How can such women be helped, sustainably?
These are the stories of different maids I got a chance to know, whom either I employed or know through someone. (Changing the names to preserve their privacy.)
Roja’ aged 56, walked into the house like any other day & completed her work. She was her usual self until a call from her son came. He was checking about when she would be done with her work & be free. That’s when she spoke up about the incident that conspired in their house the previous night. Her 2nd daughter’s husband had got drunk and started abusing loudly in the middle of the night, the owner for whom he works. So police had picked him and put him in jail.
This husband usually is like that, who keeps picking up fights after getting drunk and also beats his wife(Roja’s daughter) frequently. Once Roja had to travel 200 km as she received a call from her daughter’s neighbors that her daughter’s husband was trashing her badly and needed someone from her family to come to the rescue her. All this while, the daughter had adjusted being with such a kind of husband, but the previous night, the daughter felt she had enough. So Roja and her family had to give shelter to her daughter and her kids for the night & respond to Police inquiries.
The call from Roja’s son was to inform her to be ready to go to police station.
I had two feelings
- Great awe for Roja and her character. If I was in her place, I would in any tense situation remotely close to hers, I would have called my work and informed that I can’t come in that day. My mind wouldn’t be able to do anything but worry about the incident. But here, I see a strong Woman (of course this only made me think of what all she had gone through so far to make her this tough, more on it some other day)who exhibited behavior which I think in the corporate world would be applauded & decorated.
- Again and again, I hear stories of women feeling powerless, particularly those who belong to the lower middle class or poor families, being victims of abusive husbands. Not able to speak up or stand for their rights due to the fear of surviving alone in this harsh society or being a burden to their parents. My heart yearns to do something for these women.
Madhu who is usually silent and does her work quickly yet neatly was heard being really angry at a person on the other side of the phone. She seemed to be shouting at that person in her mother tongue. I just asked her if everything was ok. That’s when she opened up. Till that day looking at appearance, and her other conversations, never did I get a feeling that she would be going through that. She diligently comes every day, clearly asks for more money if any new task is assigned, informs way ahead about the days she would be absent and try as much to arrange for her replacement, etc. She does all this with a beautiful smile on her face. So never did I think she must be having any challenges at home.
Her husband too is a drunkard and doesn’t contribute to any expenses of her household. They have 3 young sons, she works as a maid in 4–5 houses in our apartment and earns around 20–25k and runs her family. While her husband gets drunk, gets angry and breaks things like TV, or abuses her. She expressed her frustration about how on one hand he doesn’t contribute and on the other hand creates more trouble for her.
Ganga was newly employed. I generally have the habit of asking about their family, kids, etc. Her answer was something that was very shocking to me. Her husband left her the day she gave birth to their second kid, who also happens to be a daughter like the first one. The husband the moment he got to know that Ganga gave birth to another daughter, he left from their lives from the hospital itself. And never returned to their lives.
What, however, is interesting is that by the time I met her, she was way over the feeling sad part. She had really nice supporting family from her mother’s side due to whom she managed to raise two daughters being a single parent. She again is another hardworking woman, who continuously works at different places to make her ends meet and give her daughters a good life. In fact, she recently got her older daughter & when I asked if she gets mad at her husband, her reply was something that again taught me about positivity. She said, “ No madam, I feel I am getting to live a better and happy life by being single and not having to answer or fear someone constantly”. And joking she said, “my sisters in fact envy my freedom”.
There are many more stories that I have witnessed. One is of a young college-going bright girl from a poor family who stopped her education. She never expressed her reason for his discontinuation. Her elder brother beat her to pulp to make her state the reason but she didn’t. She decided to be a maid. Another single mother, worked crazily hard to raise a daughter and get her married, only to realize that the son-in-law abuses her daughter. Now she is doing trips to the court in an attempt to get her daughter divorced.
Every time I hear such a story, my heart just yearns to do something for these kinds of Women. I am not yet sure what or how. One day, I would like to. Now, for sure I don’t feel I am equipped enough, but I am writing these stories as a reminder to a promise to myself.