washer and dryer india

The case of the disappearing maid

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I know a few of you are waiting patiently to hear about the disappearing maid. Since V is watching an old dance recital video I may just have a chance to type :)

 

Swapna came to us as a referral from my mother-in-law’s maid. She came to us shy- very smart – but it was her first job as a maid. Maids in India tend to come in a variety of capacities but all have a general “maid” title even if they really are nannies or baby sitters. We had a live-in maid which means she will live with us and take care of general household duties. We paid her more so she also was in charge of cooking. Her cooking style was okay – spicy- yet okay. She took to listening to me when it came to using hot water for mopping and rinsing the mop before “dipping” and other “odd” western style cleaning requests.

Let’s go back three weeks before she left. She had purchased some items for her brother as school was starting and she came from a village where some items may not be available and her family may not have funds for purchasing. She had arranged for her uncle to pick them up but he never did so the day before school was to start she asked for her days off so that she could travel to her village to drop them off. We of course agreed. Not realizing we were supposed to request her dad’s permission first. We only found that out after she returned. My mother in law called and she said her father was extremely upset and said that she wasn’t allowed to go home for the Ganpati festival because of this.

Swapna returned to us and she started “cleaning” better so to speak. A few days later she asked to go to the doctors. This was early in the week and when our kid’s bed was installed.

She returned at the same time laborers returned for putting the top bunk on (two carpenters did most of the job). I found it odd that she returned from the doctor at the same time (a few hours) as the laborers but didn’t think much of it but took note.

As precaution I pretty much take a photo of anyone who enters the house.

A few days later she went back to the doctor for her toe for follow up. When she came back again a few hours later she was crying. She went into her room and was obviously super upset. Our fridge was being delivered so I called my mother in law. My father in law had arranged for the fridge via a friend so I wanted to let her know the fridge was new and also smaller than originally planned. I also used that opportunity to have her speak to Swapna since she was cry so much after still an hour.

My mother in law said it was because of her toe but it was like sobbing so I didn’t believe it.

I went in her room and sat knee to knee to her and asked her what was wrong. She refused to look at me but I noticed she had some medications. One was called Af-Ter.

CRAP.

She overslept the next day for starting her day…

Double crap.

I spent two days seeing what this pill actually did.

Finally I found out that the pill is actually for toe fungus.

WHO CALLS A TOE FUNGAL PILL after?

REALLY. I obviously thought she was pregnant. We knew she had a boyfriend but wowsers.

So now that part was cleared up – we should have been in the clear but she was still crying.

One day the kids were off at school and I asked her what was wrong. She wouldn’t reply and would just cry. She was mopping and I was cleaning up the kid’s stuff and her phone rang and it was in the kid’s room. It was a CRYING sound and the photo was of her being sad and the phone number was un-named.

Why would you have a custom ring tone for someone but not name them. Also it was her photo and not of someone else. She clearly didn’t like that person calling.

I brought her the phone so she answered it.

Later she was crying so I started asking her yes and no questions.

I got her to indicate she was

  • afraid
  • excited
  • happy

Wait I thought… was she pregnant?

But then I noticed she was wearing a red bindi and kumkum since she came from her village. I checked all the photos I had of her and she did not wear a red bindi before she went home. She wasn’t wearing sindoor but since she was more traditional and from a village I couldn’t help but wonder if she was married off when she had gone home.

By this point I was annoying my husband like crazy about the situation. He started asking her what was happening. She wouldn’t tell him either but he could ask her flat out if she was married – he had also said I noticed the bindi and such – she said she used to wear it before but just had brought them from home.

The next day my inlaws came and my mother in law was very forceful in asking her why she was crying. She said we couldn’t have so much crying at our house. I was upset – that’s not what I wanted. I just wanted to know she was safe. Remember she said she was afraid. Those in fear do not respond to force!

That night I asked my husband to ask her if she would sit for the SSC exam if we helped her. Since she was pulled from school like many girls she didn’t get to complete school which makes her employment options very few. But she is smart. She reads that marathi paper every day as well as the English newspapers. My SIL’s daughter had recommended this previously – this may be something to keep her motivated. My husband said he already had said that to her. So then I wondered if the “excited” answer that day was because he had said that to her already.

