House maids in India, are an integral part of the family and their absence from the household creates a havoc in the life of the lady of the house! It’s been close to six years of marriage for me and I have hired and fired a handful of maids in these six years! What’s surprising yet unbelievable is that all the maids I hired were not just wives but also ‘mothers’ and my somewhat short or long interaction with them made me learn something or the other about ‘parenting’ from them! I am penning down two great parenting lessons that two of my maids gifted me with.
What my maids taught me about parenting
Mangaa was a very cute-faced, always smiling, sari-clad middle aged woman who never failed to wear orange flowers in her hair. With a big red round bindi on her forehead and hair parted from the center, she looked chubby, not very active but neat with just about an average level of energy to do things.
She got married at a relatively young age and gave birth to a son some two-three years later. A daughter followed the son, about four years later. At around the same time, her sister was also trying to conceive a child but after repeated failures, got to know from the doctor’s reports that she won’t be able to embrace motherhood ever. Mangaa, who was then a mother of two, without hesitating, offered her young, newborn daughter to her sister.
It doesn’t end there. The daughter, who is an adult now, has no idea till date that the lady she considered her mom until now isn’t her biological mother and also has no idea that her own aunt is her actual mother.
When I heard all this, my jaw almost dropped and a thin film of tears emerged in my eyes. But she smiled even more sweetly and told me in her Teluguish-Hindi,”एम आईंदी मैडम?(What happened, Madam?) मेरा बेटी, उसका बेटी, एकीच तो बात ए! (My daughter, her daughter, it’s the same thing after all!) ऐसा करे सो, वो अम्मा बन गयी! (Because this happened, she could become a mother!). मैं तो संतोषम्! (I’m very happy!)”
I was lost for words when I heard this and sat on the sofa open-mouthed. I mean, we all grow up fighting with our sister for pens, pencils, chocolates and clothes! How difficult is it to share your own child with your own sister? May be a ‘little’ difficult? Or perhaps ‘not’ difficult at all? But, how difficult is staying in front of your child’s eyes all the time without her calling you ‘Mumma’ or without her hugging and cuddling you when she hurts her knees while playing? ‘Very difficult’!
Mangaa taught me that motherhood teaches you to be not just a great human being but also to be a charitable and generous donor! And not always are donations given in the form of money, food, clothes or knowledge, sometimes donations are also given in the form of your love, your attention, your affection, your concern – in the form of ‘a piece of your heart’. A ‘big big’ piece of your heart!
A class-5th-pass, somewhat in her late 70s, this maid ‘looked’ weak, fragile and energy-less to me. Her squashed cheeks, wrinkled skin, humped back and the most spectacular of all – her age old spectacles made me feel that she’s not the one I was looking for. Surprisingly, I was proved wrong! Her energy, agility, speed and sharp mind stunned me and made me change my first impression of hers – totally!
After a couple of chats with her I retrieved a few pieces of information from her personal life which I later regretted to have retrieved as they made me feel all the more sorry for her. This 78 year old lady, who owned a full-fledged, successfully up and running milk business once, stayed all by herself at this age in her single room house and earned her bread and butter herself too. She had two sons out of which one passed away due to some illness three years back and her husband left for the heavenly abode soon after. Two sudden deaths in the family, ate up all her savings and funds and also shut down inlets of income in the family. Her second son, who was supposedly not very fond of his mom, left Baalamani all by herself and walked out of the house (because his wife demanded to stay in a separate house) and never walked in ever after. This saddening story of hers made my heart sink all the more.
But surprisingly, this iron willed lady taught me a lot. After meeting her every day for the next few months, I came to realize that she is ‘the’ most detached person I will ever meet in my life! She was happy with whatever she had in life – no matter how little it was and had completely accepted life the way it was. She never looked very sad nor very happy. Baalamani was always neutral and composed. She didn’t expect to get back to the rich life she was leading, didn’t expect her son and daughter-in-law to come back home with her beautiful grand kids nor did she expect us to have pity on her and help her in any monitory way. She never demanded or expected any gifts, leaves, rest nor any snacks or tea ever – even on festival days! She told me, “मेरेकू काम का जरुअत नई अम्मा। (I don’t need to work at this age, Madam.) गाय-भैंस भोत था मेरेको।(I had a lot of cows and buffaloes.) पति भी चोड़ के चले गया, बेटा भी चोड़ के चले गया।(My husband passed away and my son too passed away.) अबी काम नको करना बोले सो, खाने को पईसा कीधर से आता? (Now if I say I don’t want to work, from where will I get money from to buy food?) छोटा बेटा जोरू काईच सुनता, अम्मा! (My younger one is all for his wife, Madam.) क्या बी नई कर सकती मई! (I can’t do anything about it.) आगे होगा सो देखेंगे! (Whatever will happen, will happen!)”
These words from her expressed deeply to me the detachment she has towards people, relationships and even feelings in life. It seemed that she is simply working to survive and is leading her life one day at a time fulfilling all her duties as and when required. She never missed her son’s love, the tantrums of her grandchildren, the care and concern that she could have got by her daughter-in-law or the happy life she ‘could’ have led. She lived in the moment and breathed for today. Baalamani taught me that not being very attached with your children can also make you a strong parent at times. Had she been super attached with her kids all her life, she would have definitely been living a life of hell today. She taught me to be totally detached from life and just keep marching ahead without letting anything affect you in the least.
So that’s about it. Anyone you come across in your day-to-day life can teach you great things about life and in my case, about, parenting as well. There’s so much to learn from every parent, every mother around you!
So what even if it’s your maid?