Bubli was her name and even though her name meant “lively,” she was a very quiet and shy girl. She was working as a maid at our place. Every day she would come at a specified time and complete household chores assigned to her by my mom and then go to another house to do the same job. Sometimes on special holidays or celebrations, my mom would make her stay a little more to clean the house even better. She never had any Sundays, she would take off once in a couple of months for a day or two. Every month she would get her meager salary.
My parents helped her manage her finances. My dad even gave her some loan on no interest. She always returned back all the loans. My mom would give her tea and breakfast in the morning; if she stayed back more work then she would get lunch too. It was a very workable model. But I did not understand a few things – she never sat on our dining table with us and ate her food. She always ate in the kitchen sitting on the floor. She never sat on the sofa even if she was watching a movie that was running on TV; she always sat on the floor. I am not sure if my mom or dad ever asked her to behave this way, but she always did keep a distance with what we did.
Perhaps as a child, I just accepted that this is how it is. But some other related incidents caught my notice and I felt that this is not really acceptable. I realized that my parents were much kinder to the household maids; there are a lot of other people who seem to keep a great deal of distance between themselves and the household helpers. I saw incidents where maid is not allowed to use the toilet at homes. She is supposed to clean the toilet but not allowed to use it. Maids are not allowed in the bedrooms, they are always supposed to sit on the floor. It is ok for the maids to feed the child but she cannot really sit on the couch while doing so.
A man belonging to a higher middle class hired a driver because driving was too stressful for him. He had to visit a mall for some shopping, so his driver drives him there. While this man enjoys his shopping in mall, his driver was just sitting in the car. He did not step into the mall, even though there is nobody stopping him from going there – but he chooses to stay in the car. Why? Because he knows that his class doesn’t belong to the mall.
I almost lost my temper when I heard that a premium society in Bangalore had placed notices all over the place stating that any of maid servants/drivers/cleaners are not supposed to use the podium or passenger lift. They are supposed to use the basement and the service lift. It almost sounded like “Indians and dogs are not allowed”. I learnt that it is common practice in mumbai that fancy lifts are meant to be used by residents and lower class is only supposed to use the service lifts.
I am happy to inform that this premium society in Bangalore that I just mentioned above was eventually given a legal notice for doing this. But this incident clearly brings out our thought process and made me question a lot of things with respect to this discrimination that exists all around us.
The long back abolished “tradition of untouchability” still exists its very native form in our country. It is not enough to celebrate the birthday of Dr. B R Ambedkar and give a national holiday on the occasion. It makes a difference to our society and country when we really put his teachings to daily practice.
God created all human beings equally. Each individual is talented and deserves to be respected. Imagine what kind of teachings you are passing on to your children when you do not allow your maid servant to use the toilet or sit on the sofa. These are the people who clean up our mess, how does it make them dirty?
Respecting all individuals is the very basic need of humanity!