I also noticed she was answering calls from her boyfriend. Hmm…

That night I went and asked her again about SSC and she was smiling about it. I thought maybe we were in the clear. We also had a lot to do as our stuff had arrived. I had told her we had “kupe” stuff coming (as in a lot) and she agreed it was so much and too much.

Her foot was still bad so we told her to follow the doctor’s request and go have it professionally cleaned by a specialist. She kept saying no. I asked my husband to ask her if it was because of money or something (generally in India people are paid once a month and since it was the end of the month maybe she was out of money. My husband was heading out the next morning so he said he’d take her to the specialist. I asked her flat out if the laborers hurt her and showered her the photo of the laborer and she looked at me like I was crazy (Okay I admit to being slightly crazy but we all have issues!) and said no. (Previously my  husband asked her if someone hurt her “here” and she said no. ) In regard to the specialist’ she didn’t agree or disagree so we went to bed.

indian maid
R with Swapna when she first arrived. We were still in the guest house then.

The next morning I made oatmeal for the kids and she was cleaning up and went and showered. After that she asked to talk to Ravi and told him she was going to the doctor but would not return.

WHAT

We hadn’t figured out the crying yet. I told her it was okay but that we were worried about her. Every time I said that she’d cry more. She wanted to make lunch and leave. I made her eat but I couldn’t force her to stay. I also couldn’t force her to take stuff. We had too much and in the end she agreed to take some socks – some scissors and bandages. We reminded her that we could help her and that we would help her but she said she will never tell anyone. This makes me wonder WHAT she is afraid of. Was she married off and raped (but marital rape is hard to prove and isn’t a crime in India unless the wife is under 15 (and it is illegal for a girl to marry before 18 but it happens all the time))

This was two weeks ago. We have a night cook now who also cooks for V’s friends up on the 6th floor. She cooks well and is from the same district as my father in law so the food is “familiar” for my husband.

I saw a brief in the paper of a 17 year old who was raped and went to her aunt’s house. Her aunt and uncle then started pimping her out for 1000 rupees (just under $20). She was later saved so to speak by an NGO. This made me think of Swapna since she was 18 and usually headed to her aunt’s house when we were gone over night and that’s where she went while waiting the bus to her village etc.

I texted her and she said she was okay and asked how the kids were. She also said her foot was still infected. She texted something about ‘a girl coming’ that I thought she meant a girl WAS coming – it turns out she asked if we had someone else as she wanted to come back. She also tried calling but I didn’t hear the phone – we talked to my mother in law and she said we need to find out WHY she left. My father in law says she can’t come back as sometimes maids can be untrustworthy and they may plot something as well.

In the end she didn’t reply as to why she left and I have no clue. I hope her foot gets better and I really hope she passes her SSC some day but with kids I can’t risk having her back.

So for now I have a schedule down for cleaning. Dusting has to be done daily and  I do a “deep” dust twice a week (like all the picture frames. I do the fan tops and behind the cabinetry. We may or may not get another live-in maid.

Crazy world and crazy times.

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6 comments

  1. Also my sister in law lost her live in maid a few days after us. She was one of those young brides – she had a child in her early teens and her husband left. She was working in the city (live in) and sending money back as her mother took care of her son.

    Her mother couldn’t anymore so she had to go back. Hopefully her son is able to continue school even without his mom working. Upon original employment my sister in law had agreed that if she continues with their family then when her son gets to college age and beyond they would cover his school expenses… but now… perhaps the poverty cycle there won’t end.

     
  2. Hopefully that story you read wasn’t about her. Something does seem odd about the whole thing. I would imagine if they had gotten her married then they probably wouldn’t have let her leave. The same would go if they were pimping her out. She may make more as a prostitute than a maid most likely (based on things I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen). This is a sad and odd situation.

    I like the photo idea.

     
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  3. The maid texted again to return, but I keep asking “WHY DID YOU LEAVE” … she never replies to that

     

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