Book: Maidless in Mumbai; Author: Payal Kapadia; Publisher: Bloomsbury; Pages: 163; Price: Rs 299
There is a life with a maid and then there is another life when the maid abandons your home, turning your life upside down. Nothing, probably, can be more catastrophic than this!
Author Payal Kapadia relates an honest tale that most urban or sub-urban residents can relate to — getting the “dream maid” who understands one’s priorities, does all the household work and takes up all the responsibility of maintaining the house. Alas, finding one such can be a difficult task indeed.
Kapadia’s book revolves around a career-oriented journalist who has just become a mother and is desperately looking for a maid. The protagonist dreams of a “dream maid”, and for that, begins the “interview process”.
As the protagonist meets several domestics, she encounters maids whose demand ranges from “three sets of nighties, two towels, two pillowcases, one blanket, shampoo, a separate conditioner, a mobile phone plan, fish twice a week, two hours of afternoon naptime and a Bengali newspaper subscription because in Kolkata, everyone reads the paper. Also, “no kich-kich” as that “makes my head turn!”
Finally, the protagonist has her days of peace because she finds that perfect maid she was looking for — Deepu. But happiness didn’t seem to last too long as Deepu abruptly leaves without any notice.
With the maid gone, the author describes her situation as “crying over a lost maid is like sobbing over a skin cell sloughed off during a facial”. And then again begins the maid-hunting.
But there is another side of the coin, the grim reality about how the domestics are often exploited and discriminated by the upper classes which the book doesn’t touch upon.
Consider the recent incident at an upscale housing society in Noida where a domestic was allegedly beaten up by the residents who caught her stealing money. It ended up in a stone-pelting situation between the society residents and a group of domestics.
Also, a television channel should be told that creating a mockery at the expense of someone who belongs to a less privileged class does not tickle the funny bone.
Finally, is it worth spending hours reading the book?
It is not extraordinary writing. A few pages will give readers a glimpse of what is contained in the rest of the pages. But what saves the book from being criticised is it doesn’t mock or humiliate domestics but rather shows how dependent urban lives are on them.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at [email protected])