The clock on the wall strikes the designated hour and heart of the lady of the house begins to sink as her eyes start oscillating between the entrance gate and her mobile screen.

“Do I call in sick to work or take the leap of faith?” she has to decide. The predicament is best surmised in the lyrics to the old Hindi song, “Zara si aahat hoti hai toh dil sochta hai, kahin ye wo to nahin.” A similar scene plays in most Indian households with the day of the lady of the house unfolding itself with the familiar nagging uncertainty, “Will she, won’t she?” which defines the fundamental and fragile relationship she shares with her maid.

The ‘maid of honour’
For most Indian women, the ‘maid of honour’ ranks high in her list of priorities, right below her children. At almost every party, women start with talking about their children’s shenanigans and within minutes the conversation segues to their maids. Now, sharing juicy gossip about the neighbours, and criticising one’s in-laws are out of date conversation lubricants.

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It was at one such party that a woman was heard telling her friend that she treats her maid more royally than any of her family members, and though she oiled her chappattis with refined oil, she generously added a spoonful of desi ghee for the maid, and always remembered to add extra milk in her tea.

A few days ago, my maid failed to show up to work without notice. When I asked why she had not told me, she wriggled her hands and said, “I wanted to inform you. But, you see, my phone was low on balance.” Immediately, I asked my daughter to add some ‘top-up’ to her phone.

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The turn of the century has been witness to numerous changes, including lifestyle, thanks to the invasion of technology in our day-to-day affairs. About two decades ago, when I visited one of my relatives, I experienced what I can today relate to as a ‘cultural shock’.

The domestic help that came to clean the house, effortlessly wielded “the brandished weapon” of her art – a sweeping broom – in one hand, and the epitome of modern gadgetry of those times – a qwerty style mobile phone in other hand. Her nonchalant style of multi-tasking was certainly awe-inspiring. The trend, over the years, has certainly caught up with our small-town maids too.

The other day, while I was passionately immersed in penning down some thoughts, the abrupt and loud ringing of a mobile phone disrupted my musing. The ringtone certainly belonged to my phone, but as I scrambled for it, I realised that it was not my phone that was buzzing. The maid’s loud “hello” echoed through the hall as I closed my eyes to register the fact that I was no longer the elite or exclusive owner of that company’s device or the ringtone. Do I sense egalitarianism?

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All said and done, the fact remains that despite technology acting as a great leveller in society, our dependence on domestic maids has increased manifold and their job profile has become multi-fold which now ranges from being a nanny to a caretaker, a cook, a cleaner and so on.

The growing dependence has also resulted in the growing realisation that their peripheral presence dominates the centrality of our existence. Perhaps that is why an advertisement for a domestic help supplier company proudly read, “Diamonds are useless! Gift your wife a maid.” After all, jo biwi se sach much kare pyaar. #livehyd #hydnews