Thursday, September 27, 2007

Trolls and trouble

One fine day, I woke up and decided that I would open my blog to a wider commenting population. Thus far, the privilege to comment was limited to those with Blogger log-ins. I just liked it that way because the incompleteness of a comment without a name attached to it bothered me.

But then, I thought it would be interesting to get more diverse points of view. Also, the voices of real life friends and family who do happen to read my blog, regularly and irregularly, never get heard because most of them are either too lazy to get themselves a Blogger login or incapable of keeping it going.

I have been blogging for over a year and a half now and I have never got a single comment that was less than polite and supportive, even when the commenter was disagreeing with what I had written. I knew there were trolls out there, unleashing their random bitterness on some of the bloggers I read but given my experience, I misguidedly thought that I would be spared from that. I even thought the post that I was opening up to these comments was a fairly innocuous one, unlikely to get passions high and nasty – how can a post about my maids do that, I naively thought. Hah! Could I have been more mistaken? In a nutshell, I have been accused of being an employer of child labour, user of archaic, demeaning words like ‘maid’, author of a bourgeois account of my servant management skills and overall a shameless inhuman. I kid you not, read the comments if you don’t believe me.

My first reaction was to laugh at them – these silly, rude people, who knew nothing about my life and circumstances coming by only to hurl ridiculous accusations at me – but then as I lived with these comments in my head for the last one week, something about them bothered me. I felt that these people were coming in from some completely different universe and trying to judge me, my choices and my words based on benchmarks that are completely irrelevant in my world. So, this doesn’t come from a need to defend myself (for what?) but an attempt to provide a context to my choices, with respect to my maids.

Here are some of the broad themes that people expressed their disagreements on and my take on each of them:

Cultural differences

I think a couple of people politely put it down to cultural differences. I agree there are differences, not all of them cultural and here’s why I think having domestic help is a much more common phenomenon here in India:

  • I think the biggest reason is that in India, maids are available and affordable. Maybe the idea seems so alien to Westerners because it is not even a possibility in their world.
  • Most of us have grown up either in joint families or with live-in help and are much less protective of our personal space and privacy.
  • Keeping a house in running order is much tougher here. India is a pretty dusty country and we don’t have sealed houses with central cooling/ heating and a thorough daily cleaning is required to keep the house liveable and hygienic rather than the fortnightly cleaning that is adequate in the West.
  • Working life can be harder in India, especially for working mothers. Our concept of work-life balance is still not very evolved and working hours can often be undisciplined. With this as a background, it becomes that much tougher to run a house single-handedly, while holding down a full-time job.
  • Indian men are not as helpful around the house as their Western counterparts and most of the responsibility falls on the already over-loaded shoulders of the wife and mother. Combine this with the previous point about working hours and it’s a nearly impossible task to manage without maids.
  • I have not come across too many good day care options. Also, I personally prefer that my son is cared for in a loving, consistent way by familiar people in the comfort of my own home rather than some institutionalised setting of a day care, especially since I can afford it. And I think most Indian mothers feel that way.

Edit: Dotmom disagrees and makes some excellent points on how it is just as hard in the U.S. I agree with most of what she says - life as a working mom is not easy anywhere, esecially without help.

Accusations on using child labour

Some of the anonymous commenters accuse me of using child labour. Here are some things these people should know before they throw around such accusations:

