma – I nearly broke myself here – can’t u WRING the damn clothes even a little bit”
Ugamma: (very firmly) “This is linen (pointing at my very cotton-because-I-am-allergic-to-synthetic-clothes-salwar-kameez) – you cannot wring linen”
Me: (desperately squeezing clothes to avoid the indignity of being a Mandakini under the clothes line) “Doesn’t matter even if its linen, still wring it”
Ugamma sniffs disapprovingly and flaps a couple of clothes half heartedly

The MIL seems to be able to manage her pretty well – but then she has a completely different (autocratic) managerial style with the bais. I would need a personality transplant for that. But I have noticed that she (MIL) also needs to recourse to trailing behind the lady to ensure some of the stuff is being done.

I unfortunately, need to get myself to work by nine in the morning – getting myself up and jostling my brain cells into a state of semi-wakefulness is a full time task without shadowing the U-lady.

Sacking the lady is not an option – apart from the fact that she IS trustworthy – the task of getting another maid in these bai-famine times is too harrowing to contemplate.

So we shall continue at this merry stall-mate (check-mate actually if one REALLY comes to think of it) until such time I can come with a solution to this. Any ideas?


afishcalledgoonda said...

Hmmm...don't u get the feeling that it is these Ugamma types only that judge you as being a "bad home-makers" is ure bed is not made properly or if there is a fine layer of dust on the TV. Mine flat out refuses to clean the bathroom as it is below her dignity to do so and have to put up with her as she too is a relic from time hubby was growing up.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

oh yus of course they do ...they do these tests

Kraz Arkin said...

Did you see the news that the NCW has issued rules for working hours and scheduled time offs for maids? :)

Maybe you should nominate her for the Lead India thingie.

Related stuff here -

(I see Cyn has already read it - funny how it all goes around and around.)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I feel your pain. Been there ...


Anonymous said...

I see the same problem at my Hyd home. Automate automate automate... The spanner in automation seems to be the water-supply and electricity. Then the mantra becomes simplify and dispose...

I am perennially at a loss, with parents complaining that I am trying to apply Amru solutions to Indian conditions... the change I want doesn't happen due to a deadly combination of inertia of their old ways and intractable problems unique to Indian conditions.