If there is one thing all we women, the ones who work out of their homes, from their homes or for their homes, can all concur without any dissension - not many of those darlings around though - on, is the fact that “diamonds are not our best friends” it is the…didis, auntys, ammas, bais, call them what you may, who are without a doubt in my mind, our unrivalled friends, our anmol ratans.
Their contribution to our lives goes unnoticed by most of us though in our hearts we know how much they mean to us. Life without these support systems can never be the same. They give so much of themselves to our families, our homes, treating us like their own families, sometimes at the cost of their own family, that they become a part of our daily lives without us realising it.
For some they are just servants who are hired to do menial tasks at home, tasks which are too demeaning and degrading to even think about doing by themselves; for some they are helpers who are employed to share their daily burdens while for some they are family members who have become integral parts of their households.
I have indeed been very fortunate to have some of the best gems work for our home and their contribution to making our house a home cannot ever be denied. As a newlywed I got to learn the basics from Mary and Babli. As a new mother, Shanta bai was the one who helped me bring up my first and second born sons when I was struggling with my inner demons and new found motherhood, or Rani and Rekha who make our home lively and comfortable now.
However, here many of you will say that all homemakers are not so lucky and there are also those who do not feel the need to recognise their efforts or see them as more than “servants” and “maids”. I do agree that not all our domestic helpers fall into the category of hard working and are not “giving it all they have” types; rather, some of them can be quite a handful, testing our nerves and making us fraught with worries doing just the opposite of what we hired them to do.
Baby Haldar, whose best-selling memoir, “A Life Less Ordinary,” was published in 2002, says, “Some people understand that we are looking after the most precious things in their lives — their homes, their children, their parents, their mental peace is in our hands.”
Once we have understood that, our search for the perfect maid will end right there. That I believe is what we need to recognise and remember. Like Baby Haldar says, “it starts with respect”.
A salute to all my anmol ratans.