  • The law in India puts the age for child labour to be under fourteen. I live in India and Jamuna is way above 14 years of age so I am not breaking any laws.
  • You may wonder why I am being so vague about revealing Jamuna’s actual age. Here’s the thing, I don’t know. She is definitely looks over 16, might even be 18 but nobody knows – neither she nor her family know her date of birth or even remember the year she was born, which might give you some insight into what kind of life she has had back in her village.
  • It’s all very well to climb onto a high horse and say that a person below 18 years should not be employed as a maid. But let me paint you a picture of what her life in the village would be – she would have to wake up at the crack of dawn and her days would be full of backbreaking, hard work including tending to the cattle, helping her mother in the kitchen and fetching water from the village well. As a girl child, her nutrition is not a priority and seeing her as a burden, her parents would seek the first opportunity to marry her off. Now compare that to her life in my home: her workload consists of playing with Ayaan, keeping the house clean and washing the few clothes that don’t get dumped in the washing machine; she gets to sleep for nine hours in the night and also gets the chance to grab an afternoon nap on most days; she gets wholesome, nutritious food; she is getting a little slice of her childhood back when she plays with Ayaan – she enjoys his toys and games as much as he does….and most importantly, since we take care of all her needs and pay her a salary, her parents are in no tearing hurry to marry her off. Will someone please tell me what is so inhuman about this situation?
  • Someone mentioned that I should be taking care of her education. That was what I had in mind initially but it didn’t work out. To start with, she has not attended a single day of school in her entire life and has not even been taught simple things like how to tell the time. Secondly, I have been unable to find any institution that offers adult education in my area – if someone has any information on this, please let me know. Thirdly, she is likely to be with me for just a couple of years before her parents marry her off – in that short a time-frame, there is not much that she can learn but Shashikala has been teaching her the Hindi alphabet and she atleast knows how to write her name.

Political incorrectness

It seemed to bother quite a few people that I use, according to them, archaic and derogatory terms like ‘maid’ and ‘nanny’. In my humble opinion, political correctness for the sake of it is just silly and a waste of everyone’s time and breath. I know of a company where the receptionist has a visiting card that says ‘First Impressions Manager’ – not only is it ridiculous and changes nothing of the nature of her job, the person at the receiving end of the title found it pretty embarrassing too!

Would it make any difference to anyone except these self-appointed governors of political correctness if I called them ‘child care service providers’ or ‘personnel in-charge of underage homo-sapiens’ (thanks for those witty options, Anita)? The only thing that should matter is whether the person herself/ himself is offended and I can assure you that my maids have absolutely no problem or negative associations with the abovementioned words. There are words like ‘bai’ and naukrani’ from Hindi that some of them do find a little demeaning, but I don’t use words like that… what is rude, offensive or archaic is somewhat culture specific, isn’t it?

Not trusting other working moms

It was pointed out that I was being a bit of a fraud by not considering women with small children for the job, given that I am working mom with a young child myself, expecting to be treated as equally as my male or child-free colleagues. I completely agree with this logical and polite commenter that I am being unfair but whether we like it or not, life is still not very fair for working mothers, no matter what their socio-economic circumstances.

Even in the most professional and evolved of organisations, you do lose some of your value and employability once you have a kid. Ability and commitment being equal, most bosses would still prefer a man or a woman without kids – and at some level, I accept that. Ever since Ayaan was born, he always comes first for me and that puts me at a disadvantage with people who are willing to put work above all else.

The same thing applies when I am looking for someone who will care for my kid – I want someone for whom this will be priority. Like any other parent, I want what’s best for Ayaan. And I am not going to sacrifice the quality and consistency of his care to prove a point about what a just and fair person I am… I’d rather suffer the tag of ‘hypocrite’ than worry constantly about whether the maid will make it to work and stay all day while I am work.

Edit: Kodi's Mom added: 'It is the nature of the maid/ nanny's job to be physically present at a cerain location from hour x to hour x. It is not a job that can be accomplished over the phone and internet. Hence, it does make sense that you ensure her punctuality & attendance.' I feel silly for not thinking of that. :-)

The Content of my Post

There were some complaints about the fact that this was from my perspective and the aim of the post was to prove what a brilliant manager of domestic help I am. It seems I would have done better to write a post that was a thank you note to them or talked about the kind of lives they live. I think people who leave comments like that don’t really understand what writing a blog all is about. Here are some tips:

