We have two part-time maids at home, one for cleaning and one for cooking. The cook comes in the evening and cooks dinner only. She has been working at our place for four years now, from the time when the number of household members was 6-7 to 3 now. The cleaning maid keeps on changing from time to time, depending on their attitude, performance and absenteeism. She comes in the evening (as we are available only then) and during daytime on weekends or when our parents are visiting.
Neither I nor my sister-in-law are very fussy when it comes to the working style of both the maids. It is mostly because we both are too tired at the end of the day to run after the maids, I after office and she after college. It is only on weekends that we engage the cleaning maid in intensive cleaning and the cook in special instructions. The cook doesn’t cook non-vegetarian well, so we mostly cook the non-vegetarian dishes ourselves. But as you know, mothers have their own standards of cleanliness and process, be it cooking or cleaning. And our mothers are no different.
My parents-in-law (Mummy and Daddy) visits us annually, usually for a couple of months. They stay in Saudi Arabia and they have their home cleaned every alternate day by a boy who is professionally trained. Their home remains sparkling clean without a speck of dust. Delhi on the other hand is full of dust. The area of our residence is quite congested and something or the other is always under construction in the vicinity. So even if dusting is done around the house regularly, a fine sheet of dust covers everything in a couple of hours. Even corners inside wardrobes accumulates dust.
So when Mummy and Daddy visit us, they go on a cleaning spree. They would keep a strict eye as to whether the dust and litter have been swept away from the corners and underneath the furniture or not and instruct the maid from time to time. And every time they visit, they would take up their own cleaning projects around the house. On most days, Mummy can be seen with Colin in one hand and a cloth in the other. Daddy would have his own specialised projects of clean doors and furnishings. In the past seven years, out of eight cleaning maids, they have been completely satisfied with only with one (but unfortunately she moved away). We have even fired a couple of them at their behest!
Mummy’s sister is no less. Aunty’s one child or the other have always stayed with us, so she also visits us from time to time, especially when Mummy is here. Her favorite work area is the kitchen. She would take over the kitchen slabs and cabinets and rub them off till they are shining.
My mother (Ma) is presently visiting us. This is the first time that she is staying with us for a long period since my wedding. And like Mummy and Aunty, cleaning every nook and corner of the house is on her top agenda. She used to do the same thing when she used to visit me when I was single and still does when she visits my sister. Currently, our cleaning maid is new one who doesn’t speak much Hindi. So it’s very interesting to see how they interact and how Ma is training her to clean the house in manner she wants her to. Both of them communicate in a mix of Hindi (Ma), Nepali (the maid) and gestures. Everyday she spends a couple of hours in guiding the maid.
Apart from the regular sweeping and wiping the floor and dusting, focus is on other specific areas on certain days. One day it is the doors and the windows, and the other it is the corners, crevices and wall tiles in the kitchen. Once Ma was not home and I was in the office. Az was the only one home. The maid came and cleaned the netted iron gates on the doors and specifically instructed Az that he should inform Ma that she had cleaned them!
The cook has her own episodes. When Mummy and Aunty are here, she has to cook mostly chapatis, lentils and vegetable curries. Since the maid is also a native from Bihar like my marital family, there are almost no cooking instructions from them. The only problem is that she needs to cook in larger quantities as more people are in the house.
Now that Ma is here, she has to cook mostly rice along with lentils and vegetable fries or curries, but in Assamese style. Mostly, Ma cooks the main dish, especially if it’s non-vegetarian, and utilise the maid for prepping. She gives a lot of instructions while cooking along with while cutting, chopping or cleaning. Ma has her own OCD like standards when it comes to cleanliness. One day, the maid got frustrated and commented that she has been working for us for four years now! But of course, Ma didn’t give up and continued with her aspirations to train her. After all these weeks, both of them have now come to amicable terms.
The cook usually cleans up after completing her work. She would sweep the the kitchen floor, clean and wipe the gas stove top and slabs, and also was wash the extra utensils lying in the sink. But when the mothers are visiting, she would skip some and all of her cleaning up activities! That is her way of showing that she is disgruntled.
The point is when the mothers come visiting, it is not the favourite time of the year for the maids. I am sure that they pray fervently everyday that their ordeals come to an end soon. But for us children, those are the good times. The house comes in order and tasty meals are on the table. But the cherry on the top is that our home becomes a warmer haven.