Hardly a Maiden

She’s 16 years old – on paper. Doesn’t look more than 14. She reeks of sweat and whatnot. Always ready with gossip. Was elated that her girlfriend’s boyfriend lost a hand in a work-incident; was giggling the entire time she was relating the tale. [ Some friend. ] She didn’t know how to cook so I taught her some and now she can cook a decent enough stew or two. Her mother is in the same trade. Cooking, cleaning, washing.

She is my maid. Her name is Bharti. And she is representative of Bharat’s rural women. In my eyes atleast. Uneducated. Overworked. Underpaid.
This one’s a little different though – she works at only two homes in the entire colony – a deviation from the others who work at atleast six homes.

She has some quirks but overall she’s no different from the other maids I’ve had over the years. I prefer doing my own housework but other demands always take over and I am unable to handle the stress. So I hire someone to help me out.

She languidly stares at walls while pretending to broom the floors. Same with when she has the mop in her hand. She stares out the window while washing the utensils. She sighs and rubs at her eyes while chopping vegetables. Once in a while she will ask me for a glass of cold refrigerated water. She refuses to touch the shitpot – “No, we don’t clean those.” I asked her why that was so. “Only jamadars do that, it’s a dirty job, we will become unclean.” I said, “So since I clean my own shitpots, that makes me unclean and a jamadar as well? And you take money from the hands of a jamadar! So you’re already unclean.” Of course, she didn’t get it. Expecting even an iota of intelligence was my fault.

While she does the housework, I am on the phone answering calls, working on the desktop and generally not paying her much attention – if I spent time literally standing on her head, why hire her in the first place? I’d much rather hope for the best and pretend that she does a passable job. Which she does. A passable job.

On any average day, she takes 30 minutes in total to sweep and mop the house, do the dusting, clean the two bathrooms and wash the utensils. The day I stand with her and get things done, it takes her 90 minutes to do the same. I told her to take 1/3rd the pay on those average days and the full pay on the one day I stand with her. Panic. “But that’s not how it works!” So I try my tack of logic again. And fail. She just stares at me dumbly. But if I don’t give her the shock treatment every once in a while, the 30 minutes will turn into 20.

I have to match wits with a witless 14 year old maid who would rather be having a roll in the sack with her best friend’s boyfriend.
I live in exciting times.