  • This is my blog, so obviously I write about what I feel like writing about and more importantly from my perspective. While I do write for an audience (otherwise I’d just keep an offline journal), I don’t believe in writing stuff just to satisfy someone else’s idea of what I should be writing. So Yes, I could have done a tribute to my maidst, but it’s not what I felt like writing the other day. And it’s definitely not because I don’t appreciate them, but because I can think of thousands of better ways to show my appreciation than write a post in English (which they can’t read) on the internet (where they’ll never see it).
  • When I write about something, I am not aiming to cover all possible aspects of the issue at hand. So don’t make assumptions based on stuff I haven’t written - for e.g. that my maids are underpaid or that I treat them with anything less than respect and dignity, because nothing in my post should lead you to jump to those unfair conclusions.
  • This is an unabashedly all-out mommy blog, where I write about my life as a mother and about my son. So that is the perspective you will see here. If you want a sociological perspective on the lives of the less privileged, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So that’s all I have to say on the subject for now. If there was a silver lining to this whole thing, it’s the support from the blogger friends who rushed to my defence even before I had a chance to read the brickbats. Hugs and a big thank you to Sue, Artnavy, Just Like That, Ceekay and Megha. I am touched beyond words. Maybe I'll do a thank you post for you guys ;-)

48 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:02 am

    Okay, being a working mom myself in the same occupation as yours (marketing), I couldn't find the time to comment on your earlier post. I only recently came across your blog and have since read every single one of your posts (yes, even on my Blackberry, at my company's expense, while getting my car fixed:)) My daughter is 8 months old and she has been going to day care. I recently switched jobs for which I spend about 3 hours a day commuting to and from. While I loved the day care, your earlier post made me think in the direction of getting a full time help. Really.. no kidding.. I read your post several times and I thought okay these 'maids' (just to piss you off trolls:)) are really the backbone of your structure which seems to be holding up pretty well. I had met with a few desi 'aunties' (I live in NYC) here and there and interviewed them but had been very apprehensive about hiring any of them. I finally called this lady whose call I hadn't returned in a mth, and met her. She seemed nice and willing to work with me. I tried her out last week and she's coming home again for the next couple of days mainly so I can see her over the weekend. My little girl loved her. I'm really leaning towards getting her coz reading your post made me realize how much help you really need to be a quality mom and a qaulity employee. Between dropping and picking up at the day care, preparing her bottles, food for the day, coming to work, going back and doing the chores (husband really helps out - but even 50% share was a lot to deal with) and having no real time to spend with my girl was really getting to me, but I think I stayed in denial mode until I read your post.

    Your rebuttal rocks as well!

    I don't give two cents about the trolls coz somewhere you played a part in my sanity preservation. So Thanks!

    -Siya

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  2. You are far more polite than I'd have been. :) And to think, I took time to phrase my previous comment carefully, because I didn't want to offend anyone on your space.

    I'm glad you made these points though.

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  3. oh boy, I am going through something along the similar lines! It helps having someone you can count on :)

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  4. Anonymous5:13 am

    Rohini,
    makes me wonder why u spent all that time to explain urself? Come on girl, this is ur site, ur thoughts and anyone reading it is ur guest....nice of u to explain but I don't see y. Those jobless assess can find someone else to pick on...

    Blog on:)

    S

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  5. Hey Rohini, we did nothing special in supporting you. Only what was right and I know you would have done the same for each one of us had we been going through it. You know I am now leaning towards getting a nanny for Baby M too - only if I can find an affordable one. I am also trying to find a new job that pays better so I can keep a nanny - and I am not kidding! I really am looking for another job just for that reason.

    Anyway - a well balanced perspective. As always!

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  6. Rohini, it's gracious of you to try and explain to these self-righteous folks, so quick to judge without any understanding of the context. I wonder if they'll see that, though?

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  7. Hey.. seems like the trolls visited after my comment on the last post. ignore them. self righteous idiots who think that politically correct terms are more important than the way you actually treat ppl. I see the lovely Sarah J who haunts my blog to trawling for the word 'servant' didnt show up to spoil your day. All the best. and for what its worth, those of us who know what you are trying to say, are with you. they can take the middle class borgeois psycho babbles and... never mind :)

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  8. Preach it, sistah!

    I can't tell you the number of times I have wished hiring a domestic was affordable for us--even though I am a full-time SAHM! I know of one family that has hired a live-in nanny from the Philippines because they have four kids and the mom has severe depression and health issues, but other than that, most people here simply can't afford it (as you know.) I'd even take being able to afford the "rent-a-maid" kind (someone who cleans for a living) to do their magic in my house once a week. Sigh.

