Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Whose Maid?


She sat outside an examination hall where I was invigilating for the CA exams. We exchanged smiles. I was wondering what she was doing outside this examination. She was only a child-a child possibly not more than 8 or 9 years. Later, I saw that she was scribbling something on her notebook. On closer inspection I found that she was writing from the notes that the examinees had left outside. She saw me observing her and we just exchanged warm smiles. I got busy with the duty inside the examination hall and did not come out for the next about 30 minutes. It was 3.00 PM by the time I came outside. Sitting on the bench with her arm resting under her head on the desk, she was dozing in the warm breeze. I called out to the waterman to carry the child under a fan if she wanted to sleep. She woke up and smiled sheepishly at me, as if ashamed at having been found sleeping. "You want to sleep?" "Yes." I blinked at her and gestured to her to go to the little office, she smiled and we struck a chord immediately. She again smiled broadly and waved to me as the waterman led her to the small office where she could lie down for her siesta. About half an hour later, she was back, refreshed. She resumed her copying duties. This time, I went to her and asked her, "What is it that you are copying out?" "I don't know, I'm just copying for fun." "Its good," I said, "you are doing a good job. Keep it up." ... 'strategic management', 'overview' those were big words slipping through small fingers. But she was writing them down. "Did you come with someone?" "Yes, with ... Didi." "Is Didi in my room?" "Yes, there she is," She pointed to an overweight girl writing her exam. "You work for them?" "Yes" "Do you study?" "Yes, in class three" "Wow, you sure are intelligent. Can I take a picture of yours?" She grinned in response. I took her picture and showed it to her. She gave me a billion dollar smile. "Thank you" I said and patted her head.


I went in, resumed my duty. It was soon 4 PM, the exam was nearing the end. I was collecting the answer books. When I reached her didi, I asked, "That little girl is with you?" "Yes Ma'am, she is my maid." The bell rang and the examinees trooped out, chattering , free minded , for it was the last exam. The little girl was lost somewhere in that loud mayhem.

Her name is Poonam-Full Moon.


36 comments:

sukumbho said...

The humane stories often feature in your blog and the benevolent M comes to the fore - that's another reason I value your writing. You haven't lost touch with the real world. And the "Maid in India" post comes close to the Anti-Child Labour Day. Do we really care?

UL said...

oh Mampi - this is such touching post...such s beautiful girl...i hope she makes a great future for herself...i am sure she will..even though she is just copying - there's that ambitious drive in her...hope she will be able to make good use of it...

EXSENO said...

Oh that breaks my heart, how could anyone make a little girl their maid. She should be in school. I want to cry. Better yet I want to beat up the fat woman. Bless her little heart no child should be a maid, not in this day and age.

Rajindarjit said...

Poonam lost her precious time in house hold cores as a maid.
There are lakhs of Poonams deprived of their basic right of education in our rich country with poor inhabitants.
Penning down about them is the need of the day. You did your part well in a very beautiful manner.
I appreciate the feelings of Poonam to keep herself busy in learning something during her free time.
Dhindsa

Aparna said...

My blood boils everytime I see a child being employed as a domestic worker. I just hope this little girl manages to get a decent education and comes out of this drudgery.

Kiran said...

very touching ... and so sad :(
it hurts to think that there are so many children out there like her...and i can do nothing about it....

Sidhusaaheb said...

If some one chooses to file a complaint with the police, the fat girl and her family can be prosecuted under the law against child labour.

If I remember correctly, you happen to know a certain police officer rather well.

:)

Life Begins said...

There are many such little girls working as maids in every next house. But the thought about what all they are missing from their childhood hardly strikes anyone's mind. It's time we all should wake up and raise a voice.
You did a great job by putting the fact across in such a calm yet convincing way.

Liju Philip said...

Not to take away anything from the girl, but isnt it a crime to have such small girls at home as maids? Didnt the govt criminalise employing underaged kids?

June Saville said...

If only we were all equal in every way. Nice story Mampi
June in Oz

Mampi said...

Sumanto-I guess we do, you and I do, thats why we had that argument on chat.

UL-Hope she does. I wish my kids also had the sense to copy out meaningless words.

Exseno-This is a stark reality in India. Many families hire such children.

Mama-Yeah, I was impressed with her yearning.

Aparna-I am sure she will, she seemed so interested in studying. Welcome to my blog. Please keep visiting.

Kiran-Nothing? Well we can. I am doing my bit. You can too.

SS-You are right. I must involve him. Someone should be made into an example, let it be them.

LB-In some houses, I have seen kids being served by servant kids less than their age. The heart bleeds at those moments.

Liju-Crime yes. Govt did legislate against child labour. But who will report. It is upto us to report.

June-It is time people understood the dignity of human life.

Solilo said...

