Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My maid is pregnant...

.. with her fourth child. Yes you've guessed it.. the first three are girls.

Till two years back Suman lived with her husband.. a quiet, unlettered, housewife looking after her home and two daughters. The birth of the third changed that. She needed to work. That was when she, with her daughters, came to live with her sister.

She learnt to work, on the job. It was a struggle but she managed. Each day brought with it challenges .. finicky employers, demanding kids, water shortage, leaking roofs, illness, uninvited guests. She fought to make ends meet. She struggled to survive. And she learnt. She managed.

When the new session came I saw the worry lines deepen on her forehead... admission fees, uniforms, books. She started looking out for more work, trying to juggle time-slots at various households, she cribbed a bit, asked for an advance and she managed. "Aap logon ka kaam achcha hai. Dhoop mein daurna nahin parta," she observed one day sweltering in the hot April sun, "Isiliye ladkiyon ko parha rahin hoon."

Her husband continued to work in another city. She didn't expect any help from him, financial or emotional. His earnings were all for himself and 'his family' (parents/siblings). He would drop by occasionally, take some money from her and go away again.She was raising her daughters single handedly, settling down in this new role.

Then comes a threat from the mother-in-law. 'Give me a grandson or I get another wife for my son'. And here she is... with another child. Worries far overshadow her happiness, if there is any --
-- I'll have to quit working after a few months.
-- How will I (not 'we') manage the expenses.
-- Who will take care of me/my daughters during the delivery.
And the biggest one of all...WHAT IF IT'S ANOTHER DAUGHTER?

She knows this is not the right thing to do. Yet she's doing it. Why? I asked. Let him get married, I told her. He's just a token of a husband, anyway. Let him go. Let him marry ten times over. 'Log kya kahenge,' she says with a sigh as she gears up for the year ahead.

If it's a son all will be well. He will be the object of everyone's affection. The meagre family finances will be channelised towards him . The daughters will watch him being pampered and will grow up resentful of him yet hoping to be mothers of sons. If it's a daughter she'll be the object of disappointment and resentment. She will grow up feeling guilty of being a girl and will hope, even more fervently, that she'll mother boys.

Another slave generation is spawned.


maybe... just maybe Suman will succeed in educating her daughters. They will grow up watching their mother struggle. They will learn to appreciate her. They will read their mother's silent resentment, understand her pain at doing something against her better judgement.

Maybe their education will teach them to value themselves. Maybe it will empower them enough to feel anger, rage, frustration and maybe they'll vow never to be in their mother's shoes.

Maybe they'll be the mothers of a free India.


  1. So true. Disheartening yet there is a ray of hope.
    My maid says the same - aap logon ka kaam achcha hai. While she takes an off atleast twice a week, I fume but do not say anything. I realize her challenges are so much bigger than mine - worries about the next meal, the roof leaking, no electricity/water, kids out playing in unsafe streets, absentee husband holding down two jobs, and financial responsibility for the extended family.
    India shining has never seemed so fake.

  2. Tulika , in today's world this exist and really a lot . Its really sad . My maid in India after all the besting and the earning for her husband finally moved out and made a house of her own . There is a struggle in that too . The man does not stop coming there also to beat her . But she made a begning . Hope they realise this before taking the decission of getting married early and doing the same to their kids .

  3. Amen! To the hopeful statements you made at the end of your post OM!!

  4. Is her mother in law still so ignorant of the theoretical fact that bearing a girl or boy is not in her hand, but in her son's?

    What is the guarantee that even if she married her son off to another girl, would he guarantee that he'd still be able to father a male child, and that the process would not repeat itself?

    For the sake of her husband and his family, your maid is simply screwing up the future of her earlier borns.

  5. fingers crossed they just might be ..

    I hope the daughters get ot study and make a better life for themselves

    sad this is still going on ..

    “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE (from the british) DAY”!


  6. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to change the perception that one needs to have a son. Unless, the Government gives much more benefits, for eg. I am told that the Jayalalithaa Govt. in Tamil Nadu gives a cash award to people who give birth to girls in Govt. hospitals, things will not improve. Also, if we can create an environment where the Girl child gets free education, and gets a job, things will not change.

  7. Sad state of affairs....the ideal situation is to convince her to get the abortion done immediately ( I know it sounds really cruel...but better than bringing that baby on earth and grow another 'slave generation') and she should let her hubby marry ...he is useless to her anyways.

    But ideal situation are not real. Also, i was jzz thinking that the crap injected in the name of culture & tradition is so deeprooted that even after knowing all the after effects & 'useless' state of hubby, she is not able to dump him :-(

  8. It is a sad state of affaire, we all can but hope for a better future. Education is the key to bring abt a change in the outlook.

  9. Tragedy of our times.... sad

  10. sad, but such a common situation.... our maid did the same thing, and the 4th was a girl too... and then the husband drank himself to death, and now mother in law and daughter in law cook and clean and manage the house with 4 daughters in school, and barely manage to make ends meet, esp after half their income goes off in paying off the loans they took trying to keep the husband alive... a situation which pains me every time i see them, but then again as you say, the ray of hope is the girls' education... we help as much as we can for that alone, hoping that the girls will study well and break out of the miserable existence their mother and grandmother lived through/

  11. @Aparna: They sure have a tough life.. but no one likes to be taken for a ride.
    @Nisha: It's a vicious cycle that goes on. Someone needs to break it.
    @Priya: Fingers crossed... one has to hope.
    @Sugeeth: Exactly. I hope he gets married and has many many daughters. Yes, they really are that ignorant.
    @ Bikram: At least she sends her daughters to school.. that's one step forward.
    @Sabyasachi: That's a good initiative.. other states need to follow suit.
    @N Bose: Too late for that.
    @Lavina: Right... like I said education is one step forward.
    @Anuradha: That's truly sad.

  12. I hope that it is the latter that happens!!

    All my luck to her :)

  13. i hope they do and i also hope that they remember their mother's contribution in their lives. it is easy to get educated and empower ourselves when we have the support but it's really difficult to fight against all odds and raise three or four kids.

  14. @Smita: So do I. it's gotto change sonner or later.
    @debajyoti: Absolutely. As of now her kids are too young to appreciate what she's doing for them. Hope they grow up to be sensible.

  15. Hey OM, thanks for visiting my space and leaving your good wishes..:-)
    Happy to have discovered your blog..

    A sad situation indeed! I had a teenaged maid in my previous home in Hyd who was a very smart girl, interested in getting educated. Alas! her mother was only too interested in getting her married off, inspite of not being blind to the perils of marriage at an early age! When will girls in our country get their due???

  16. Uma It was a pleasure and congrats again.
    You're right it's sad - a vicious cycle.


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