    I got a negative anonymous comment on my blog once. (Obviously, my blog does not have the visibility that yours does). It bothered me for a few days. I think I eventually deleted it, while still responding to them. I wished later that I hadn't even responded--I felt like it kind of "brought me down to their level."

    I figure, this is my personal journal--I'm not doing it for other people to swear at me about my life.

    There's always going to be someone who disagrees with you about something, and doesn't have enough manners to say it nicely. Just remember--you have the delete button.

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  9. Few days off the blog world and see what I missed. Rohini, dont you bother, the trolls are out there, and they wont get you. We know exactly how tough it is to keep life moving with a full time taxing job and a little kid in Mumbai, and hats off to you anyday.

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  10. :) Aren't you the lady of grace. Ever so polite and crystal clear.
    About educating the maid, its very easy said than done. I know. I am trying to work with a NGO here to educate a boy whoz family irons our clothes. When I started, I thought just monetory help would help him start but I realized that is not the issue at all. He has completed part education in his native...does not write hindi or marathi(the local language).Where do you start now? No school would enroll him. The options the NGOs come up with are also not working out, since they want him to switch over to hindi and start afresh at 16/18 whatever or go back to his native and complete his education there under the NGO.
    Again, like you said, he doesnot know if he is 16 or 18.
    If any of these guys had ever attempted at such a thing they would know what it means, very very easy to sit and be judgemental about others.

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  11. Anonymous11:11 am

    Rohini: If you live in Bandra, you might want to try UCDC. They are situated just near the Just Around the Corner in Bandra and I believe they run adult-literacy classes. If they do not currently run these classes, I am sure they will have good information about where to send your domestic help for such classes. Another good resource is churches - they have reams of adivasi girls, so they normally have some adult education/literacy classes as well.

    n!

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  12. Well said, articulate and fully detailed. Congratulations.

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  13. [Siya] Thanks for what you wrote about my post helping - it pretty much made my day :)

    [Sue] I felt I needed to because I felt seriously misunderstood!

    [Rads] The trolls or the maids?

    [S] I know - they will probably find something to tear apart in this post as well... but I had to give it a shot. Thanks for the support!

    [Ceekay] Well, that's as good a reason to find a new job as any.

    [Moppet's Mom] Yup, am on tenterhoos waiting for the first nasty commenter to hit this one...

    [Mad Momma] Amen

    [Talena] Well, this is just the first round and I got some nice anon comments to so maybe comment moderation is the way out if it gets too negative...

    [Kiran] Thanks :) BTW, what happened to the Mumbai Mommyblogger Meet?

    [Sunita] I know. Add to this the fact that often the person herself is not particularly interested in getting an education...

    [N] Thanks for the link. Will check it out

    [Gaelikaa] Thanks :)

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  14. Articulate as ever - though I do not think u needed to explain

    btw we are all on teh same boat remember- so do not need a thanks at all

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  15. nice posts, very elaborate. how do you manage to get time to write blogs?

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  16. You are definitely one of my favourite bloggers ever. Your posts are intelligent and articulate and I love how you dealt with the trolls, none of whom have made a reappearance I see. You rock!

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  17. hey rohini,
    i suppose the trools don't have a comeback for what you wrote!

    Anyways, I agree with most of your points, but disagree with a few. I suppose I am the(first) one to say that here :) did not want to hog your comment space, so I did a post with the other side of the coin!

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  18. *applause* for keeping your cool and handling the rude comments in the such a professional, sensible, logical manner. I think this kind of 'attack' has way more impact on the trolls than an emotionally charged one written on the fly.

    one more thing with the hypocricy...it is the nature of the maid/nanny's job to be physically present at a cerain location from hour x to hour x.
    it is not a job that can be accomplished over the phone and internet. hence it does make sense that you ensure her punctuality & attendance.

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  19. Ro: I think you rock

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  20. Anonymous11:34 pm

    I don't get why working life is harder in India. I have worked for a number of years in both India and the US and I have felt that life is hard in both places but in different ways. The reason we are so dependent on maids in India is coz they are easily available and are cheap. Also there is no dignity of labor in India. Most well off folks would refuse to sweep or mop their floors.

