Dear House helps of Bombay

It is often said that the suburban railways are the life line of the city of Bombay. I dont think thats true. From my understanding, its the househelps or rather known as maids or bais who are the lifeline of Bombay. Talk to any person in Bombay, top  of their list for cribbing (after the rising prices of food and rick fares and housing) will be the lack of a good  househelp.

Yep, ladies and in some cases even gentlemen, you are in demand, so much in demand that I doubt you are asking for enough remuneration.

You are like an addiction without which its difficult to survive in Bombay. Whether its a working mother, a stay at home mother, a still-to-get-married-but-in-Bombay-to-work guy, I-live-with-my-parents-fellow, who ever, all of us need you.

And I think you people do a commendable job.

To be honest, my track record with househelps in Bombay has been pathetic. the main reason being the timings. One of your comrade works at my house now a days, and  honestly the lesser said about her, better. I promise, I treat her with respect and I dont give her any instructions, in other words, I dont sit on her head, but she leaves much to be desired. But hey, I am not judging anyone based on her.

I really admire most of you who manage the work front and the house front with such ease. I write this most mainly to the female househelp since they occupy a major chuck of the househelp pie.

I mean, imagine getting up at 4 in the morning, standing in line to fill water, do the household jobs, make breakfast and lunch for the husband, ensure the kids get ready to school, in many cases, ensure the in laws are taken care of…and start work, in some cases even at 6 in the morning. Ringing the bell of the house you want to start work, and the person who opens the door invariably has been woken from sleep. you know you are being cursed in the heart by the person whose house you are going to work for waking him/her up, but what can you do. They only told you to come at that time na.

Efficiently, cleaning the vessels, while simultaneously soaking the clothes for washing. While the vessels dry a bit, you do the sweeping and swapping, finishing off with the clothes and in some cases, drying the clothes, as well as removing the dried ones and folding them and keeping inside.

Then again, you may do additional odd jobs like dusting the furniture once in a while.

And for you do this same thing, at least in 7 to 10 different houses. You ladies rock. If I did something so physically exhausting, I would have been dead honestly!. I guess, all of us who spend 1000s on gyms and personal trainers should just start doing household jobs in 5 houses. We will definitely not need anything else to be fit! and most of you are impeccably clean and neat, with your sarees/salwars washed and dried, hair in place (sometimes with a gajra hanging), bangles in hand….

Midst this, some of you take out time to get back home to check on the children’s lunch, come back and start again. Do it till the evening, go back home, again cook, get stuff ready for the next day and back to square one.

Many of you may have husbands who dont contribute a bit – neither to the finance of the house nor to the house work. They may sometimes be drunkards, sometimes they may abuse you physically or mentally or hurt your children, taking away all your savings. Yet, most of you, just live your lives that ways. Day in and day out, doing back breaking work, living in hope that your children will go to school and become something better. I must admit, I am at awe at your positive attitude.

You dont even get weekly offs like we do at work. You have to come in day in and day out. You need to inform in advance for your leaves and sometimes, even those may be granted only after a lot of grumbling.

There are some of you who do take advantage, but most of you are just hard working women who are doing the best of their ability to lead a good life yourself or give the best you can to your children.

I salute you.

One of those working women in Bombay who thinks you are rockstars.


PS – A few househelps I would love to mention from the blog world, I admire.

My Amma’s house helps at Baroda – G ben from the old house and C ben from the new house (well both houses are not ours anymore, but still…)
My Amma’s househelp at Goa.
Suranga’s S (She is a total inspiration)
Sandhya’s househelp (She is of course in Bangalore)


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44 Responses to Dear House helps of Bombay

  1. Mathangi Vijay says:

    Agree with you on most parts RM. Yes, I totally agree that with the kind of physical work they do and the timings without any off day, it is indeed a tremendous job! And the maids I have seen mostly have drunkards for husbands who not only dont contribute to the house but also use up a sizeable amount of the hard-earned money on drinking. I have seen such maids working with dignity and getting their children to study / marry them off! Yes I have had bitter experiences where they have fought unnecessarily when they decide to quit but then none can be perfect right!
    On a different note, Appa told me that they have received the T-Shirt you sent across. I am yet to see it, will do so in the next skype session I have with them. They are coming to Singapore in Jan, so they’ll bring it here at that time 🙂 Thanks so much RM!!