Mampi, That's so touching. I don't understand how people can make such small kids work. But if not this family then she will be sold to some other family by her parents. :(

Parul said...

Loved this post, Mampi.

Quirky Indian said...

Very nicely told. There are so many like her all over the country. I hope she gets a chance to continue her studies and make something of her life.

Quirky Indian

laddu said...

just one line:

What we obtain too cheap, We esteem too lightly

d sad thing is that even the young educated ppl (like her didi) dont understand such things..

Phoenixritu said...

I echo what every one else is saying : hope she gets a decent education

Pinku said...

I am sad Mampi...knowing you would have expected you to give that girl a good lecture on the crime she and her hfamily were committing my keeping an underage servant.

Should have reported them.

It's so sad...

Iya said...

I don’t know what to say. I have faced this dilemma before and I choose to have a clear conscience.
this girl is studying and is in class 3. that’s a solace. I am not supporting her working as a maid. but was she better off in her parents home? I don’t know and these things pain me no end.

Veena said...

Cute girl Mampi.. Hope she has a good future for herself..

hitchwriter said...

Lovely post..

The world is such... but this is a really touching post.. !

Mampi said...

Solilo-You are right. I have never been able to take myself out of the dilemma of whether to sypathise or to get angry with the employers of these kids.

Parul-Thank you.

Quirky Indian-Amen to the hope!

Laddu-Yes, well said.

Ritu-Hope so.

Pinku-I can try to track down that family. But how many of them will we track?

Iya-I have been offered the services of such children many times but I cannot visualise a kid my kid's age not getting what my kid is.

Veena-Sweet, isnt she?

Hitchwriter-World was not such. We made it such.

Imp's Mom said...

Oh mampi... this is such a touching post... and such a child chaperoning another child! Can happen only here in India.

its sad and pathetic...she should be in school and playing!

Pradip Biswas said...

You compelled me to read this story thrice and then I could recover the shock and shake through this blog. The Fat "didi"...I Can't write.

Mithe said...

The contrast-brilliantly brought out;
the happening-very very moving;
the little girl-beautiful;
the girl giving the paper-callous;
but the maid is lucky that she knows to read and write-really,at least there is this satisfaction....otherwise,of course she shouldnot have been a maid in teh first place...

maheshinder_singh said...

what a post! I am touched. I read a message in it. The best sentence was," her name is Poonam- Full moon"

Oreen said...

may poonam get to finish her studies one day...

Oreen said...

my two cents on child labour... this girl probably gets a good life being a maid here... and also gets to study... and probably even adds to the family kitty with whatever she earns...

in our country where we haven't been able to provide for our people basic education and employment, it is too idealistic to talk about eradicating child labour altogether. if you take her away from her place of work and send her back to her parents, will it serve any purpose?

how will we know that she won't be sent back to some other household?

child labour is a horrible truth that we have to live with... until the parents are taught about family planning, about education for children, and provided with employment...

when that will happen? probably never in India.

Anamika said...

I dont know if I commented here before but I love the way you write. This post touched me to the core.

my space said...

:-)...i wil pray for Poonam...I hope she gets to study..how i wish we could ensure education for each and everyone in this country...and how can people employ small children?

anamika said...

Yet another post of yours that touched me.

Smitha said...

My first time here.. Your story is so moving.. I don't know whether to rejoice on the little girl's efforts or to feel sad that so many little girls like her are working.... Such a sad state isn't it? I just hope that she does well in life and her children have a better future..

Mampi said...

Imp's mom-It was actually surprising that a little girl was chaperoning an adult.

Pradip Biswas-I was touched by this girl's effort to write random words. I can understand what you felt.

Mithe-Exactly, thats why the title 'whose maid'. She is nobody's maid. She will shine. One day she will.

Mahesh-Thank you. I hope she shines like the full moon.

Oreen-So what is your take? Kids like Poonam should go on serving your and mine kids?

Anamika-I am glad you feel touched. Please keep visiting and encouraging with your words.

MySpace-Yes, hope she finishes her studies.

anamika-Thank you my dear. Keep visiting.

Smitha-Yes, that is the dilemma I face too. Welcome to my blog. Please keep visiting. I would feel encouraged.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

I think the best comment on this touching story would be the title of your blog : "What we obtain too cheap, We esteem too lightly".

ThoughtSafari said...

Feeling bad for that girl! We take so much that we have for granted, na? I hope she grows up and gets the same oppurtunities that the girl she was chaperoning... I hope God is watching :(

soulsafar said...

Its really sad that we don't have equal oppurtunities for everyone. And its sadder that a child is "chaperoning" and adult... and that she is apologetic about sleep, her basic basic right.. and yet, despite all that she is facing in life..she retains her child-like qualities and doesn't get cynical.

Balvinder Singh said...

Given the right kind of guidance and support i am sure this girl will not remain a mere maid.