    Also, one seldom mentioned fact is that employing children/young maids in India is always cheaper than employing adults.

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  21. Anonymous12:01 am

    I agree with the previous commentor. I am also a working mother and have been in both the worlds.I have never even tried to go for domestic help. I guess my parents taught us more about dignity of labour despite being in your country for a while. We clean our bathrooms ourselves and feel proud and self-reliant. In your previous post I mentioned about the child labour and I do think that 14 years is a archiac law and we will see to it that gets changed soon. I do work for an organization that is doing a research on labour laws across the world. So Good luck with your 'maid-dom' or whatever!!

    For me this kind of work is nothing but slave labour which the olden day Brahmins and upper caste used to justify by saying that lower-caste were meant to do it. Of course they too provided food and basic amenities to their slaves and got away with it for a while.

    Until the law changes and UN takes serious action, this trend seems to be happening.

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  22. anon 1: living in both countries for both years hardly exposes you to everything. we all have different realities. and no, its not much cheaper employing adults. the younger ones charge more these days because they know how to operate the tv, microwave and take messages from phonecalls.

    anon2: so you learned all about dignity of labour but not about standing by your statements and backing up with a name and an email? hmm interesting.

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  23. Anonymous12:39 am

    Anons, I have a different point of view. I have also lived and worked in India and the US. I would not hesitate to employ a cook and cleaning person and nanny for my kid in either country, just as I don't object to cashiers and receptionists and teachers and all the other people who make my life run smoothly with the very valuable work that they do.

    And yes, anon1 you do have a point when you say that domestic help is cheaply available in India which leads us sometimes to employ them on terms that we would not, for example, do if labour were constrained and more expensive.

    However, I don't think there was anything in Rohini's post which provided any concrete evidence of exploitative working conditions or wages. She appears to pay her domestic help well. She appears to not exploit them in terms of hours worked. She appears to consider that they are a great support system. Yes, she has a helper who's age might be questionable- however she admits she does not know her age so why not give her the benefit of the doubt? She is trying to find adult education options for her household help. She hasn't said anything about cleaning bathrooms. So why attack her with the stereotyped notions of what employing household help in India might be like?

    Rohini: I disagree with you on the India/abroad working mothers bit. I too had this notion before I moved to the US (and this is only the US - I suspect other countries like the EU countries, Canada might be marginally easier).

    Working in corporate America at a managerial level is brutal. Six weeks maternity leave, two weeks vacation, only a limited number of sick days, very few national holidays and no "casual" leave. And as long hours actually as in India. In addition, leverage is limited to formal interactiosn in the US, rather than an informal equation with one's boss which is mostly the case in India (at least the organizations I worked with, one of which was yours!).

    The advantages in the US as I see them are: more options for part-time, flexible work (though honestly, this has not been much of a success at managerial levels in corporate America), more job options that pay reasonable wages (this is the big one, I think) and fewer social constraints (SAHDs for example) that might make it marginally easier to survive the working world in the US. But if you introduce the differential support structures (just family structures for example) that cancels out the diff. So, considering everything at least its as difficult to be a working mother in corporate America as it is to be one in corporate India.

    n!

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  24. To the Anons who seem to wish to be idetified with trolls... I can only second the third Anon and request you to go and READ the post.

    You may have your doubts about the system, but you have no reason to think Rohini abuses it.

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  25. To the anxious hand-wringer anon who works on 'labor laws': For the love of god, read the post. If you truly care about child labor and its evils, you will not waste your time piling heaps of shame on Rohini or resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    If you really have a point to make, be civil about it without needlessly attacking people and back it up with facts and statistics instead of throwing around sensational statements like 'slave labor' etc without any context. And stop projecting your anger over the current system onto Rohini. If that is not an example of blatant trollery, then I don't know what is.

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  26. [Artnavy] Just felt that there were questions left unanswered by the last post - guess I was trying to give the benefit of doubt...

    [Ca] Well, actually I'd love to have the time to write but as it is, I get around to writing a post twice or thrice a month. I usually squeeze out the time when I am traveling or on slightly more relaxed weekends...

