Citizens of other nations often read up about India on Wikipedia, Travel Guides, Lonely Planet and whatever other sources that offer information about India. The supply of information is humungous in today’s digital world.
But no repository can provide you with the following information, which can only be provided by someone from within, the one who has first-hand experience of having lived there.
Who is the most important person in an Indian family?
Not the grandfather; not the great grandmother; surely not the parents; not any of the uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews; certainly not the kids.
It is the maid.
She is omnipresent and omnipotent.
Contrary to what people may think, the household revolves around her and not the other way about.
A clear case of the tail wagging the dog!
The mother rushes to finish her cooking, constantly looking at the clock, with panic overtaking her composure, while the minute hand travels inexorably to the destined hour.
The dishes will not be washed if they arrive at the sink after the appointed hour. No amount of cajoling, appealing, emotional blackmailing will ever work.
The coffee has to be ready at the right temperature and of the correct consistency and quantity and served in her favorite piece of chinaware.
The furniture that can be moved, and are often moved around, to accommodate a visitor or previous night’s game of cricket, would better to be relocated to their original position.
The maid is not expected to manipulate her ways around minefields of repositioned furniture. Her cleaning routine is as precise as a programmed laser cutting device that follows a pattern to the tune of a nanometer.
The washing cycle should end precisely halfway through her allotted hour. Else you better manage the clothes to the clothesline.
The mopping of the house is a weekly affair. Not convertible to 4 times a month! Weekly as in once in 7 days. Usually on the agreed day at the time of entering into a contract. If you want an out of the schedule mopping of the household, maybe you had a party the previous night, better do it yourself. It is not the maid’s fault that you could not arrange to have your child’s birthday on the eve of her weekly mopping date.
For some strange reasons, not yet fully deciphered, the maid is liked by everyone in the house other than the mother.
The children obediently vacate their positions when she comes sweeping. She is no-nonsense personified. The mother, on the other hand, can never dislodge them from their positions.
Her absence, even for a day, throws the whole household into sheer pandemonium.
And they leave at the drop of a hat. You never know what might upset them. Their profession is that where there is always a demand-supply gap. And their union (and unity) is pretty strong.
You can’t afford to displease one of them with your arrogance or high-handedness. Do that and you may be cursed with a spell deadlier than “Avada kedavra” or “Crucio” – the strong sorority of the maids banish you, for life.
You can’t hire another maid as your “reputation” would spread. No one would work for you. There have been instances in recorded history of families leaving the city and move to another for such rash acts.
And for reasons unknown the profession is entirely run by women. Another well-known profession runs only by women, no, not that you pervert, that of the nurse is also populated with men but the “maid” belongs only to women.
I can hear my wife shouting “Close the blasted laptop and go for your shower! SHE will be here any minute now!!!!"