Maid in India 2

It’s almost eight years ago that I moved to India and mentioned to my grown-up sons that I was looking for a maid. They were horrified.

We’re from the UK, are quite liberal and left wing. I’m actually from a relatively poor working class background. The idea of having a servant was also way beyond the usual more acceptable (in the UK anyway) middle class practice of a cleaner.

It introduces a class dimension. It’s seen as a bit 19th century, old-fashioned, elitist and servants are employed by people who are not like us! Who see themselves a cut above the rest, or the hoi polloi , a case of upstairs/downstairs. In our world view, its all completely unacceptable.

 

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as you can see its a big house and I need help! Fact is, I only had the first floor eight years ago

 

I explained as best I could. It was important to provide employment particularly as there was no real welfare safety net in India. I was fitting in with the way things are, and my approach would be different (yep, it would be!) I would be a sensitive and caring employer.

So I asked my friends Ganga and Cariappa if they could recommend someone. The maid network came up with someone pretty quickly.

I was called round to meet someone.

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So what’s the bigger picture? once again Tripti Lahiri helps out:

“Britain saw the number of servants drop from 250,000 in 1951 to 32,000 two decades later.”

India followed a similar trajectory until that is, the 1970’s when there began a dramatic increase in the numbers of servants (we’ll come back to terminology later) employed and this is a situation reflected globally.

“According to international labour groups, as of 2010. there were more than 50 million such workers globally, an increase of nearly  20 million from 1995, most of this made up of women. There are now over 40 million female domestic workers globally.” 

So OK that’s enough with all the big numbers, what does this mean in practice for the women involved? who are they? where are they from and what lives do they lead?

 

 

 

Maid in India 1

Quotes taken from ‘Maid in India’ by Tripti Lahiri :

 

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an image from a postcard that we publish

 

“We eat first, they later, often out of food portioned out for them; we live in the front, they in the back; we sit on chairs and they on the floor; we drink from glasses and ceramic plates and they from ones made of steel set aside for them; we call them by their names, and they address us by titles: sir/ma’am, sahib/memsahib”

 

Think that’s in the past?

Well, think again.

“In today’s India its not unusual to see, often in largely empty restaurants, a couple seated with their child at a table for four, while the help is despatched to sit not one but two tables away….. or a nanny dandling a child on her lap at a nightclub while her employers and their friends drink cocktails as it creeps towards midnight, her hours of sleep dwindling since she is no doubt expected to be up and ready for another day at sunrise…. or for example children playing in a neighbourhood park, seeing a plump, light-skinned boy on a swing crook his finger at the petite darker woman standing nearby and utter a single word: Push”

Womens’ life experience is an incredible indicator of how a particular society works, from top to bottom.

In India the situation of women and particualrly those who are most socially and economically excluded, in this case, the ones that serve others, shines a spotlight on the social mores, the rules by which we operate, the structures and belief systems that helps maintain the status quo.

It also shows something else.

That is, how these women in often extraordinarily challenging circumstances not only manage but can thrive, can flourish and through that, show their astonishing abilities. In a sense, the influence they subtly exert and how they deal with the changes facing them can also demonstrate to us, on a macro level, how to deal with some of the challenges and opportunities facing contemporary India.

Let’s take a look.

 

a new direction?

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We’ve had a blog for a few years now and while there’s been a fair amount of interest we feel its not necessarily been very focussed (now there’s a surprise, given who’s written it!) and not necessarily too relevant…. thank you to those who do follow us and your helpful feedback.  We’re trying something slightly better as of now, for that read:  The management has instituted a review.

There will be three interwoven (ha ha) threads or broad themes.

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Top of the tree will be Manjula’s story.

We’ll start that first with ‘Maid in India’ it’s definitely the one to follow.

Next up will be my take on India and life in this amazing country. So maybe, it might be worth

dipping into (and out of!)42731480-A5D7-4D0D-993F-28592EEDBD5E1

51FEED26-61C2-4E8D-9762-B510F65465D41The third will be Lucie’s view which essentially is the place to find the odds and sods, maybe even the political soap box (she is a dedicated “participant observer’)  and a slightly alternative viewpoint.

We don’t offer a better understanding of anything. We are after all unfathomable people by the very nature of homo sapiens. We are, of course, living in the most wonderful, startling, infuriating, beautiful country full of the most smiley people but whose twists and turns, consistent inconsistencies, joys and horrors creates an overriding paradoxical roller coaster ride.  I hope you’ll find some interesting insights and an entertaining journey. I reckon that you’ll get to know Manjula in a different way and its the connections between the three themes that can provide more insights.

We ask you for your help…..Please do follow us and pass on to friends with an interest in India or those you may wish to punish in some bizarre way. 😉 and equally importantly do give critical feedback: tell us what works and doesn’t, do feel free to provide fresh ideas for content and suggest how we can get it out to more people. Above all please do get involved and create a conversation.

But ultimately don’t get your hopes up!

It’s not really written by Manjula (although I will be delving into transcribed recordings from her made over the last couple of years in Kannada and our own conversations) or by Lucie (she is a dog!)

It’s still written by me.

Yes the man from North England (where’s that? …Yorkshire) who hasn’t quite got the grasp of the English language but who has a wealth of insights stolen from our wonderful guests, the amazing people we meet her in India and frankly anyone else with a half decent idea.

