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Service In Singapore

Service In Singapore

May 02, 2011

My experiences with housemaids from India to Indonesia.

Ever tried climbing the Himalayas? Hmmm….I thought so. Why? Because it ain’t easy…duh!

Getting a maid in India is a lot more difficult than scaling the Himalayas. Getting a trustworthy and hardworking maid these days - virtually impossible. Assuming you do get this virtually extinct specimen of a hardworking maid, keeping her is something based on a mixture of luck and bribes. Mainly luck though.

I have seen my mother go through dozens of daily helpers
. The clean ones, the abominably dirty ones and the ones who were ‘keepers’ but who couldn’t stay for long. So you see maid-hunting is a lot like ‘mate-hunting’. You go through life looking for the Right One, and if you’re lucky you find them.

When we went about the risky business of employing our own full-time Indonesian maid in Singapore, I became the personification of pessimism. I engulfed myself in a masochistic mind-game convincing myself that the worst of the worst would enter my home and hearth.

But life has it surprises and boy was I wrong!

My maid arrived a year ago, her head bowed low with an air of submission about her. The moment she entered our house the first time, she hurried into the kitchen and started washing up a solitary spoon that had escaped the post-breakfast dish-washing. At this stage, I was a bit shocked but also suspicious. Such dedication? Surely not in the 21st century.

I was half-expecting those Candid Camera folks to jump from behind the curtains and say it’s all a big joke. “Haha...You didn’t really expect a maid like that did you?”

She is a fast learner and adapted to the ways of our home soon enough. I am filled with wonder and gratitude as she laboriously slaves over the bathroom tiles twice a week. And that too on her knees with a sturdy brush. Not a cursory flick of the broom over the tiles like the desi maids. Even behind the toilet bowl, for crying out loud.

I bite my lips to stop myself from crying tears of joy as she moves the sofas and attacks weeks of dust and hair balls underneath. My Mom’s maid in India had been very specific about this. Cleaning only applicable to unfurnished areas of the house. Which when living in over-the-top, never minimalistic and Godrej-almirah loving Kerala means about ¼ of your actual house floor space.

These days, I do enjoy the role of the well-rested employer tremendously
. Though I did put a stop at her fetching my shoes for me and (gasp!) trying to put it on for me like those shoe salesmen.

We do have a bit of a language problem between us. She knows Indonesian and ‘conversational ’English, and I speak English at the speed of a bullet train, emphasising useless words, making myself sound idiotic. So I gestured wildly with my hands instead telling her that I can put my shoes on myself and she looked practically disappointed at this 'lost chance of service'.

We had a maid back at India
who demanded different kinds of fried fish every day. She said she had a tendency to vomit if she had to stomach the same kind of fish 2 days in a row. My mother gritted her teeth and agreed, her knuckles white from holding the kitchen scissor too tightly. I practically fainted on the kitchen floor. It was either that or leaving a footprint of my size 7 shoes on the maid’s ample rear.

So, you can imagine my bewilderment when my own maid never chooses her dish when we eat out. I have tried telling her all the items of the menu cost pretty much the same, but she still shakes her head and leaves the decision to me.

She has been with us a year now. The bed sheets and towels are still folded into perfect squares and stacked in the cupboards. But she is not tugging her forelock and “M’lord”-ing me about the house anymore. We have reached a more companionable relationship these days.

Oh there are the occasional tiffs and white lies from her end. But I have no right to complain do I? I have seen the worst of the worst back home. I am just counting my blessings and resting my back these days. On freshly laundered and ironed sheets, mind you. 


  • Lucky
    28.09.11 09:07 PM
    Wow! Can't believe such maids exist in this age!!! You lucky gal!!! :)
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    19.05.11 09:20 PM
    "Cleaning only applicable to unfurnished areas of the house. Which when living in over-the-top, never minimalistic and Godrej-almirah loving Kerala means about ¼ of your actual house floor space."

    yes! wonderful!
  • tys
    04.05.11 02:40 PM
    we need to find out if your maid has any siblings who can come work for us. I really wudnt mind having someone removing shoes...been training my kids to do that with very poor success...

    having had a string of them come and go in my household, I have come to a conclusion, which sadly noone in my household cares about, that like ur reader Neelanjana spoke about, its the whole concept of having a total stranger staying in your house that makes this domestic worker thingy complicated.

    I personally could never get used to that. Perhaps its becoz it interfers with my penchant for walking arnd the house in my boxers surprising my wife with imprompto performances of the lambada....and ofcourse theres also that incident when we had come home to find some other stranger along with the employed stranger..its kinda awkward.

    so now we have a parttime maid, who comes in the morning, watches tv all day and then leaves in the evening, after a customery sweeping of the floor, since wife believes that its criminal to make the maid work...i guess thats what she married me for..

    loved ur post.

    i think that maid who wanted fried fish worked for us too...just enquire on the saar with the boxers.
  • Nisha
    02.05.11 11:14 PM
    Wonderful rendering and absolutely a 'ghar ghar ki kahaani' in India. I always appreciate the tolerance power of my mom in accommodating some most disagreeable people. But when I started aaya hunt to look after my son, it proved to be much more difficult as it required special skills too. I had tried 5 aayas in 2 months and finally decided to quit my own job rather than trying to find yet another one.
  • Neelanjana
    02.05.11 07:16 PM
    As an NRI living in India for the first time, one of the biggest things that I feel that separates me from those born here is the way one is supposed to think about or treat domestic workers. It is such a complicated situation to bring someone into your home, sometimes even to live, ... but to care most or only about them "being hardworking"... I guess this was supposed to be just a humor piece, and not about your actual relationships with these women, but I've found the most complicated thing about having domestic workers is all about the intricacies of the daily relationship -- balancing how I think about this human being in my house working for me -- instead of the work being done, but I am very lucky to have a wonderful, loving woman in my home, so maybe I am just the wrong audience for this piece.
  • Maria
    02.05.11 05:43 PM
    @Ajit, Anita: I think a post on maid-woes (particularly desi maids) are going to definitely guarantee a lot of sympathy and support from fellow maid-hunters. Share your maid tales all! ;)
  • Anita
    02.05.11 03:13 PM
    I loved the write up :)
  • Ajit
    02.05.11 11:31 AM
    I like the line "footprint of my size 7 shoes on the maid’s ample rear". hahaha...

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