I am the last of the generation and of a certain social milieu and thankfully so, that has seen that the domestic/house helps weren’t just people who were hired to assist the householders but rather there was a strict Master-Servant equation and set of principled do’s-don’ts that had to be adhered to.
Slowly and steadily these barriers are being broken down one at a time but I guess maybe living in a small town with a certain upbringing I didn’t see it actually being there.
I remember having a help to assist in with my kids with whom I generally made a statement about she being there when they grow-up.
“ज़िन्दगी भर भैया, यह काम थोड़ी करुँगी !!” prompt came her reply.
I was taken aback, for I thought was a done deal wasn’t one. She- who was from a neighbouring village, she – who had studied up till 12th standard – had her aspirations, dreams to fulfil.
She isn’t a one off case, if you look closely this is what new India looks like. Just a few decades back it wasn’t uncommon for two generations working together as domestic helps for a family. These families ruled over their fiefdoms by providing for these helps in return of loyalty and subservience which is a rarity now.
I believe it is a profession bought about not out of choice but of necessity (not if you are employed by the likes of people living in Antilia). Choice bought mostly due to lack of education and security.
This very choice have fed their families, educated the children and tendered the ill. A choice that helped them climbed up the social ladder one step at a time. A house helps son became a government teacher and another ones works as a manager in a private firm whose office is just next to mine.
Not only are they claiming their economic spaces but art too has started representing in a new light far removed from the Ramu Kaka variety. In the Amitabh Bachhan and Deepika Padukone starrer Piku we get to see how differently two generations interact with their domestic help Bhudan.
In Rohena Gera’s Sir we see a love story between Tillotama Shome, the actress essaying Ratna – a house help and her employer. Not the ones that fantasies and fetishes have been built on but a love story in true sense of the word.
Time we move on and realised they aren’t part of the sub-plot anymore but an integral part of our everyday being at least in India.