So there you have it, please get involved, watch this space, give feedback so we can learn and improve and pass on to those you think might be interested.

We’ll continue to post on Facebook and our info-insights-tips to help visitors to Mysore have a great time will be on the main site here but the real richness,  if you can call it that, will be on the blog itself.

Wildlife in our garden. 

We have beautiful art both natural flora and fauna on our roof terrace and peeking  through are images from the painted sides of bullock carts.


The new buds on our Brahma Kamla plants are also coming out. We hope to see them flower over one night  in the next two weeks.

new journey

imagewe’re setting out on a new journey…. after the wonderful experience last year (Note English sarcasm) ..to firstly ensure that Manjula’s various IDs were accurate and consistent with name, gender, address, date of birth ( it took, four months), then the ‘reality game’ of applying for a passport (two more months) and being knocked back a couple of times (the board game of these tangles with bureaucracy will be in shops soon) then to top it all we applied for a TOURIST (yes just for a holiday) visa from the UK Government just at the time of some insignificant Vote or other (Brexit aka Biscuit idiotic referendum) only to be summarily rejected (Brit Govt is fast on its rejections, three weeks total) and applying again with an avalanche of papers (two weeks)… for you dear reader, what feels like lifetime’s experience compressed into six months has already been documented on these pages. Some of you may remember it .. well this new journey is…. wait for it…. an application to register as a Homestay with the Karnataka Government.

IMG_1428in my English wistful sort of way I think it will be very straightforward and probably a damn sight easier than a similar process in the UK.

lets see

background is we’ve been operating on the same basis as an AirBnB property but this year the Karnataka Govt has introduced a new rule and that means everyone has to register with them.

As I say let’s see, first step following the ‘critical path’ , let’s find out what’s required 🙂

Manjula’s Meals Number two

Dhal 

Manjula provides lovely Indian vegetarian meals at Mysore Bed and Breakfast for our guests from India and countries throughout the world. Our international guests, in particular, are interested in learning more about Indian cuisine.

She can often be seen with the kitchen full of guests while she demonstrates and provides lessons on how to cook various dishes. It does get a bit cramped!

Our meals together are an important part of sharing our home.

After many requests we’ve decided to post recipes, even demonstrations here on our journal/bloglet. We’ve started with a couple of simple examples, first: Ragi Soup (Ragi is fast becoming a smart-ish food) check here for the recipe and on this page follow the link to our first home made (and it shows!) video featuring how to make Dhal. The recipe is below. check the video

If you wish to see a really good video of Manjula cooking. It’s not a recipe but a great video of Manj at work, created by our lovely friends Tom and Amy. This is a serious professionally made video, not to be missed! 🙂  Its here.

The recipe for Dhal
Ingredients for the first stage
11/2 tsp Turmeric powder
11/2 tsp Cumin seeds
3 Tomato
4 green Chilli
1 small Garlic
Small bunch Coriander
2 cups water1 cup Dhal

1 cup Dhal

Chop veg in small pieces
Add all ingredients together in pressure cooker.
With lid on and gas lit, leave cooking for twenty minutes or 4-5 whistles of the cooker.
Switch off and leave to cool for twenty minutes.

Check and if necessary add a little more water and boil for a few moments
Ingredients for the second stage
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seed
2-3 red chilli

add oil to a saucepan, then mustard seed, fry for a moment, then add cumin seeds, fry for a moment then add red chilli, fry then add Dahl. Fry for ten minutes. Then it’s ready.

Farrell Factoid

Manjula’s meals have become a great success at Mysore Bed and Breakfast. She doesn’t, however, cook every night (so please note its availability is not guaranteed). Guests usually do however get at least one dinner. We are a vegetarian household. I’m the vegetarian, not Manjula who eats out with me or other friends to get her regular meat input!

Manjula’s meals, number one

 

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Manjula’s Ragi Soup

Ragi 
A staple of the diet here in south India. A form of millet grown with limited water. Traditionally made into Ragi Balls and eaten as a highly nutritious breakfast before heading out into the fields. Here’s a very simple Soup recipe.

 
As simple nutritious Ragi Soup

 
Carrot

Green Beans

Peas

Sweet corn

Maybe spring onion. Whatever veggies you would like to add!
First finely chop the veg and boil a little to leave the veg a little crunchy.
Ragi flour
Mix a small (steel glass) of Ragi flour with 2-3 cups of water to create a paste.

Add to the veg and boiling water and gently mix.

Add salt, black pepper.
Switch off gas and add lemon (maybe half) to taste, .
Some people use cornflour but I don’t use any other flour.
Manjula

 

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Eating Ragi Ball with gravy

Farrell Factoid on Ragi Balls
They are highly nutritious and low cost. People in the villages would have a large one in the morning before heading out in the fields which would keep them going for hours.
I asked Manjula a couple of years back why we hadn’t had Ragi Balls, so she made some, and now I know, why.
It’s a large ball similar to a dumpling. To eat it, wet the fingers with the gravy (curry) pull a piece off and roll it into a small ball. Then throw it to the back of the mouth and swallow it straight away. Why?

 

I now know the answer to that too.

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Swalow it straight!

 

 

 

It tastes like earth and sticks to the roof of your mouth! Simple really.

Ragi is becoming quite trendy and you can get Ragi Dosa among other inventive things. It’s a good thing for our health and the health of the environment as it uses much much less water than the other main crops, namely rice and sugar cane.