    [Beks] Well, not as convincing as I had hoped because some of them have reappeared - or maybe they are entirely new ones...

    [Dotmom] I agree with your point of view. Our own problems always seems bigger than those of others... though my understanding from friends and family abroad has been that you can get away with cleaning once a week or less. So if I didn't have maids, I agree the overall workload would be about the same but probably more evenly spread through the week rather than weekend-skewed... making the working week totally nightmarish, if not impossible.

    [Kodi's mom] That's a good point. Will update in the post.

    [Y] Thanks :)

    [Anon1] Again, what part of don't make assumptions about what is not included in my post did you not get. I will have you know that I have no hang-ups with cleaning my own house and have done so during maidless times in my lives... and if you add the complete package that my young maid gets (salary, food, toiletries, clothes, a place to live, an AC return ticket home every year with loads of gifts for family back home), she gets paid more than the older ones. So again, stop making groundless assumptions!

    [Anon2] Well, good luck to you and your collective 'we'. I just hope that whatever you do benefits these girls in the long run, for which I think other laws/ plans already in place need to be strengthened and enforced - those against child marriage and dowry and those for universal education. Otherwise, such a law would just be doing them a disservice...

    [Mad Momma] Are you on hire for troll-bashing? :-)

    [n!] Agree - I think I underplayed the difficulty of being a working mom in the U.S. Read my reply to Dotmom...

    [Sue] I know! Do they even read it???

    [Megha] Wow! With you and Mad Momma on my side, the trolls should be running for cover. Remind me never to piss you off ;-)

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  28. Rohini, I agree with Dotmom and n! in that it isn't easy here in the US either. I know firsthand. I simply didn't bring that up because you were stating your point of view regarding how things are here - even if not entirely true - and not personally attacking me.

    I have had to hear the same thing on many occasions from friends and family "tumhe kya problem hai - tumhare yahan to sab kaam machine se hote hain". They don't realize that WE need to load, unload and operate thos machines in addition to all other work that maids do in India. I miss doodhwala and sabziwala more than I miss family on occasions :D I can't even begin to tell you what a typical day for me is like except that I spend the whole week looking forward to the weekend and then spend the entire weekend working my butt off to prepare for the next week. When my ILs visited us last year, my MIL confessed that they used to think we had it easy because we got two days off for a weekend but now she realizes that during those two days we are busier than we are during the week. I have tried to write a post about it many times but given up. India or US, I think moms have a challenging life anywhere. The challenges might be different but it isn't easy for any of us.

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  29. nope! this temper and loyalty is not for hire. and no one can pay me enough to suppress my opinion. but for friends i am always available! :D

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  30. Grafx ( too lazy to log in)2:29 am

    i LOVE having maids. MAAAAAAAAIIIDDDDDSSSS! and yes i will call them that. thats what they are! and they get paid for being that!
    i LOVE India !there are maids there in abundance~!

    whatever. they get to eat at our home, they get all the clothes we dont want ( which are mostly new in our case) , they get the toys our kids dont want any more to take home for FREE to their kids, they get to sit in A/C's.while the rest of their family sweat it out in their homes!!PLUS they actually get to see how a home WITHOUT a wife-beater, alcoholic, unhygienic environment is so much better!! and they learn from it too!! i should know! we have had tons of maids go in and out of our life!!
    My maid was like an older sister to me most of my life.

    Boo yah to all those self righteous people .

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  31. Heh, you know how I honed my craft (troll bashing). ;)

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  32. Hurrah for Ro! what a gracious and polite response to the trolls that seems to have hitched their tents on yr blog while vactioning from MM's blog.

    You really needn't justify anything you write on this blog to anyone as, it is as y mentioned, your space and your blog! to hell with the anonymous commentrolls.

    blogger ate up my comment on yr previous blog post. hope this one survives :)

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  33. [Ceekay] Agree. But I guess what makes life without a maid a little more feasible for working moms abroad is that work can be planned around the weekend whereas in India, stuff has t be done through the week... but overall, nobody has it easy.

    [Mad Momma] Well then, am I glad you are in my corner... :)

    [Grafx] Amen to that...

