My chain of thoughts this morning led me to the household workers in Bangladesh (I despise the word ’servants’ (when referring to them)) - the maids and… what’s the equivalent for males? For those of you who don’t know, it’s common to have help in those parts of the country. More or less every family has one or more people in the house. Some live there, coming from villages far away, while others work for a few hours during the day and then leave (sometimes working in more than one house everyday). Some are young girls, starting off early in their teens. Most of these people are what we’d consider heavily underpaid, and many of them are treated badly by their employers.
Whenever we see poor people on TV, suffering on a daily basis, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what it must be like because it’s so far away. But when you’re in Bangladesh, you live with them and you see them really close… and it makes you think about all the different living conditions there are for people all over the world and how the strongest of people lay among the poor.
For example, the girl who works at my grandmother’s place (she’s mainly in charge of Nowshin) is about my age. I think she was 15 or 16 when she first arrived, and has been living with them since (except for the break during Eid every year when she goes home). Leaving her village, her family, and moving all the way to the big city to work at someone’s house… it’s not like it’s an eight-hour job… she basically is in duty whenever she’s not sleeping or eating or taking her of other personal business. Now, this particular girl loves Nowshin like any mother would and is not treated badly at my grandma’s place. But I still think that she’s much more of a woman than I am. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to do what she does.
I think of the girl who worked for us while we were in Bangladesh the past couple of times. She’s a bit older. I used to watch Indian TV series together with her, and we would tell each other if one of us missed something. She used to bring me hot milk in the evenings or tea with ginger whenever I wasn’t feeling well… and I didn’t even ask for it! This one time, I had had a huge argument with my parents and refused to get out of bed to have breakfast, and she came and comforted me and requested me to eat… and so I did.
Living where I live, I am not used to people cleaning my room for me or washing my dishes. Even in Bangladesh, I prefer to do these things myself. However, most of the times the maid comes and literally takes the chore out of my hands.
All this makes me think of how much responsibility they take on at such an early age. Many times, these young girls even support their families… while some of us barely know how to take responsibility of ourselves even when we’ve hit our twenties. And these girls are even responsible for the homes they work in.
Now, I don’t have any opinion on having help. This post is solely about the hard work they do, not what type of work they do. Different countries work in different ways, and in Bangladesh you don’t have the luxury of vacuum machines or rice cookers. You can’t use these things cuz the electricity is highly unreliable over there. Most household chores take twice the work as they do over here, and due to the dust and pollution you have to clean everything on a daily basis. I’m not saying this automatically implies that help is needed – I’m just stating facts.
I wonder if those who do have help take a moment every now and then to think about how it would have been if they had been born in poorer surroundings.
Picture credit: http://www.zazzle.com/vermeers_maidservant_pouring_milk_circa_1660_postcard-239142759137487076