I have a maid about me. Two of them actually. I meet them everyday - they come visit me, do some stuff in my kitchen and my house - and then I think they leave. Simplicity itself.
Enter concept warfare of which I am now an experienced veteran. War has evolved from barbaric violence to avant-garde uber-decimation and so have I. And it’s not the US war hawks alone that bring the war-theatre to us. I play the “War lite” version everyday with my maids.
Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Everyday, as we go through the 35 Chambers of Shaolin (there is no particular brand of violence I am endorsing), we take our positions and simulate a war drama that could put Pentagon strategy to shame. Many may believe that to be an easy task. Rumsfeld is known to rely on PowerPoint presentations to draft short-term war strategies. Of course, there is no long-term war strategy at the Pentagon. But the world swims today in anti-US foreign policy press, but not many people speak of the nerve-wars enacting themselves in the ground, first and seventh floors of several urban households. Day by day. (Thanks Peter Tobey Parker, it would never have been the same without your lispy yet cute rendition of day-by-day)
I never used to be around maids that much. When I got married, my assessment of my home making ability was a low 1/10 with a lifetime target of 3/10. I expected that between me and my husband, we would make the perfect ten, with progressively abridged demands on my abilities. While we are on utopia, there are chances that I would have found me a house-help from an old nizam’s disintegrating post-colonial empire. She would make lip-smacking food, listen clearly the first time, and actually have memory! Utopia suggests that she could also show occasional flashes of judgment and decision-making. There is a thin line between utopia and a mad-hatter’s view of life. Maybe we just crossed that line.
Believe me, there is no such thing
A unicorn is a mythical creature. And in any case, it’s not made of liquid silver! So is a maid. I mean mythical not the silver part. A maid is anti-matter. A maid is inspiration for The Matrix. She and her sorority are instruments that we struggle against so that, one day, we will free our minds. We become self-effacing in the storm of maid-management. We humor ourselves, thinking of ourselves as lord-mistresses when all along it is “they” who make us do their will. We aspire to break free and walk away into the sunset. All in vain. The maids, pardon the anti-eloquence, put a suction pipe and suck out the last trace of vanity from us. Enervated, we fight an illusionary war. A quick divine-like x-ray cross section shows who does the whipping. Master, maid, all these are just semantics.
Ground zero – who’s turn?
The first maid I ever had stole dough from my refrigerator. No, wait, that makes sense. She did nt do just that. She sneaked the dough, made chappatis on my home tawa using my gas connection and packed herself a little picnic snack by the time she left home! She even carried it home in one of our kitchen containers. To deal with this transgression, my husband and I opted for a variant of civil disobedience that may not have been the most effective. We knew, she knew we knew, we knew she knew we knew and then the power balance shifted. She quickly maps us as confused city couples, brought up on an overdose of gentility. A parallel to scared mice would not be too far off the mark. Who has the indefatigability to accuse her of petty thievery? He who laughs in the face of death. We were not “he”. So the two of us tried to buy time.
“We are not 100% sure right?”
“Lets watch her for another three weeks and then after this mini-controlled experiment, one of us talks. We pick straws of course”
“I think she knows we know. She is going to see our humane handling of this thing and stop doing it” HA HA HA.
Finally, the most obvious thing happened. My husband and I fought over who was the weakling. Who had called “lets put off indefinitely” the maximum number of times? Who had shown the weakest knees? It was a close finish. That’s when I learnt the first lesson of the art of household war. Keep videotaping handy in the kitchen. That way you will save on the controlled experimentation.
Maintain eye contact………………………………………if you can, that is
I don’t know how this works. Almost every book on “how to manipulate your fellow human beings” has a section on “eye contact” and its various ramifications. When to, when not to, what it means, what it means not. You can tell so much from the way someone avoids your gaze. Here, I do the gaze avoiding. I think “eye contact” would be a later / advanced stage in the exercise I indulge in. When the cookie crumbles and when that fat is in the fire and when you got to face the music, then (having set the stage so) I am usually doing the lowly act of looking in the other direction. Hence, you see the slant towards civil disobedience. When I need to say, “You did not clean up good. There was a large black moving blob on my cooking dish.”, I say, while painstakingly avoiding gaze, “Did you see my cooking dish? There was perhaps, I don’t really know here, a little spot there. But I am not sure.”. A definite maybe.
And I usually say this when I am about 70% physically out of the kitchen. No prices for guessing at what moment I am 100% out of the kitchen.
The last time I told my cook my own patented rajmah recipe, it was the 14th time I was telling her. I told her, “see, look here, I don’t think I like the idea of large rectangles of onion floating in this gravy. They should blend. B-L-E-N-D”. I see “loud and clear” emblazoned on her face. So I feel we connected.
The next time, they blended alright. In a rare form of carbon stuck inseparably, brittle-like to the inside of the cooking vessel. Then judgment day of course.
Me: How did this happen???
Diva: You told me
Me: I told you to imprint them on the kadhai??
Diva: You told me to blend them
Me: I told you to cook them and take your time doing it
A couple of oft-repeated quick “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh” situations:
Me: Do you remember I taught you to cook this?
Diva: Yes of course
Me: Sure, Diva?
After 45 minutes
The Flash-Challenge mop situation
Me: This has not been mopped
Me: But the floor feels dry
Diva: It dried quick
Me: That quick, I was here all the time
Diva: What can I say, it dried quick
Me: You are lying, you mean she-devil. You are tricking me. What kind of a cuckoo case do you think I am. I secede (obvious dream sequence)
Ho, ho, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day. The war cry sounds out everyday.