    [Megha] And how!

    [Aqua] I feel a bit silly having written a post to answer a couple of silly anons, but I think it would have festered if I hadn't got it off my chest.

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  34. you are tagged...or awarded...whatever!

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  35. Anonymous3:00 pm

    I guess everybody is entitled to their views. In my view the important aspect is that we treat our maids with respect and ensure that they are not wanting in anything. Moreover, the person to judge this matter is the maid herself and I do not think any of the three maids with Rohini would have complaints. Rohini and family come for a few days to Jaipur for Diwali. Jamuna is brought along to take part in the festivities. When in Jaipur she is not made to do any domestic work. In fact after she has come to Rohini she has gained confidence and maturity. I really feel strongly about persons being judgemental without having first hand knowledge of the situation in hand.

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  36. ro,
    you need to stop explaining yourself to those who don't get it. Put up more stories and pictures about Ayaan.

    About being PC, I hate being PC. I hate the term "political correctness" It's nonsense.

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  37. Wow... I don't show up on the blogosphere for a couple of weeks and there's a huge furore.

    The maids have a far higher quality of living under Rohini's care than they would have otherwise... end of story. If they could not be maids, they would likely not be employed elsewhere. At least they have jobs and their kids may have a brighter future because of it. I would say it's a greater crime to be able to afford to be an employer and not take advantage of it.

    From Rohini's posts it's very clear that she respects dignity of labour. So that's not a point of attack for the trolls.

    Good job with the rebuttal Rohini.

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  38. Hi Rohini,

    I just happenned along today and realised there's a lot happening. Just wanted to chip in and say I agree and ignore the trolls.
    I hate all this political correctness too.

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  39. Whoa!! so much has happened since I visited your post last time. Guess the trolls will be there and they need to be ignored!

    As they say "Listen with one ear and let it go with the other" (I am not sure if I got the translation right!)

    Good job with your balancing and also a great rebuttal post.

    I guess the trolls cannot understand that these maids have become more like your family.

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  40. [Y] Thanks for the award and will get around to doing the tag super soon

    [Anon] Thank Mama. Next time, leave your name.

    [Big Zed] Well, it has been a while since I updated on Ayaan's antics

    [Ranjit] Thanks for the support

    [Squiggles' Mom] That's just what I intend to do... maybe even delete them off my blog if they don't keep a polite tongue in their heads...

    [Manchus] Pretty good translation, not to mention advice :)

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  41. Very interesting post, especially for someone like me who grew up in India with servants.

    I now live in Oz and my first novel (Vegemite Vindaloo) was about both countries, India and Australia and this issue is raised during a conversation between two of the main characters.

    Will be back to visit ....

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  42. dear lord....who-ever the righteous person was, not sure if she/he has a toddler/infant and no support system and still working full time in india...

    my god typing that scentence was itself a tedious one and not to mention the actualy stuff :)

    the main reason for us to relocate to india was the same reason as maid or should we say 'hired help' :)

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. That was a very well thoughtout rebuttal ((Rohini)). I did miss the previous post and now that I read the whole thing I'm surprised at the ignorance of some people aka the trolls who seem to be unaware of just how hard it is for a working mom to balance things out. It's hard everywhere. My mom was a working in India and we know how we are indebted to the hired help we had at home. It's easier to judge others when you are not in their shoes. Ignore the trolls and their psychbabblings. We know what you exactly mean.

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  45. Wow, 45 comments later, don't know if you still have the energy to read this. Will keep it short. I tried to look at it from my perspective.

    If this were an ideal world, sure, Padma (in my case) would be as educated and well-off as I am and would choose to look after Adi purely courtesy her love for kids. But that is not the case. She needs to do it for the money and to prevent a similar fate for her daughter. And therefore, while she is doing it, I (as something of a good employer,I hope) need to ensure a comfortable life for her. Not being patronising, just kind/human.

    Throwing her or Shashikala or Jamna out of a job and starting to do it all ourselves is just not the solution. Helping them crawl out of their personal hell-holes so that the next generation has a better shot at a life probably is.

    Strictly personal opinion. It works for me.

    Tagging you for middle names.

