At the new year eve party at our relative’s house yesterday, the happiest moment was when we came to know that he had ordered pizzas for all the security guards of the building where he lives. On a day when everyone is only thinking about themselves- “where am i going to party tonight?”, “what should I wear?” and so on, it was indeed a touching gesture that he thought of the security guards who are mostly far far away from their homes doing a thankless job, even if they sometimes fall asleep on their chairs. A piece of hot pizza and a sip of a cold drink, something that is so commonplace in our lives, is a special moment in the day of a security guard, isn’t it? For most of us, surprising security guards is a little far fetched. How about starting with people who work in our house, making our lives easier?
Here are some of the ways you can make your house-help smile
- Get her little everyday gifts. I often like to surprise my house-help (who is my best friend and confidante) with a little something from the supermarket - either a bag of fresh seasonal vegetables or hot samosas from the best local chaat place on a saturday afternoon and send her home a couple of hours early so she can enjoy a special teatime with her family.
- Give her an unexpected holiday. Plan this a few days in advance so that she can combine a weekend holiday and make plans for her surprise day off to visit relatives or go to a temple or any such outing.
- Find out her birth date and/or her kids’ birthdays and either buy or bake her a cake or a box of sweets. I know a lot of home-baker friends who bake special cakes for their helpers’ kids’ birthdays with much love. She will never forget this little gesture.
- When you go out of town, pick a little souvenir for her or her kids. Whenever I go to Bombay, whether I shop for anything for myself, I make sure I buy several of the colourful Surat sarees that my househelps love wearing for their ease of use and lasting nature. Also little trinkets like nail paints, artificial jewelry for her daughters. Show her that you keep her in mind.
- Make something specially for her family. We often pass on leftovers to our househelp, which they do gladly accept in these days of crazy food prices. After all, the food is refrigerated, unspoiled and still tastes good and we ourselves don’t mind eating any leftovers the following day, right? But sometimes, making an extra portion of a seasonal dish so that she can take some home for her family is a gesture of sharing and showing her that you genuinely care about her.
- Give her a raise without her asking for it. We all know how the prices of essentials keep spiraling out of control and it is even more difficult for families with lower incomes and more mouths to feed, more kids to send to school. Otherwise, you can even buy her a bag of rice, sugar and basic vegetables every month, ensuring that the family gets to eat reasonably good food. When the onion prices were sky rocketing, I would buy my lady a kilo of onions every few days. Be a little generous.
- Ensure that her kids are going to school and find out if any help is required with their uniforms or books or stationary. It will hardly cause a dent in our pocket to buy a few school books but the difference you make to a child’s future is huge. Be supportive.
- My lady is such a dedicated person that she will come to work even if she’s not feeling too well. At the slightest sniffle or puffy face, I make it a point to ask her if she’s not well and if that is the case, give her / buy her medicines and ask her to take it easy and go off home and rest. Sometimes we draw such a thick line between our lives and theirs that we don’t even want to enquire if all is well with them. This is indeed sad, especially if this is the attitude to a person who spends time in your house everyday and makes your life easier and spares your time from mundane chores. Show empathy.
- Anything you want her to do, ask her politely and most likely she’ll do anything extra with a smile. But order her around and she will hate you for it and do it in a huff. She’s being paid to do your work alright, but that doesn’t make her your slave. Be humane.
Call her a maid, a house-help, a servant or a housekeeper - it doesn’t matter. But what does matter is how you make her life a little happier, show her a little caring, treat her more humanely. What’s your favourite little gesture to make your house-help happy?
What prompted this post after a huge gap on this blog? This story on Tehelka - I’d rather die than clean your house.