Maid in Mysore

Often when I relate our story, Manjula interjects to declare: ‘you’re my maid.’ Well she might be right. Tools of my trade this morning are: hard box (Thali thing for serving breakfast), handle to adjust bed recliner, hands for holding (when having umpteen blood tests) and destroying mosquitoes, remote for TV, motorbike for fetching things…. I now have my role in life 😉

SHATTERED

COMFORT ZONE

well and truly out of mine….. on the other hand its one of the many, some quite, unbelievable challenges Manjula has faced in her life. As usual, she manages this one with her usual, formidable, tenacious, but always gentle strength…..one helluva strong woman.

The ambulance

She jokingly calls it her honeymoon now she’s out of intensive care wolfing down her food and in a room ‘with a view.’

It wasn’t exactly unexpected as she has a serious lung condition that can’t improve. She will stay in hospital a few more days to observe and see what’s required when she gets home.

It’s a bloody relief.

Lucie says: “it’s about time we told Manjula’s and our story”

Stephen : ok, ok, more to follow.

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One of Manjula’s many talents is tying garlands

“My hometown is Mysore. I was born and raised in Mysore. I have struggled a lot as a young girl. My father sent me to school, but education wasn’t something that came easily to me. I attended school till 5th standard. As I wasn’t good at studies my father stopped me from going to school. After leaving school, I started doing household chores, tying flower strands and other things. As a small girl, I learned many household works. As I grew up, as I started to acquire some knowledge I started to make money by tying flower strands and selling.”

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Manjula with one of our maids, Kamlama and her mother, Parvathama

“My mom left us when we were still young. She had a quarrel and disagreement with my father and left us all and went to her father’s house. Later, my father raised us all even with some difficulties. My mother came back after a while, but my father didn’t let her in. My father married another woman, she didn’t look after us very well, and she didn’t give us enough food. Later my younger brother started working at a hotel; he would bring us food for the nights.

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As we grew up and started to learn things, I joined as a housemaid to a family in Bangalore.  The family for whom I worked wanted a housekeeper for their younger brother’s house in Bombay. They took me to Bombay and I worked there for 10 years. Even there, I looked after a baby for 3 years and the household works for the rest of the years. I never came back to Mysore. After 10 years, the family shifted to Singapore, they offered me to continue the same job with more pay. I didn’t go as my family was here in India and it would be difficult for me to come back from Singapore. I came back to my hometown, Mysore.”

Farrell Footnote.

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I’m not altogether sure what happened at school. One of the stories she tell me is she would ask the teacher if she could leave the classroom to go for a number one (pee). Then legging it, with her brother left in the classroom having to carry her bags home. What a naughty girl! I don’t think she was there very often. There was a big bust up with her father and it led to her being taken out of school. This was the very school featured in our tortuous journey to get her transfer certificate (TC), to get a PAN (tax) card to get a passport as the TC was the only evidence she had of her birthdate. check here

There are so many things to unpick here: starting work from a very early age, her mother abandoning her and then returning ( a pattern she repeats to this day), relations with her various ‘step-parents’ (their favouritism and neglect) and the fluid marital relationships in some communities in India, the multiple jobs to earn a crust, life as a maid travelling across India to work with an unknown family in a completely alien city or even travelling internationally into what can be quite stark and challenging circumstances (more of that one later). Which seems to be a pretty standard thing for ‘children’ from poor families..

One of the obvious observations is that its a pretty hard life if you’re poor in India (and no doubt elsewhere). Here in India, have been incredibly stoic, dealing well with life’s paradoxes, whilst necessarily being resilient, adaptable and creative. It’s one of the first things we notice as first time visitors and as we get to know the country and it’s people better, we notice how wonderful they are and how mean some can be.

Maid in India 6

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So, its probably 2010, Manjula the maid is now working for me at Moksha Marga. She’s an experenced Maid working for Indian families but what is her view of foreigners?

this quote is taken from a series of recordings made by Manjula in her own language and details an incident from before she met me and started working here….

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” I lived at my brother’s place. Once my brother’s wife and I were out to purchase something from a shop, it’s a small village, it comes after Hassan, it’s called Salgami. On our way back home we saw two foreigners, a couple, they were cycling. My brother’s wife said in astonishment, “Look how these English people are cycling in our village. I think they like to see villages.” She continued, “If you work at an English person’s house you will earn well enough, they’ll offer you good food, nice and rich food. Imagine, if I was not married, I would have worked at an English person’s house. I would have eaten the same food as they did, I would be happy and jolly. “
I said, “Ayyayappa! English person’s house? A big NO to their house. They eat insects, they eat all kinds of meat, they eat cow’s meat, pig’s meat and what not! And a few also eat insects.” I said this as I had watched in television; in a few shows which showed them eating many creatures “

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these are previous guests Simon and Fiona and we’re reliably informed that they don’t eat insects in Cheshire.

She said, “It’s not necessary that everyone eats. The ones who eat will eat and there are the ones who don’t eat at all. “
Later we reached home.

After 6 months, I came to Mysore. Look what happened with me? The same thing what my brother’s wife had said, I got a job at an Englishman’s house. I remember Stephen had asked for a maid for this house, a girl or an old lady. I was lucky to find his house and he was lucky to find me.
I was wondered thinking about all kinds of meat I might have to cook. Later I heard it from Vasanth that Stephen was looking for only vegetarian food to be cooked. “Thank God!” I was relieved.
I eat chicken, mutton and fish. I can cook them all but if it was any other meat I wouldn’t have touched it. I would have reluctantly said “NO” to cook any other meat.

Farrell Footnote

Vasanth with his trusty auto rickshaw (not its not a tuk tuk!) provides a great ‘Fare’s Fare’ service to our guests. I met him hustling for a fare when I arrived in Mysore on my very first trip after a few days in Bangalore. He’s become a great friend and an invaluable source of help and support.

Maid in India 5 plus one

img_0170we’ve had requests to provide a bit more of an explanation.

So this was over seven years ago, maybe a few months after she’d started at ‘Moksha Manor’. good old enlightenment street!  She came every day for two hours, had to make lunch and a range of other jobs for the princely sum of 1000 Rupees per month. In theory with one days holiday each week.

Starting from the top left and working clockwise in a sort of spiral. Some jobs were daily, weekly or monthly…

floor sweeping, sink cleaning,  pooja, dusting pictures, cooking, cleaning work surfaces, tables, f (special one this, looking after her skin. she was having a reaction to something, it worked out to be the sun, after a few false trails), watering flowers, cleaning toilets (yes cleaning toilets, more on that one later), being friendly to the dog, teaching me Kannada (big failure there, on my part, obviously) feeding the dog when I’m not there and bathing her, washing clothes, daily time keeping, cleaning the grills (anti crime and Monkeys) at the windows, floor cleaning, dusting and washing shelving in ‘hall’, cleaning bathroom.  Clearly this was also supposed to be fun! and there were a few other more complicated concepts such as trust 😉 believe it or not and it did take the involvement of a few friends but we even managed to discuss egalitarianism (using different words, obviously) so what had she let herself in for?

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Well it’s pretty obvious it wasn’t a deal breaker. Not only did Manjula start working for me, that was almost eight years ago, she’s now taken over in more ways than one!

So what was the problem?

There was no electric mixer!

I can assure you one was bought the very next day. It’s done sterling service ever since.

The panic was actually created by the traditional method of grinding…..

Which just wouldn’t do. Manjula, as I was to find out is a very modern miss.

So, what next?

Explaining the job.