  2. Loved this post!!!! I could add the names of some of my helps in Pune, Bombay, Delhi, Gurgaon… some for endurance and some for standing up for themselves.

  3. Househelps are a great help, I agree. I can’t imagine how miserable my life would be if I didn’t have a househelp. Mine is not great, but not too bad either. She has her moments of compassion when I feel lucky to have her. Sometimes, she gets on my nerves with her carelessness, but overall, she is OK. She leads a hard, hard, hard life, which she has told me about many times, so I let her be and don’t meddle too much in her work, unless absolutely required.

    Lovely post, RM! 🙂

  4. Sujatha says:

    awww.. u get so good house helps in Bombay ?? Im so J of u… In Chennai its so difficult to get such house helps..

  5. So true. Our housemaids lead such hard lives, yet most of them appear to be cheerful and optimistic about the future. I honestly don’t know how they manage it. What I do know is that they make our lives so, so much easier. I have generally had good luck with my maids wherever I have lived, and I have found myself becoming emotionally attached to many of them. God bless all of them!

  6. Jazz says:

    Me and my husband have never hired household yet but I have seen many experiences with my Mom. There was an old lady and her DIL who used to share works. The MIL used to be so fun loving, had a sweet smiling face always. But they left abruptly, did not return to collect dues too. Then there was a lady Padma who stayed for a long time and was such a nice timepass, we used to tease her broken hindi and she used to be such a sport, always smiling. Next was someone I don’t remember her name but she used to be so determined to get her kids good education, no faltu ka gossip and all, was inspiring. Now mom has got someone from our native village, she stays with them.

    Just remembering our household helps through your post. 🙂

  7. Sreetama says:

    They are definitely our pillars of strength! At least for me & my family.

  8. Ashwathy says:

    I love this post! 🙂 Totally and completely!

    I have been fortunately lucky in my quest for bais so far. Have one for cleaning and one for cooking. Got new ones here after I shifted as well. Touchwood!!

    Their stories are totally awe-inspiring. They deserve nothing less than a standing ovation. Will tell you all about them when we meet 🙂 Too much to type here.

  9. ashreyamom says:

    i know the days when i have cried as the house-help has taken leave.. i feel so helpless without them.. life moves so quickly with them around na..
    but yes i know the once who steal things, the onces who are always on leave every third day etc etc..

  10. Now this really makes me sad RM.. I need a house help here.. someone who cleans my house, do the dusting & dishes, do my laundry, helps me in cooking and also chats with me about the outside world 🙂
    uff..why is house help not available here 😦 I want some “Ben” here as well 😦
    BTW beautiful post, house helps are really important & they do a commendable job..

  11. I love the lady my mum has…she’s really good and so helpful. Initially it was only for sweeping and mopping but since mum’s bypass surgery, she also does the dishes and cleans the bathrooms and helps out that way. My evil grandma used to bitch about mum to her and she eventually told my grandma that it’s not nice and also told my mum how she was concerned that grandma was bitching about her to others. She’s very helpful and still converses with me when I visit. Bless her.

    Also, maids are one the positives about living in India. When you are overseas…you do all the cleaning and everything. Whether you work or not.

  12. Kavitha says:

    Must admit about their hard work. When I had my baby and moved on to another house, our new house maid also had infant (few months older than mine). When I compare the work she was doing with mine, i was searching for a place to bury my face. You are right about the gym thing 🙂

    • R's Mom says:

      wow, she must be a rock star..arey I dont think you can compare her situation to yours…its just a matter of having to work..if we had to do it, guess we would have na!

  13. hmmm well I have the same thoughts but not just for the house helps as in ladies but all those who help, our farm helps who shed as much sweat as we did , probably more than us…
    Those scorching summers , when the sun was at its brutal, having a sickle to harvest the crop.. nowadays its easy we have machines..

