Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Maids of Honour

-Brian Mendonça

Sometimes life can give you a raw deal. These are stories of women who serve the community to support themselves and their families.

The first is in her thirties. She came from a large family. Her parents died when she was still very young.  Eager to be relieved of her, her relatives got her married to a widower with two children.  After having one child with her, her husband walked out to marry a third person. She now takes care of the three children while doing shifts taking care of those people who need her.

Another lady, a senior person, is well-known in the hospital. During one of her stints in the hospital she shared the responsibility of caring for a foreigner, with a colleague. When the time came to be paid, her colleague denied that she had taken care of the patient and pocketed the entire amount.  She was dispossessed of her family property by her own sister who, along with her brother-in-law, made her sign away her property without knowing what she was doing – since she was illiterate.

The third lady is waiting to go to the Middle East. She was on the verge of leaving when the plans fell through and the agent balked out of the agreement.  Though one can earn better abroad it is important to be assigned to a good family, she says. Only lately the local papers had reported that a maid was thrown down from the 2nd floor by her employer abroad.  She was now appealing to NGOs to take her back to India.

One lady was travelling with her husband on a train. In high spirits he moved out towards the door of a running train to spit out. He lost his balance, fell down and died. His wife now earns by being a day-care attendant, and brings up her two children along with doing an eight-hour job elsewhere.

These maids give up spending time with their own families and their own children to be with those who need them. With the little money they earn they bring up their families. Most are single parents, playing the role of a mother and a father to their children.

What is really inspiring is the commitment of these women. They are ever-willing to accommodate to the needs of the patient and the household. They eat what is given to them without any fuss and maintain vigil through the night, attentive to the patient’s call.

Many of the maids know each other. If one cannot make it the other will fill in for her.  Most of them are uneducated but they would like to see a better life for their children. They are seldom bitter with their lot and go about their duties with dignity. Some are fluent in no less than four languages. They adjust to the energy level of each member of the household, and when a child demands that she plays with him/her, they oblige without ignoring the patient.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 26 March 2017. Pix courtesy blogs.reuters.com 'Health Start-ups tap India's Growing Home care Sector'

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