Anju(na) is the keeper of our lives. She arrives at 6:30 am and leaves by 10:30 pm (ish). I wake up to her clanking the pots around, frying up some kind of delicious breakfast, her tapping me on the shoulder – “get up! chai,” telling me it’s time to eat… She makes sure that everyone is ready for school, fed and dressed, calm and comfortable. She serves the tea, makes the beds, cleans the floors. Of course, during the busiest parts of the day, two or three other women come in to help her, sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms etc. She and I have become friends – she tried talking to me in Hindi (which clearly wasn’t working) and I was talking to her in English – now we’ve gotten to the stage where when I put on some kind of music (We Speak No Americano for example) and I can get her to dance with me! As I get ready to leave the house she helps me pick out what to wear, won’t let me iron my own shirt but somehow within about three seconds, it is completely pressed… As I am walking out the door, she fixes my hair so that it will dry properly…. – This woman is MAGIC I tell you!
Here’s the thing, in a big way, I have a hard time with all of this. I’ve always had a hard time with the idea of ‘cleaning ladies’ or even housekeepers. Mostly women, these housekeepers have taken their ultimate organization skills and applied them to the homes of others. In India, the societal structure is very clear to me in the moment that I reach for the rice, and Anju’s hand appears out of nowhere to serve it to me, Chapatis keep appearing on my plate as I finish the bite of the last one. I think about how when I have people over, it seems impossible to have the food out on time, and the drinks set up properly… here it’s not even a second thought.
And yet, while this is the norm here, I wonder, what does Anju go home to? Who are her friends? Did she go to school? As a child, did she grow up thinking this is what her life would be like? Will she get married? What does she believe in? Does she get fulfillment from helping this family day in and day out? I guess, as with all things… is this just a JOB?
I will also say, that while Anju is a woman, jobs like these are for women and men alike… Drivers, cooks, house cleaners etc. I always wonder about people, their lives, their likes and dislikes, their everyday habits and routines… the similarities and differences between the lives of others and my own.
I am so thankful for being able to travel to this place, connect with my family, ask questions and gain a greater understanding of this world we live in…
“The reality of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather what he does not say.”