Monday, July 17, 2017

Domestic help in India

A new book raises uncomfortable questions. This is the right time to read ‘Maid in India’, which exposes the ugly truths lurking in our homes I read the book. It is mostly about Delhi area. To begin with, it discusses some of the domestic help involves and the author visits their areas of origin from Jharkhand to Bengal, Orissa and the conditions that drove them to work in a far away place. Then there are more detailed stories of agents for domestic help, some of the organizations involved in the welfare of the people, court cases etc. some of the stories are involved and ongoing. As far as I can see, most of the reviews do not do justice to the book. A first book by the author, it is not perfect. There is a bias towards the workers but the author seemed aware of her privileges and often comparing the ratio of her earning to those of her domestic help and how the ratio is changing. Some of the later stories of cruelty, and a case where the domestic help chooses to stay with her cheating employers rather than go back home are very moving:
"‘So you’re just going to keep staying here?’ ‘Yes,’ she says. I ask that most Indian of questions: what about meeting someone and getting married? Starting your own life? ‘What for?’ she responds, with the most feeling she has shown so far. ‘I’m not interested.’ Then she vanishes to another part of the house."
This is perhaps one of the less painful ones. Some of these are possibly worth books of their own. The above review links to two such stories. There are also some 'success stories'.
How long it will Take India to move to more systematic domestic services is not clear. Moreover, the book is mostly about Delhi where there is lot of money and is the seat of central government with various power plays, which is different from other parts of India. There are also youtube interviews with the author Tripti Lahiri. Here is one:
There are also reactions like this:
"The real story, however, is not about the maudlin ‘Maid in India’ narrative being peddled by Left-liberal activists, some of them masquerading as journalists, in English language publications far and wide -— as far as The Washington Post, whose readers would not know Noida from Khirkee Extension.  Hating those who have worked hard to live a better life is fashionable and politically correct." from

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