Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's sultry and hot outside. The sun keeps beating down on mere mortals like me most mercilessly. The time - 9 am. I am on vacation and my mind is wired that way now. Prospect of physical work, even if that means simply washing my coffee mug seems anathemic! And I feel thankful to the lady who waltzes into my house at half past 9, and cleans up the mess made over all of yesterday. For the world she is my 'bai', or my hired help, but for me, she's GOD!

Getting the perfect Bai is impossible. The hunt is akin to finding the perfect husband. Don't laugh at my comparison. Try living in a city like Mumbai, where half our life is spent running behind local trains and the other half is spent stuck in traffic. With the kind of building and construction work happening on every road in Mumbai, whether or not air is ubiquitous, dust and dirt certainly is. So, it becomes even more essential to have someone who will clean the house and leave it spic and span and shining day after day. Else it wouldn't take too much effort to convert a cute urban Mumbai house into a Gothic cobweb covered castle. Nah.. the enormous space of a castle can never belong to a Mumbai house. Or let me say that a sprawling Mumbai house is as much a reality as say the tooth fairy.

So, now that we know that the Bai is indispensable, finding the right and best one is the hunt for El Dorado. Each time you hire someone, you strike a compromise. It's either their pay, the work they'd do, or even their leave policy. Not that they have casual leaves and privilege leaves, leave policy here is whether they would go on informed leave or go AWOL! Simple! And once you hire them, soon you find that they do not really deliver all that they promise in the first place. So, utensils may still show signs of what was for dinner yesterday or the corners would be swept so clean that every week a petrified me would need to run armed with a broom, behind a genetically modified spider. And the minute you try expressing your displeasure, they retort Channel V style, 'Itna Paisa mein Itnaich Milenga'. That is still fine. You can put up with that statement and ask them to raasta naapo. The worst is when they tag you. Not Facebook style, but when they say you do a lot of kitkit. Now kitkit is an epithet they use if you express your displeasure, albeit much too often. And like gossip, this tagging spreads like wildfire in the Bai community and they are as close knit as perhaps the Russian Mafia. (Psst, some of their tactics are similar as well).

And then comes the whole chutti aspect. They have hundreds of thousands of relatives in their Gaaon. What Gaon, God knows. And they have to attend every wedding, every child birth, every birthday, Gaon devi's Puja, Ganpati's Puja, Grandfather's brother's wife's uncle's grandson's first food function. And each such jaunt would imply leave for a minimum of 1 week and a maximum of 'Kabhi aayegi? Maalum Nahin Bhabhi'. Don't even get me started on the hunt for a makeshift Bai who is called Badli. A Badli Bai is looked down upon, as if she is someone who cannot hold on to a steady job. And one can't even tell the Badli Bai to hunt out the errant spider, since she can simply walk off, and not give a badli for the badli bai. You get the drift?

The Bai stories can be plenty. But as I sit back with my coffee and the newspaper, I need to thank my stars for my current Bai who is a thorough professional and does a clean job.

I guess I spoke too soon, for my watchman just told me that the All Bai union has pulled out a strike and every Bai walking towards my part of the city is being forcibly told to walk back home or 'face the consequences'. Sigh! The house needs to be swept and swabbed. The sink is full of utensils, I wonder why I had that dinner party last night. The sun is still pelting down on us. Life could not get any better. And my Bai is missing.

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