    If the farm helps would not be there most of the crop would go waste ..

    then the house helps in village they did everything, in cities again its easy but the same cant be said about villages .. and that too inspite of being treated as lower caste..
    I remember one such lady use to make sure that when i crossed her house she would always call me in and give me a JUG full of milk to drink.. I know my granparents wud tell me off for going inside their house and probably shout at her too.. But she would do it and I was naughty too I would make sure she seems me when i crossed the house ..

    brought some old old memories here .. one of the farm help household had a camel, no one was allowed to ride it , Except me .. oh the look on my cousins faces …


    • R's Mom says:

      Awww! glad you have such lovely memories with you..

      Honestly, I cant relate to farm helps since I have always been in cities, but I can so so understand what you are talking about..they are really great people

  14. Nachu says:

    My house-help is a Nepalese lady and she isn’t good at work and I don’t give her instructions or complain about the work to her. But she is quite reliable and even when I have been utterly careless. Kudos to her for that. And I admire her for her energy and hard work.. She starts at 6 and works until evening with just break for food. And you kno what, she works in another apartment complex which is just behind ours with the entrance on a different parallel road and she doesn’t spend the time walking all the way, but just climbs the wall and jumps to the other side! (There is a drum on this side of wall and some similar stuff on the other side making it easier for her).

  15. meenamenon says:

    Why only in mumbai. WIth no qualms they are lifeline atleast across all cities in India! Its such a nice posts tht u do… acknowledgingf peop who go unnoticed!

  16. Smita says:

    Hmmmmm Maids…I can write a thesis on them. In fact been thinking of writing down on my current one….one day!!!

    The points that you have pulled out are valid and they do make me thank them BUT, yes there is a but. One thing is sure that most of them also misuse their position and I have examples where trusted maids of 20 years have given dhokha. But then those are the stories for some other day. For now lemme join u inthanking them…because without them I can not live 🙂

  17. anisnest says:

    cant agree more RM.. I have always admired them.. Shanthi akka who was amma’s helper when I was a spinster is my favorite.. salute to you too RM.. take care

  18. My Era says:

    Having lived in a hostel and then abroad both for many years, I had somehow developed my skills at doing all the household chores with work really well. But once I got back to India, slowly and gradually I too have become dependent on household helps that do make our lives much so easier.
    A wonderful post that echoes our thoughts for the housemaids across the country 😀 😀

  19. Good post as usual..They ladies rock!!! My husband thinks I will be better in that role with my passion to do such tasks 🙂

  20. sandhya says:

    How did I miss this post? I can only blame it on the holiday atmosphere here with A on her dussera vacation and my preoccupation with CROCUS.

    Thanks for linking to my blogpost. I have imbibed my attitude to househelps from my mother, who has the same househelp for the past 30 years now. This lady has seen us as school children, and has bathed and helped with our kids when they were born, too- my daughter and my nephews and niece- the maalish and bath routine for babies. She asks after me regularly, and even speaks to me on phone with the concern of a close relative.

    As for my house-helps, I have changed them only if I change houses or they do. Yes, they rock, and one cannot do without them. My house-help even gently chides me to pay attention if I am reading/on the comp if there is something on the gas when she leaves.:)

    • R's Mom says:

      A has dusshera awesome is that!

      I loved what you wrote about your househelp earlier as well..and of course we did discuss about your Ma’s househelpf as well na 🙂

  21. My family and I haven’t liven in India for a while, but when we did live there, we had really great house help, who still continue to work for my grandparents. They are so amazing! They’ve been there since I was a kid, and are so excited to see us when we go back. I admit, there have been problems with them at times, but overall, I would say we were very lucky.

    I’ve come to appreciate them so much more since leaving outside of India, where my mom has to do everything herself. We help, but its not nearly enough. I realized how much work needs to be done the first time my mom went to India by herself, and we had to manage the house. We were all so exhausted at the end of the day. We begged her not to ever go anywhere when she returned. 🙂

    I have no idea how or if I will be able to manage when I have to live by myself.

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