    Blog on!

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  46. shilpa3:38 am

    rohini, don't know if you're sick of reading comments to this post but it made for a fascinating read. great rebuttals and NEVER apologize for your point of view.
    and as for my view - being in the U.S. past 5 yrs, i miss maids for sure... i enjoy cooking but cleaning is a chore... if i could afford it, i would have help.
    i grew up with some amazing help in India - 3 male servants stand out for their amazing cooking skills and witty reportoire and 2 maids who learnt to read english from me and i learnt how to make the best of cup of instant coffee :)
    our home never broke any child labor laws. in fact, we helped more than one refugee family from Bangladesh by employing them. we don't demean them, we don't disrespect them. that's how we do it in India and there's nothing to feel ashamed of.

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  47. Hello,

    My name is Shusli Baseler-Johnson. I am undoubtedly one of the persons commenting on your blog whom you consider a “troll.” I will not spend any more of your precious time or mine commenting on your blog beyond this. So, I hope you will bear with the length of this comment and take it as food for thought.

    I am a citizen of the U.S.A. and a “First Nation” citizen as well, meaning I am a member of a Native American tribe called the Karuk. My standing as a tribal member has imbued me with certain powers to see that many people pay for the comforts of a few. This is true in the U.S.A. as well as in your country. I believe in human rights for everyone, not just a privileged class of well-off.

    For us Native Americans, there is a higher rate of all morbidities. We are the U.S.’s poorest populations. We are treated disrespectfully. The government that calls itself the United States is occupying our lands illegally, and we suffer from centuries of oppression. Do you see the similarities between the U.S. and India? If not, I refer you to the Common Dreams website, to an article dated 10/28/07 entitled “India’s Poorest March on Captial for Land Rights.” I also encourage you to open your eyes to the injustices abounding around you in your country, which you are helping to perpetuate.

    Your blog was pointed out to me by a friend from South Africa, who is teaching at a university here in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. He lived in India for several months at one point. The stories he tells me about stepping over babies in the streets and hungry children everywhere were startling. Your caste system allows horrible treatment of other human beings. It is also apparent that a system of patriarchy is accepted by you, as you seem to have all of the child-rearing and household responsibilities.

    Sisters of India, please consider how your comfortable roles keep others in poverty. Why do you think there is such an “abundance” of maids available to do your catering? Because they are desperately poor! Yes, serving you in your well-appointed homes is a step up from squalor, but the problem is the system you allow to stay in place which keeps so many oppressed. From a distance, the way in which you regard these fellow human beings, and the consequent way that you treat them is reminiscent of the shameful slavery era of the U.S.A.

    As I mentioned previously, I raised two children while working. It was very difficult. Their father helped with all the household chores (which were done daily, not “fortnight”). Our families helped with day care, and sometimes we did have to pay for day care outside the home. I am glad we could never afford “maids.”

    I hope that you will consider your role in the world as far as allowing oppression to continue. With that, I will reflect back to you some of the comments I have gleaned from this blog that reveal your love for material goods and prestige, while you and your fellow Indian mommies devalue others:

    thankfully the maid did all the cooking

    I invested the time in curing the remnants of my hangover with a spot of duty-free retail therapy



    (when the maid was late) I wasted precious time and breath screaming at her in my most shrewish manner.


    The reason we are so dependent on maids in India is coz they are easily available and are cheap. Also there is no dignity of labor in India. Most well off folks would refuse to sweep or mop their floors.

    employing children/young maids in India is always cheaper than employing adults.

    If this were an ideal world, sure, Padma (in my case) would be as educated and well-off as I am and would choose to look after Adi purely courtesy her love for kids. But that is not the case.

    i LOVE India !there are maids there in abundance~!

    they get all the clothes we dont want ( which are mostly new in our case) , they get the toys our kids dont want any more to take home for FREE to their kids, they get to sit in A/C's.while the rest of their family sweat it out in their homes!!PLUS they actually get to see how a home WITHOUT a wife-beater, alcoholic, unhygienic environment is so much better!! [racist comment]

    If you wish to discuss further you may see my blog deathandconscience.blogspot.com

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