What is the similarity between a ‘break up with one’s girlfriend or boyfriend’ and the ‘village visit of one’s housemaid’? Well, the ‘emotional journey’, for starters.
Having experienced both these situations multiple number of times, I can state with uber confidence that there is no trauma greater than that of waiting for your housemaid to be back from an unplanned ‘village visit’. My suffering has been in play for the past twenty days (well, almost!) and here’s an account of the stages that one needs to cross to finally make it to where I am right now.
Stage 1: The news is broken to you. Typically these visits are planned but there will be times when your strongest ‘pillar of confidence’ will have to leave due to an unforeseen circumstance. At least as per the information you have been provided with, that’s what you will come to understand. The abruptness of the situation will frustrate you but being the know-it-all manager that you are, you will somehow manage to curb the desire for an outburst. Here’s where one wears the ‘lets be practical’ cap and starts to plan how the days will be organised, sans your biggest support system. I call this stage as the “Big Bang Theory” as a lot of action manifests from here.
Stage 2: This is my favourite stage actually. Here’s where each member of the house is turned into a ‘ninja’ and is designated a certain responsibility while the maid is away. Everyone seeks to please and pledges to sincerely deploy the duties in the hour of need. Families discover the ‘quantum of work’ and secretly start appreciating the housemaid’s contributions even more now. There is joy in coming together and dealing with the new challenges. With great delight, I call this stage as “Orange Is The New Black” time.
Stage 3: The honeymoon period of collectively dealing with housework while singing “ye tera ghar, ye mere ghar….” is kind of over by now. The family members have now put their initiatives and offers to share workload, on a total ‘halt’. The domestic work is being put off due to sudden increase in respective office pressures, school timelines and other deliverables outside of the house. This is the time when the piles of unkept clothes begin to rise. The rhetoric nature of house work is exposed and meaninglessness starts to creep into the daily lives. A lot of introspection happens at this time. The pressure typically increases on the lady of the house (especially if its an Indian household). She begins to see the hand of ‘karma’ in the conspiracy. “Maybe I shouldn’t have given her so much work”, “What if she had tea made in full milk thrice a day….does it really matter? I shouldn’t have watched her like a hawk” and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I call this stage the “Breaking Bad” time of the trauma. This is muddled with the upcoming of “The Mentalist” zone, as deep investigation kicks in during this testing period. The house lady begins to make multiple phone calls, from various telephone numbers (especially the ones that the housemaid is not expected to know) to get a chance to speak with her.
Stage 4: The “Game Of Thrones” stage is reached by now. A series of presumptions begin to happen. The emotional journey reaches its pinnacle as one starts to feel the pangs of a greater conspiracy, by each passing day, or should I say, by each passing hour? “Did she do it deliberately? Why is she not taking my calls? Has she really gone to her village?” and the biggest fears begin to sow seeds in the mind “Has she been poached by Mrs. XYZ. The lady had been eyeing my maid for ages now!” By now, the phone calls are reduced to the point when they are finally stopped. This is the grey zone of the journey. A feeling of deceit starts to eat up the family members. They pledge never to take the housemaid back into their lives, even when she wants to return. The pledge is sealed via a tattoo on every member’s shoulder and the anthem of oath is sung every single day for the following duration.
Stage 5: By now, the interviews for a new maid have begun to happen. Fresh lists of ‘great expectations’ are prepared and applicants are screened with extreme scrutiny. The shortcomings of the ‘maid on leave’ are kept as a testing criteria. “We will keep no one but the very best” the family decides.
And then comes the ‘call’. With shivering hands, the lady of the house picks up the honking phone and manages to say a subtle, deliberately casual “hello” despite feeling the bile rise in her throat. She hears the six sweetest words of her life. “Didi, I am coming back soon.” All that the lady can manage to say is “okay, sure” and she keeps the phone down. Her hubby looks at her face and asks, “what happened? what did she say?”. The lady gives out a nervous laugh and replies, “you remember that bottle of rose pink champagne that we have been saving up for a rare occasion?” He now knows. “Of course, darling, I will put it in the chiller right away” he says.
Both wipe away the tears of joy from their eyes. This is where the “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” jingle plays. And the bottle is popped open.