Thursday, October 7, 2010

Serve Your Servant Day


In honor of the JOY OF GIVING WEEK, we, meaning me and the two Ds- Daisy and Devika decided to have a SERVE YOUR SERVANT DAY; host a lunch party for all the domestics in the area where we live- maidservants, drivers, car washer boys, security personnel.  We meant it to be a fun couple of hours, with lunch, games, prizes and gifts. 

Tentatively we put forth idea to our intended guests.  The help, particularly the maids (every one has maids in the apartments where we live) were thrilled.  Urmila, my help said, "Is it going to be a party like the parties you and your friends have."
"Exactly like that," I assured her.

Sangita who works as a nanny in the 1st floor apartment exclaimed, " All my life I've taken the babies to parties. This is the first time, I'll be going to one on my own, no crying children.  Will I get gifts?'
We hastened to reassure her.

Our plans were still half baked, when Jyoti who's a cook, came up to me one morning while I was on my way to work, took my hand and said with great earnestness,
"It's very kind of all of you to think of giving us a lunch like that. No one has ever done that before."

It shook me. Almost all women, whatever their nationality spend their lives serving others.  But a few of us urban literates manage despite overbearing spouses and demanding in-laws to go out and enjoy ourselves once in a  while. These poor women had never in their lives gone out together with woman friends, just for the sake of enjoying themselves.

Our enthusiasm received a rude  check however, when we began to go around for donations.  Almost half of those living in our area- school teachers, army personnel, business people- educated and well off people, not only refused to donate, but formed a group and began a signature campaign to oppose the event.  Their grouse was that the help would get above themselves, demand higher salaries, form unions, and that it would set a "bad" precedent.

I could not believe it.  These were school teachers, army personnel, all educated and well off people, who appeared so kind and decent who were saying such things.  One college lecturer actually said, 
"As it is we're having problems getting servants, what with the maids educating their daughters.  Pampering them like this will make mattersworse."
One nursery teacher,
"Have you been to their shanties?  They have all the luxuries."
Yes, unbelievable!!

I realized then that people no matter how cultured and literate they are, will always fight for their own interests before anyone else's  and that if it is a new idea, people are going to oppose it just because it suggests change.

Still we had our sympathizers.
One old woman brought tears to my eyes.  On learning that several who had initially donated had later on joined the opposition and were demanding their donations back, offered some more money saying, " My pension has increased since this month."

Anil, the garland seller, who when he found our funds were not sufficient to buy flowers, arrived with a huge bunch saying we could him pay whatever we could afford.

Firozbhai the caterer, who refused to decrease the quantity of gulab jamuns we had originally ordered merely saying, "You don't have to pay me extra."

Despite our well wishers, the opposition almost won. 

 At 6 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd, I , along with three of my friends cleared out our vehicles from our adjoining parking spaces.  That released an area of about 4000 sq. feet.  We then hosed the place down, dried it, laid down carpets, and put up our posters, flowers and plants.  Before the residents of the society were up, the place was transformed.   To the opposers' questions, I simply replied that we had not been refused permission to have the event in our own parking spaces and if they wished to prevent that, they should issue another letter.  Since it was too late for them to do that the event went ahead.

And what a time we had!

The maids all came dressed in their best.  We welcomed them with garlands, seated them.  Then began the phugadis:

Laxmibai did the "ghudgyavarcha pinga"  where she spun like a top on elbows and knees:

and the ukhane competitions.  An ukhane is a verse in which the woman slyly inserts the name of her husband. Women delight in thinking up ingenious rhymes.

An example:
Ingrajit batatyala mhantat tutu  ; ani Rajesh chya khisyat maja photu. 
Translated that means:
In English they say potato, 
and Rajesh (that's the husband's name), 
carries in his pocket, my photo.

Then we had them walking the ramp.  They were initially very shy but when Babita, seen in the adjoining picture, got up and strode down smiling broadly, everyone got into the spirit of walking the ramp, enthusiastically. That's Archana below swinging like she's been modeling all her life. 

The winners of the phugadi and ukhane competitions got cash prizes.  And all of them got take away gifts, after which their employers/organizers personally served them lunch.  

So , the Witch had her way after all. 

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