A couple of days ago a mother from the Brat’s old school called me up to invite me for her child’s birthday party. I told her I’d be a little late because it was a working day and I have certain commitments.
Oh no, she said – it’s perfectly alright to send the maid with your son. That’s what all the working moms do.
I laughed and told her that the reason I get paid half of what I deserve is because I work flexi time and I’ll be damned if the maid took my son to a party. It’s either the OA or me. As luck would have it, neither of us was free so he didn’t go to the party. And being the Brat he neither remembered nor cared! I apologised and sent in a gift later.
And then yet another birthday party on a working day. (Explanation – sections in school are according to age which is why the Brat’s entire class has birthdays around this time) And this being the Brat’s old school I really wanted him to attend and meet his old friends. So I rushed through work, organised myself to be able to work through the night and reached the party not too late.
And then it happened. As I stood there feeding my kids, the birthday boy’s maid came up to me and handed me a burger and a juice box. I absentmindedly smiled and nodded thanks. And then I wondered – we were in Pizza Hut. Not McDonalds. Where did the burger come from?
And then it struck me. This was the maid dinner!!! Yes – Delhi has this amazing and amusing system of giving the maids packets of food (good food no doubt) but packed because they’re not expected to eat at the venue – they’re supposed to be chasing their wards, not feeding their faces. So a generous reward is packed and delivered to them.
So where was I? ah yes – I was being handed the maid dinner. I looked around in shock. To the maid’s credit, she did sort of look at me in an unsure way, but then she figured it was better to play it safe and she handed me the packet anyway.
I looked down at my outfit in horror. Was I really looking maid-ish? Sexy new camel corduroys, a sleeveless fuschia top with a Chinese collar. A lovely pure leather handbag. Kohl and gloss. Surely not!?
And then I realised what it was – I was standing at the kiddie table feeding my kids with the other maids. While the other mothers were at another table quaffing ice tea and putting away pasta.
I started to shake with laughter. And soon I soon had to sit down to catch my breath To think feeding my own child at a party relegated me to being household help!! As a friend in the US pointed out – we live in different worlds babe. Only help take the kids to parties and feed children in India anymore!
The birthday boy’s mother rushed to me, ‘share the joke’ she said. I wordlessly pointed to the burger.
She was mortified and looked at me like I’d lost my head. How could I laugh at such an insult? She looked for her maid in the crowd and I stopped her with a hand. I was still choking on my laughter. To think I rush home from work to take my kids out to give them a social life, work odd hours to make it up and kill myself in the bargain only to be mistaken for the help!!
Other mothers arrived to see what the commotion was about. And she was so apologetic while I was still giggling that I feel I’ve lost all credibility! What kind of mother finds it funny to be mistaken for the help?!
Kind friends give other reasons – Maybe it’s because the kids are fairer than I am, maybe it’s standing at the kiddy table, maybe I should wear more makeup! I don’t know and I don’t care. The OA is pink and white fair, the Brat is slightly darker, while the Bean is darker than the Brat, bridging the gap between us so that we’re all various shades. And that’s it? My kids are too fair to be mine?!
What touched me most was the maids’ reaction when I got home and told them. Dark eyes flashed – ‘What didi? How dare they think you’re a maid! Do they think you look like us?’
I was so torn. My maids are clean and well dressed and polite. And warm. People who might visit for the first time are often zapped by the older lady who opens the door because she is in clean, ironed cotton sarees. The younger maid wears all my Fabindia stuff and even what I pick up for her is in pure cotton and to my taste, so it’s never garish. I wouldn’t take it as an insult to be mistaken for one of them. And I was in a funny way, rather upset that she felt herself to be so far below me. Goes back to my untouchability argument – what are maids supposed to look like?
On the other hand – her loyalty touched me. Dark eyes flashing in rage she went on – ‘tell me which one it is. I’ll see her at school and ask her how she could think my madam was a maid..’
Let it go, I laughed. It just means you look very pretty and I should wear more makeup and higher heels!
*wipes tears and then promptly dissolves into giggles over the whole brouhaha again*