She had collected 10.000/- rupees to shift her kids to a private school. It seemed to mean a lot to her; she had grinned and announced she would borrow the rest from the two families she worked for. We had decided to write a cheque for the school.
But soon she started looking hollow cheeked. There’s nothing you can do about these things. Her mother in law had come to stay with them for the dry season; she must be giving her a hard time.
Last week, she needed a letter from us saying she worked for us – what time, how long etc. to prove she was working as a domestic helper, not as a prostitute.
My other maid, her neighbour, said her family has thrown her out. And the police will only help if she gets some proof of her innocence. It all started when her husband lost their savings (Rs 10,000/- ) while playing cards. She quarreled. Her mother in law and husband beat her, threw her out and warned her they will hang her if she dares to step in again. Her mother in law declared that she was a sex worker.
The neighbours tried to talk to the mother in law, they even warned that this could get them sent to jail, but she said she’d also like to see who sends her to jail.
Now we know about the Domestic Violence Act? I thought her husband and mother in law need a day in police custody to learn a lesson, but the other family she works for insists otherwise.
The eighty year old gentlemen called me, asking if I’d support her if she hired a kholi (room) and learnt that she can live on her own.
His logic. Even if the police does lock them up for a day or two (the police does not seem interested in doing any such thing, my other maid suspects they have paid some ‘fine’), she will have to live in that same house with the same people. They don’t value or respect her at all.
He said the best thing for her would be if she learnt that she can manage on her own. And her mother in law should see that too. I was very doubtful. I was sure she would never agree. So he suggested we give her paid leave for two months and let her go to her village. This she refused, because she is worried they will stop sending the two older kids (girls) to school if her mother in law finds it difficult to manage house work. They have no regular source of income without her. Her husband is an alcoholic, a gambler and does only odd jobs whenever he is hired.
So another maid helped her rent a room. We got her the basics – stove, two cups, a glass, a plate, a tawa, two sheets, a curtain, a bucket, some grocery…
Now, her mother in law has agreed to let her come back, but she is determined to stay on her own for a month or two.
Now when she cooks, she offers to try elaborate recipes, she demands I order the ingredients she needs. I don’t like her innovations at all. I want her to finish her work, make simple, daily meals and leave. She looks teary eyed and says she has nothing to go home to.
How’s this hell going to end?